Juventus set a new Serie A clean sheet record and moved six points clear of Napoli at the top of Serie A with a 1-0 home victory over Sassuolo on Friday.
Paulo Dybala scored his 14th league goal of the season with a brilliant curling strike in the first half and that goal proved decisive in Turin.
Juve have now kept 10 consecutive league clean sheets – a new record – and extend their advantage over closest Scudetto rivals Napoli, who are now under pressure ahead of their game at Palermo on Sunday.
The latest victory means morale will be high as Massimiliano Allegri’s men prepare to travel to play Bayern Munich in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie – which is evenly poised at 2-2 – on Wednesday.
Sassuolo came into the game on the back of three straight victories and without being beaten in five, but remain seventh in the table after struggling to beat Gianluigi Buffon, who will surpass Sebastiano Rossi’s Serie A record run without conceding if he is unbeaten after four minutes of Juve’s derby clash with Torino next weekend.
Juventus almost made a dream start inside a minute. Mario Mandzukic’s flick found strike partner Dybala and he unleashed a stunning 25-yard volley that was tipped over by away goalkeeper Andrea Consigli.
Juve rested the likes of Patrice Evra and Paul Pogba as part of four changes, but they were making the early running and forced Consigli into another save from Alex Sandro’s header.
The visitors, who also made four switches with key attacker Domenico Berardi ruled out, twice came close themselves in the opening exchanges but Matteo Politano and Alfred Duncan both missed the target from decent positions.
Sami Khedira squandered a good chance to put the hosts in front, prodding a first-time effort over from close range after Dybala had kept a neat move alive and squared from the right.
The breakthrough was coming and it arrived through the influential Dybala on 36 minutes.
Juan Cuadrado embarked on an excellent run down the right-hand side before drifting infield and picking out Dybala, who took one touch before picking his spot from the edge of the box with a curling left-footed shot that found the far corner, giving Consigli no chance.
The second half began quietly, with neither side registering an attempt on target until Buffon did well to push away a Nicola Sansone long-range strike with 15 minutes remaining, while Consigli saved from Kwadwo Asamoah at the other end.
The champions, who brought on Pogba and Alvaro Morata late on, saw the France midfielder come close, but he was denied by Consigli after striking Cuadrado’s cut-back towards goal.
Juve briefly had their clean sheet record threatened by another powerful Sansone strike, but the ever-reliable Buffon got down sharply as the hosts put in a solid performance ahead of the crunch trip to Munich.
Key Opta stats:
– Paulo Dybala has been directly involved in 22 (14 goals, 8 assists) of the 51 Juventus goals in Serie A this season (43 per cent).
– Juventus have conceded only seven goals in the first half games this season, less than any other Serie A team.
– Juventus conceded no shots on target for the 12th time in Serie A this term.
– Juve have collected 18 wins and a draw in their last 19 league fixtures – their last defeat in Serie A came against Sassuolo back in October.
– The Bianconeri have won 21 of their 22 games this season in Serie A after taking the lead, dropping only two points from leading situations so far – a league-high.