Juventus vs. Atalanta: 5 Things We Learned from Juve's Comfortable Win
In a game that was never really a contest, Juventus defeated Atalanta Bergamo at the Juventus Stadium on Sunday by a score of three goals to nil.
Mirko Vucinic opened the scoring in the second minute after a beautifully executed one-two with Sebastian Giovinco. Andrea Pirlo doubled the lead with a vintage free kick, and Claudio Marchisio iced the win with a long-range effort that took a slight deflection.
Atalanta finished the game with 10 men, as Thomas Manfredini was sent off before the half with his second yellow card.
Juventus didn't push for additional goals after the break, electing to run out the clock.
Here are five things we learned from the Bianconeri's easy win.
Vucinic and Giovinco Can Coexist
It might not be my favourite pairing up front, but credit where credit is due: Mirko Vucinic and Sebastian Giovinco played an excellent game in support of each other.
My main issue with this line up is the lack of a true goalscorer, but the Montenegrin was able to find the net within 90 seconds of the opening whistle off a beautiful feed from Giovinco, putting such concerns to rest.
Giovinco had numerous chances for a goal of his own, but he failed to find the back of the net. The Italy international had a great game nonetheless, creating lots of space for his fellow players with his constant running and putting himself in good positions to score.
The reason this pairing worked was the play of Arturo Vidal on the wing. The Chilean plays all over the field but spent a lot of team on the right wing against Atalanta, forcing the strikers inside the danger zone. The feed to Vucinic was excellent, and Juventus were able to slice right through the Atalanta defense because of this.
Fabio Quagliarella showed his qualities in limited time when he came on as a substitute for Vucinic, so for one week fans can put any concerns they have regarding the Bianconeri striker force to rest.
Chiellini's Offensive Contributions Are Sensational
We all know Giorgio Chiellini as a no-nonsense, throwback kind of defender, and we love him for it.
But his offensive contributions and penetrating runs have been an eye opener this season. The big, clumsy butcher can actually play football.
Against Atalanta, Chiellini assisted Marchisio on his goal, nearly scored one of his own on a shot from the edge of the box and fired in several quality crosses that tormented the Bergamo centre backs.
Chiellini has been doing this all season, and his output was on full display on Sunday. This is a fairly new phenomenon, but one Juventus fans have to enjoy.
He clearly relishes playing behind Kwadwo Asamoah, the kind of player that has the motor and defensive qualities to make up for Chiellini leaving his post, and he trusts his partners on the back line enough to venture forward.
With Andrea Barzagli not afraid to do the same on the right wing and Leonardo Bonucci often setting up the attack with the long ball, the Bianconeri now have three world-class centre-backs who can match up with everyone defensively and help out on the other end of the pitch. This provides Antonio Conte with yet another weapon to win games.
Giaccherini Didn't Ruin Everything
I'm joking, of course. Regular readers know I loathe Emanuele Giaccherini and don't feel like he has a place in this team.
So it's fun for once to write down that he made an excellent impression, coming on as a sub. He looked lively and involved and provided a beautiful cross to Giovinco that nearly went in.
Conte switched his formation, from a 3-5-2 to a 4-3-3 to incorporate Giaccherini when he came on the field, and Juventus didn't lose a step in doing so. Simone Padoin did an excellent job on the right wing, continuing his great form that was on full display against Cagliari, but Giaccherini's performance tasted even sweeter because I wasn't expecting him to do much.
I don't mind being wrong, and I hope the young midfielder can build on this performance. One good game isn't going to make me a fan, but it's a start.
Blame the Pitch for Marrone's Little Mistake
Leading 1-0, Lucca Marrone clumsily gave the ball away to German Dennis in a turn of events that nearly led to the equaliser.
It would be a shame if people called out the young Italian on this, because he really put in a great performance apart from that slip-up.
He had a great game in midweek against Cagliari in the heart of the defense and continued that form today against Atalanta, a team that boasts a lot of quality players and already beat teams like AC Milan, Napoli and Inter this season.
He wasn't the only player to lose his footing on the slippery pitch today, and he didn't let his early mistake get to his head. For a young player that only recently made the switch from midfield to defense, that counts as a win.
Buffon Is Still a Top Goalkeeper
Something the Bianconeri faithful already knew, but for the first time in recent weeks, the Juve stopper got to show his abilities.
Gianluigi Buffon was surprisingly busy today, as he was tested by the Atalanta strikers early and often. But the veteran goalkeeper was ready for anything the Nerazzurri threw at him and was able to keep his nets clean for the fifth consecutive game.
Iker Casillas and Manuel Neuer are fantastic players, but casual followers of the Serie A seem to think that Buffon is getting old and no longer has what it takes.
Officially the greatest goalkeeper of the 21st century, Buffon is still playing at an elite level and is undoubtedly amongst the top five goalkeepers in the world.
And his performance on Sunday reminded everyone that. It's obvious why Juventus are trying to extend his contract, and reports are suggesting both parties are very close to an extension.
Bonus Slide: Inter Lose
Inter Milan lost to Lazio Roma yesterday, so the win over Atalanta gives Juventus a seven-point lead over their bitter rivals.
Napoli play Bologna later Sunday night and can close the gap with the Bianconeri to five points with a win.
This close to the winter break, the Bianconeri are big winners this weekend regardless of Napoli's result, and the added distance between Juve and Inter will be very welcome once the UEFA Champions League resumes after the break.
Be sure to check Bleacher Report for a preview of the UCL Round of 16 draw and instant analysis once the draw has taken place!
Update: Napoli lost to Bologna 3-2, dropping them to the third spot on the Serie A table. Inter are second, seven points behind Juventus.