- Beaten finalists Juventus warmed up for a crucial Champions League date at Bayern Munich with a precious 1-0 win over Sassuolo that saw veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and striker Paulo Dybala star in Turin.
The win moved Juventus six points clear of scudetto rivals Napoli ahead of their trip to Palermo on Sunday, kept the Old Lady unbeaten for 19 games and a clean sheet for a new league record of 10 consecutive games.
Days before seeing their Champions League fate decided, Buffon and Dybala reached milestones.
But although the Argentine’s 14th goal of the season saw him overtake his previous best of 13 last year with Palermo, it paled in comparison to Buffon’s achievement.
If Juve are marching confidently towards equalling their 1935 record of five consecutive titles, much of it is down to the 38-year-old Italy veteran, who has kept a clean sheet over 10 games to put another career-defining record within his grasp.
Already considered one of the world’s greatest ever goalkeepers, Buffon’s status in his native Italy was cemented with a performance that saw him overtake the legendary Dino Zoff’s 903-minute unbeaten tally in the league at the 67th minute mark.
Buffon is now unbeaten in Serie A for 926 minutes of football, and is just four away from overtaking Sebastiano Rossi’s all-time record of 929 minutes for AC Milan in 1994.
Although Buffon had comparatively little to do as Juve worked to limit Sassuolo’s real scoring chances with a cautious 3-5-2 formation, Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri gushed afterwards: “This win was crucial for our campaign, and for the record of Buffon who totally deserves it.”
On-loan Chelsea winger Juan Cuadrado provided a superb assist for Dybala’s 36th minute winner and admitted the celebrations had centred on “both players” after the game.
He added to Mediaset: “It’s important for Gigi (Buffon) that we continue to do well. We’re happy for him, and his feat gives us even more satisfaction.”
Buffon could take top spot after four, unbeaten minutes away to Torino in next week’s ‘Derby della Mole’, but before then Juve face their Champions League destiny less than a year after succumbing 3-1 to Barcelona in the Berlin final.
After clawing their way back to level 2-2 in Turin three weeks ago, Allegri’s men now face the task of overcoming a visibly superior Bayern side that is likely to be even more formidable at home.
Allegri said: “When we play Bayern, we know we’re going to have to run hard for 90 minutes … but it’s our intention to go there looking for the win that would seal our passage.”
Allegri admits it “won’t be easy” to reach the quarter-finals but said his full armoury of tactics could come into play.
“We’ll see how the game develops, then we’ll maybe have to play to protect our result. But it’s like when you play Barcelona, you need to be fully focused mentally for 90 minutes.”