Genoa 0-1 Juventus: 6 Things We Learned
Juve continued their march towards the highest-ever point total in a Serie A season with a 1-0 victory at Genoa.
A stunning free-kick from Andrea Pirlo with 90 seconds of normal time remaining stole the points for Antonio Conte's side, who were given a fierce battle at the Marassi.
The Bianconeri were looking for a morale-boosting result to build some momentum ahead of the second leg of their Europa League tie with Fiorentina following a disappointing 1-1 draw in the first leg.
The Grifone can be proud of their display, despite losing in such cruel circumstances.
Conte will feel that the Scudetto is all but assured after extending the gap at the top to 17 points over second-placed Roma.
Here are six things we learned.
Conte's Management of Centre-Backs' Minutes Benefits All Concerned
Antonio Conte has cleverly managed the playing time of his starting trio of centre-backs.
In a move that will not only benefit Juventus in their push to claim the Europa League in addition to their third successive Scudetto, the number of starts for Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci's have been carefully managed over this intense schedule.
The move will help to keep the Italy internationals fresh right through to the Europa League final in May (if, as is the plan, they make it) as well as the World Cup in Brazil the following month, which will delight Azzurri manager Cesare Prandelli.
Leonardo Bonucci returned to the starting line-up on Sunday, having taken a rest for the two matches against Fiorentina.
Andrea Barzagli also sat on the bench at the Juventus Stadium in Thursday's Europa League tie and was kept fresh for the second leg by sitting out the clash at the Marassi too.
All three are massively important to the success of club and country, and in such an elongated season, Conte's decision to use them sparingly at this point is a wise one.
Gasperini Has Taken Genoa to a New Level
Gian Piero Gasperini should be commended for taking Genoa to a new level.
Despite losing on Sunday to the champions, their performance against Juve suggests that the Grifone are in a new place and ready to push on to greater things.
Gone will be the days when just avoiding relegation would be satisfactory. The Genovese side showed they can compete against the very best, and their stability over the past couple of months has been key.
Consistent team selection and the right balance in all departments has been imperative in delivering good results to make up a fine season for the Rossoblu.
Genoa, Italy's oldest club and fourth-most successful in terms of scudetti, have the stature and history to push towards European football.
Finally, president Enrico Preziosi has shown some faith in one manager, and his trust has been rewarded with excellent performances and results.
Now Genoa must finish the season strong and kick on to bigger and better things, away from relegation scraps.
Sturaro Gives the Grifone the Passion of the City's Fans
Stefano Sturaro is enjoying a breakthrough season for Genoa, and the Liguria-born player's graduation to the first team has delighted the fans.
It has been some time since one of their own has broken into the first team, and it is another key to developing the club under the guidance of Gian Piero Gasperini.
Preziosi has wasted plenty of cash on numerous signings over the years, with Genoa famed for regularly selling and buying players into double figures each season.
If Gasperini can use the owner's budget more wisely and provide encouragement for other stars from the Primavera set-up, Genoa can prosper.
Sturaro's versatility in the middle of the park has become highly useful in recent weeks and has given the team a breath of fresh air.
You can tell that Sturaro is genuinely delighted to be involved and relishing his opportunity to wear the badge of the club he supported as a boy.
That passion is infectious, and the team are buoyant from his rise in recent weeks.
Pirlo Still Worth His Weight in Gold
Andrea Pirlo demonstrated his ability on Sunday, proving that he is still worth his weight in gold despite reaching age 34.
Pirlo scored an 89th-minute winner from a trademark free-kick, showing that he can still be a difference-maker at this level.
His contract is up at the end of the season, but on this evidence giving the Azzurri international an extension would be a wise decision for Juve.
Pirlo needed to wait several minutes while the wall was organised by the referee, but when the whistle blew it was inevitable where the ball was going.
Such grace and beauty showcased as he strutted towards the ball before curling it into the top corner past a helpless Mattia Perin was a pleasure to watch, and long may it continue.
Mama mia PIRLO !!! Incredibile— Juan Manuel Iturbe (@Juan_iturbe93) March 16, 2014
Buffon Still Hitting the Heights
Gianluigi Buffon is still maintaining the highest possible standards between the sticks for Juve.
Buffon is immortalised as a Juve and Italy legend, but his performances are so consistently excellent that it is easy to forget his exceptional standards and his longevity in maintaining them.
Stooping low to his left, Gigi was able to push Emanuele Calaio's penalty away to keep Juve in the game, but there were numerous other smart stops that kept the Grifone at bay.
In particular, Andrea Bertolacci's thumping shot from close range was beaten away, with the former Italy U21 international just 12 yards from goal and given a clear sight when the Juve defence suffered a momentary lapse in concentration.
Conte will be thrilled to know that Buffon has long since put a sticky patch of form earlier in the season behind him and that he is back to his very best.
Not only did Buffon equal Dino Zoff on 476 appearances, but he just equaled him for penalties saved  Only Gianpiero Combi has more — Terrence Clarke (@terrenceKC) March 16, 2014
Victory Emblematic of Conte Era
Antonio Conte's Juve were summed up on Sunday night with the 1-0 victory over Genoa.
Not always at their best, Juve find a way to grind out wins when they have no right to do so.
The Bianconeri are in a formidable run of form that has seen them lose just once this season and enjoying a run of five consecutive wins.
Perhaps it is an indictment of the poor quality of Serie A in recent years, certainly in comparison to years gone by, but Juve's character and resilience are characteristics that have defined this team over the past three seasons since Conte took the reins.
Genoa played really well. On run of play, don't deserve to lose. Then again, they missed their pen.
— Gabriele Marcotti (@Marcotti) March 16, 2014
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!