Juventus increase Serie A lead after convincing defeat of Inter Milan
Juventus threw down the gauntlet to Serie A title rivals Napoli by pulling four points clear at the top with a convincing 2-0 victory over Inter Milan.
February has seen the reigning champions catch up to, and then finally overhaul free-scoring Napoli, but they were only one point clear of the southerners heading into the 27th round of games.
It took second-half goals from Leonardo Bonucci and substitute Alvaro Morata -- the latter converting a late penalty -- for Juve to earn a breather, safe in the knowledge their status as Scudetto favourites cannot be touched by Napoli when the Azzurri visit Fiorentina on Monday.
Roberto Mancini's Inter, the former table-toppers who were distinctly ineffective in Turin, only deigning to threaten their hosts at the death, now face the unenviable task of attempting to overhaul Juve's 3-0 lead in the Coppa Italia semifinals when the Italian giants meet again on Wednesday.
The best moment of an underwhelming first half occurred in the fifth minute. Brazilian playmaker Hernanes almost struck a blow against his previous employers when he took aim from long range, but he could only rattle the crossbar and Samir Handanovic punched the ball clear.
Juve kept pushing and Mario Mandzukic soon set up Paulo Dybala for an attempt from the middle of the Inter box that Miranda did very well to block.
In the ninth minute Jeison Murillo failed to deal with a devious cross from Stephan Lichtsteiner, allowing Mandzukic a free shot that he put wide.
The onslaught eventually ceased and Inter enjoyed a half chance when Rodrigo Palacio put Mauro Icardi through for a decent effort that missed the target.
Juve lost influential defender Giorgio Chiellini to injury shortly before half-time, meaning Italy Under-21 centre-back Daniele Rugani got a rare opportunity to impress having struggled for game time since arriving from Empoli in the summer.
However, it would be an old head in the Juve rearguard who boosted the leaders ahead following the break.
When Inter full-back Danilo D'Ambrosio tried to make a headed clearance of Dybala's free-kick, he unwittingly gifted Bonucci the break he needed to volley home the opening goal.
It was almost 2-0 when Dybala latched onto Alex Sandro's assist from the left flank but, under heavy pressure from Inter defenders, he fluffed his lines.
Not to worry, though, as Inter had failed to register a shot on target in over an hour of play and did not look like doing so as time ticked away in Turin.
Juve were nevertheless grateful of the chance to double their advantage and eliminate any doubt over the outcome. When Miranda fouled Morata in the penalty area on 84 minutes it was the Spaniard who stepped up to cement yet another Bianconeri victory.
With all hope now lost, fifth-placed Inter decided to go for broke and almost grabbed a stoppage-time consolation when Adem Ljajic teed up Eder for a snapshot that veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon struggled to repel.