Juventus manager Antonio Conte puffed out his chest and declared that the whole of Italy were against his side. Their success had made Juventus the most hated team in the peninsula and it was just how they liked it. Being the most hated means opponents play the match of their lives when the Bianconeri are in town making each game that bit harder. However, in Udinese, a 2-0 victory was achieved with ease to restore the eight-point gap over second-placed Roma.
- Report: Udinese 0-2 Juventus
It must truly be frustrating to watch the Old Lady in action if you're not a fan. Even more frustrating to watch when the opposition clearly lack the talent required to halt the speeding train that continues to dominate domestically. A Bianconeri side without the energy of Arturo Vidal, the delicate skill of Carlos Tevez and the imperious form of Leonardo Bonucci triumphed with ease against a team many still feel are capable of an upset.
Except Udinese head coach Francesco Guidolin's side are no longer what they were. While Guidolin attempted to praise his players who ran and believed in a late goal until the final moment of the game, they simply lacked quality. Unable to keep possession, easily pickpocket in midfield and woeful in the final third, not only was their defence easily overcome but their attack lacked the necessary rhythm to facilitate penetration.
There is a reason why Antonio Di Natale spent much of the game complaining, looked aggrieved and is contemplating retirement. While the striker is hardly a spring chicken, football isn't as much fun when the players around you rob you of your enthusiasm. Udinese are all about their counter-attacking game, they prey on mistakes and exploit every situation with their pace and strength. However, while the determination is still evident in their style of play, the lack of real quality makes it difficult to effectively execute the game plan. It's rather hard to find the elusive goal when most runs forward result in a squandered opportunity, either because Di Natale's teammates simply kept the ball for too long or made the wrong decision in the final third.
Distraught and agitated, the forward even made a point of not making the run forward at one stage to demonstrate his anger at a previous incident in which he was left alone at the top with no teammate to play off. While the no.10 once boasted teammates such as Alexis Sanchez, Gokhan Inler and Mauricio Isla, at this moment in time he is playing alongside players still developing and unable to match his present quality.
It was all the more frustrating when the opponent boasted such cohesion in their style of play. Every gap well covered, every pass clearly directed, Juventus are a well-oiled machine, bursting with talent in every area of the pitch and on Monday night they demonstrated just how much they enjoyed playing their opponents. First to every ball, quick to intercept and committing numbers forward to overcrowd the opponent's box, it was simply too difficult to restrain a side so eager to collect their third consecutive title.
Conte opted to start Sebastian Giovinco who, on the back of his recent performances, deserved his place in the starting line-up. Truly magnificent in recent outings, the player has demonstrated exemplary tactical understanding, quick feet and rapid thinking. The only thing he was missing was the goal -- a much-needed, desperately-coveted goal. On Monday night it finally arrived: a perfect left-footed curl to beat the admirable Simone Scuffet.
There is something about Giovinco that has caught the eye of late. While he always appeared to have suffered with the weight of a Juventus shirt, he is starting to show great character while raising the level of play of those around him. Capable of drawing defenders away, of speeding up movements in the final third and of losing his marker, his influence is no longer sporadic but rather systematic.
Whether it be against Trabzonspor, Lyon or Udinese, he has yet to shy away from his responsibilities, clearly demonstrating his worth and ability to cope with the pressure despite the unimpressed reactions of the fans that he has now begun to win over.
Conte's profound belief in the player and consistent praise has served a purpose and one hopes he will continue to play more minutes in order to thrive. He may never truly live up to the expectations of a demanding set of fans, but in his present condition, he's a brilliant player to have on the bench.
As for the rest, Claudio Marchisio deserves a symphony of compliments while Fernando Llorente continues to delight with his scoring ability, scoring the second to secure the victory. Five more games and it's all over. Roma may be strong but in Serie A, Juventus have what it takes to break records. One only hopes, they will soon dominate Europe in the way they have dominated domestically under their passionate coach.