Juventus take charge of Serie A title race and other talking points from 2-0 win over Atalanta

Aditya Devavrat 13:29 16/03/2018
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Juventus have one hand on the Serie A trophy after Saturday's win.

Juventus struck a defining blow in the Serie A title race by beating Atalanta 2-0 in the game in hand they had over second-placed Napoli, stretching their lead at the top of the table to four points.

Goals from Gonzalo Higuain and Blaise Matuidi sealed a comfortable win despite a performance of admirable heart and energy from Gian Piero Gasperini’s side.

Here are three talking points from Wednesday’s game.

THE SERIE A TITLE RACE IS OVER

Juventus still have to face a resurgent AC Milan, as well as Inter Milan and Roma away, not to mention the top-of-the-table clash against Napoli. But does anyone see them letting a four-point lead slip from here?

It was going to take a herculean effort from Napoli to win the scudetto even before their current two-game swoon, when they’ve only taken one point. They probably needed to win every game apart from the trip to Juve, where they would’ve been happy with a draw.

Napoli must have been hoping that Juventus would slip up against Atalanta. Not a chance. The champions were ruthless, and they’re going to be champions again.

Juventus' players celebrated like they knew the title race was over.

Juventus’ players celebrated like they knew the title race was over.

BLAISE MATUIDI PROVING THE DIFFERENCE-MAKER

In a summer transfer market of inflated fees, the fact that Juventus got Matuidi for €20million is criminal. It has proven to be one of the best transfers of the summer.

The Juventus headlines are dominated by their much-vaunted defence, Higuain, and Paulo Dybala. But Matuidi has quietly put together a strong season, solidifying Juve’s midfield and helping them absorb the loss of Claudio Marchisio and, briefly, Sami Khedira.

On Wednesday he was everywhere, tracking back, mopping up, ticking play over, and, to put a bow on his performance, joining the attack and scoring the game-clinching goal.

Blaise Matuidi has been an excellent signing for Juventus.

Blaise Matuidi has been an excellent signing for Juventus.

IS THE ATALANTA REVOLUTION OVER?

Atalanta’s rise from 13th in 2015/16 to fourth last year was miraculous, and thus it was almost inevitable that there would be a comedown this season.

But what feels more long-term about this is the identity of the teams who have usurped them. Inter Milan and AC Milan have invested heavily, and Lazio, who finished two points behind Atalanta last year, have been trending upwards for a few seasons now. The top six looks locked out.

The club also gets raided by that very top six for their best talents – a business model Atalanta is perfectly fine with; selling highly-rated academy products for profits always works. But relying on a new crop of academy players every year will always mean there is a ceiling for the club, and that ceiling is getting lower.

Have Atalanta gone as far as they can go?

Have Atalanta gone as far as they can go?

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