A clinical second-half display saw Juventus make it four Serie A wins on the spin as the champions eased to a 3-0 victory over Palermo at the Stadio Renzo Barbera on Sunday.
Following a tricky start to their title defence, Massimiliano Allegri’s men are now well on track to challenge for a fifth consecutive Scudetto as Mario Mandzukic, Stefano Sturaro and substitute Simone Zaza scored after the interval to move them within six points of leaders Inter, who visit Napoli on Monday.
Allegri has faced criticism for selecting Mandzukic over Alvaro Morata in recent weeks, despite the former Atletico Madrid man scoring the winner against Manchester City on Wednesday.
But Mandzukic set Juve on their way nine minutes after the restart following impressive work from former Rosanero favourite Paulo Dybala – making his first return to Palermo since his close-season move to Turin.
Davide Ballardini’s reign at Palermo began with a draw at Lazio last week but he saw Juve pull away late on as Sturaro and Zaza ensured a somewhat flattering scoreline for Allegri’s team, who are now six games unbeaten in all competitions.
Palermo began on the front foot and saw Gaston Brugman and Oscar Hiljemark fire over the crossbar from range early on while Juve struggled for impetus.
Mandzukic almost put the visitors ahead against the run of play when he came close to converting Sturaro’s deep cross 11 minutes in.
Allegri brought Juan Cuadrado and Patrice Evra into his XI from midweek and saw his side build momentum, Giorgio Chiellini heading wide before Paul Pogba picked up a yellow card for a late challenge on Hiljemark – ruling the Frenchman out of Friday’s clash with Lazio.
Alberto Gilardino flashed a shot across goal prior to the half-hour mark for the hosts before Leonardo Bonucci headed wide at the other end as the game opened up before half-time.
However, neither side managed a first-half shot on target and that lack of quality continued in the second period as Pogba sliced a shot wide from distance.
But Juve eventually went ahead in the 54th minute as Dybala produced a rare moment of quality to curl a pinpoint left-footed cross for Mandzukic to head home.
The Croatian now has three goals in his last four Juve games, making no mistake from close range, although Allegri opted to replace him with Spaniard Morata seven minutes after the hour.
Cuadrado was brought off soon after as Allegri sought to close out the victory amid decent efforts from Aleksandar Trajkovski and Achraf Lazaar.
But when Pogba played in Sturaro with 89 minutes on the clock, the midfielder calmly rolled home his first goal since May before Zaza got in on the act with a well-taken third shortly after replacing Dybala.
Key Opta stats:
– Juventus have won their last seven league games against Palermo, without conceding a single goal in the process.
– Paulo Dybala has been involved in 45 per cent of Juve’s goals this term (9 of 20), scoring six and making three assists.
– Juventus have won each of the 6 games of this season when Mario Mandzukic has scored.
– Juventus have won four consecutive league games for the first time since April.
– Mandzukic’s 54th-minute goal came from the game’s first effort on target.
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