Paulo Dybala says he is back to fitness and ready to help Juventus finish their bid for a fifth consecutive Scudetto, starting with Sunday’s clash with his old side Palermo in Turin.
The 22-year-old has missed Juve’s last two matches – narrow victories against Empoli and AC Milan – with a calf problem but is set to return against the relegation candidates.
The champions are six points clear of Napoli at the top of Serie A with six matches remaining as Massimiliano Allegri’s men relish their astonishing run of 21 wins and one draw from their last 22 league outings, which has put them on the brink of glory.
They are strongly expected to continue that charge towards what would be Dybala’s first title having won each of their last seven league games against Palermo, keeping a clean sheet every time.
The visitors, who sit 18th in the table, are in dire form – an 11-match winless run that is the longest current streak in Serie A – which promoted them to bring back former coach Davide Ballardini this week, their seventh change in the dug-out this season.
“I have had a full training session with the team,” Dybala told Il Corriere dello Sport. “I went at 100 per cent and had no problems.
“I agree that losing the Scudetto with six points of advantage seems incredible. Everybody wrote us off, but our comeback and the drive we show in every training session shows that the Scudetto has to be ours.”
Dybala also paid tribute to goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon after he was in stunning form in the 2-1 win at Milan last time out in the same season that he set a new Serie A record for minutes without conceding.
“Buffon in training is incredible, I don’t know if there is a stronger goalkeeper in the world,” said the striker.
“He’s also very helpful to us younger players. The series of 22 undefeated games happened thanks to the older players.”
Dybala feels he has dispelled debate about his transfer fee during his debut season with Juve, but still has significant goals in his sights.
He continued: “I have always had to deal with pressure. I was never sold for cheap sums. I’m glad people are no longer talking about the fact that I cost €40m, it’s not money that plays games.
“I must still score three goals to beat Carlos Tevez’s record of 21 goals in his first season in Turin. I would be very happy to overtake him. It would be good for me and for the team, as these goals would be important.
“I can certainly give a lot more. At 22 years of age I lack the experience of a player like Tevez. Playing here, in Europe and in the national team, I hope to close that gap.”
While Dybala is likely to return for Juve, key defender Giorgio Chiellini (thigh) is still out.
Key Opta stats:
– Paulo Dybala has scored 14 goals and made eight assists. In 2014-15 with Palermo he had a hand in 23 goals (13 goals, 10 assists).
– Juventus have not conceded a goal in their last seven home league games: the record for the Bianconeri is eight home clean sheets in a row (1974-75 and 1977-78).
– Juventus have gained 64 points out of a possible 66 in their last 22 games: the Serie A record in a run of 23 games is 65 points for Inter in 2006-07.
– Palermo have conceded 2.6 goals on average in their last seven away games (only one clean sheet).
– Alberto Gilardino has scored two goals in 24 games against Juventus – he has scored at least four times against all the other teams he has played 15+ times.