In a match billed as a showdown between the two leading teams in Serie A, Juventus underlined their status as the current dominant force in Italian football with a comprehensive 3-0 victory against previously unbeaten Roma on Sunday evening. Juve have now extended their lead at the head of the table to eight points with few signs of any serious challenge to the Turin team winning the title for a third successive season.
Roma entered the match against the league leaders with the best defensive record in Serie A and with an unbeaten record including 10 successive wins at the beginning of the season. Uncharacteristic lapses of concentration allowed Arturo Vidal and Leonardo Bonucci to escape unmarked behind the defence to score from close range and allow Juventus a two goal lead by the 50th minute.
When two Roma players were dismissed in a lively two minute spell towards the end during which Mirko Vucinic converted a penalty, it just seemed that the Serie A title had already been claimed in only the first weekend of January and the first round of matches after the short winter break.
Of course there is still time for Roma to regroup and for Napoli to mount a challenge, but Juventus would now appear to gaining a stranglehold in Italy under the guidance of head coach Antonio Conte. After being appointed to his current post in May 2011, Conte has won successive titles with a third beckoning but his team do face the prospect of a long and tiring Europa League campaign in early Spring.
With 10 successive victories now in Serie A, Juventus are most definitely the overwhelming favourites to retain the Scudetto, but their domestic domination has not yet been translated into solid Champions League form. During this season’s competition, they could only finish third in their group and were thus consigned to being drawn in the last 32 round of the Europa League.
Such are the demands of the Europa League that Thursday night and potentially Sunday football will become regular features of the Juventus calendar from the end of February, assuming their progression to the latter stages of the competition. Although the senior squad is fairly strong, there will be added unwelcome strain on the players.
In contrast, Roma failed to qualify for European competition and are free to concentrate on domestic issues, which may be of long term benefit for their title aspirations. Although they are probably now seeking to secure their Champions League qualification for next season, they should also seek to maximise any weakness displayed by Juventus during their hectic fixture schedule.
The Sunday defeat by Juventus may appeared to have ended Roma’s hopes of claiming the Serie A title for this campaign, but a long five months await Juventus during which there will inevitably be a few setbacks.
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