Juventus were able to put the terrible news that Claudio Marchisio could miss up to six months (after undergoing anterior cruciate ligament surgery) behind them, and soundly thrashed Lazio 3-0 at the Juventus Stadium. Paulo Dybala created both Juve goals in the reverse fixture in the nation's capital in December, and he was in irresistible form again as the Biancocelesti had no answer to his pace and trickery.
Manager Massimiliano Allegri stuck with his tried-and-tested 3-5-2 formation. The backline of Daniele Rugani, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli were barely tested all evening and fully deserved the clean sheet as did captain Gianluigi Buffon. In all honesty, one would be hard-pressed to remember the legend making a single save worth mentioning.
Alex Sandro lined up on the left, while Stefan Lichtsteiner was at his usual post on the right. In the middle was Hernanes, with Paul Pogba to his left and Sami Khedira on his right. The aforementioned Dybala played slightly behind Mario Mandzukic up top.
Allegri had his team perfectly prepared to play, as they came out blazing, testing Lazio goalie Federico Marchetti multiple times in the first half an hour. Dybala and Pogba in particular looked energetic and hungry, with the rest of the side happy to feed the two and watch them do their thing.
Juve didn't necessarily dominate possession, but every time they had the ball they drove upfield with purpose and the Roman side knew they were in for a long night. It was ironic then that the inevitable goal came from a setpiece. A deep corner from Hernanes found Pogba, whose low cross across the six yard box was met by Mandzukic for the opener minutes before halftime.
The second half was more of the same, with the tireless running by Lichtsteiner and Sandro keying a solid offensive performance. Biancocelesti defender Patric had been chasing shadows all day long, and after repeatedly kicking and grabbing at a breaking Dybala, the ref had had enough and sent him off with his second yellow card of the game.
Lazio seemed to go into a tailspin after that, with Bonucci being tugged to the ground from another corner. The referee did not hesitate to point to the spot, and Dybala duly dispatched home for a 2-0 scoreline. Twelve minutes later, Mandzukic found a streaking Khedira, who centered the ball for Dybala's emphatic finish. That was the game all done and dusted.
Dybala had one more chance to claim his hattrick, but Marchetti saved his shot, and then kept out Simone Zaza late in the game to maintain some respectability to the scoreline.
Buffon 7.0 - Really had nothing to do all day. Lazio mustered seven shots, and only one was on target.
Rugani 7.0 - The kid continues to develop his composure game by game.
Bonucci 7.0 - Didn't put a foot wrong all game long. Wasn't under any undue pressure really.
Barzagli 7.0 - On days like this, makes it difficult to rank the players when they aren't challenged.
Sandro 7.5 - A livewire up and down the left flank. Unfortunate to have not scored with a zinger.
Lichtsteiner 7.5 - A good day at the office for the Swiss Express, kept Lazio on their heels for long periods.
Hernanes 6.5 - Did just enough to not get in trouble, without being necessarily inspiring either.
Pogba 8.0 - The early season Pogba seems far gone now - this version wants to dominate play, and he did.
Khedira 6.5 - Seems to fade in and out of games. Imagine what a 90-minute Khedira could do?
Dybala 9.0 - La Joya was simply sublime on the night. What a treasure Juve have purchased.
Mandzukic 7.5 - Did his usual quota of heavy lifting, and kept threatening the Lazio backline.
Sturaro 5.5 - Replaced Khedira and seemed to find trouble constantly. Is he trying too hard?
Zaza 6.5 - His poaching instincts are very valuable. Juve should make every attempt to keep him.
Allegri 7.5 - Prepared the team well, they came ready to play and ground Lazio into the dirt.
Things I Think I Think
- I think this streak of 70 points out of 72 available is unparalleled in Italian football. Then again, with no foreseeable challenge from the other clubs, who's to say Juve don't do this all over again next season.
- Signing Alex Sandro has been like hitting the jackpot for what was previously a problematic position. Similar signings for the RB/RWB and a backup midfielder to replace Hernanes/Sturaro are also required over the summer.
- While Allegri not signing his extension is not making me nervous per se, I will definitely rest easier once the pen has been put to paper and the ink dried on his new contract.
- With Allegri already talking about looking forward to next season, I am really curious if he has a trump card up his sleeve for the Champions League. A different formation, or different strategy, something like that.
- I am superstitious enough to not really celebrate winning the title quite yet, but I will raise a toast to how far we have come since those dark days of last autumn when it looked like we were destined for mid-table mediocrity.