Juve maintain eight-point lead, but Dybala limps off

AP, MILAN, Italy

Tue, Mar 21, 2017 - Page 16

Juventus ground out a 1-0 win at UC Sampdoria on Sunday, but will be left counting the cost after losing Paulo Dybala to injury ahead of a tough run of matches.

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri is hopeful that Dybala will recover during the international break and that the Argentina forward will be fit to face SSC Napoli in Serie A and then in the second leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final, which they lead 3-1.

Dybala limped off shortly before the half-hour mark with a muscle problem and was replaced by Marko Pjaca.

“Paulo felt a twinge at the back of his thigh, but it shouldn’t be anything serious,” Allegri said. “He is a player who has unique characteristics in linking up the lines, Pjaca doesn’t have this type of play among his skills.”

Juventus host Barcelona in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final on April 11.

“Playing a quarter-final against Barcelona has to become a norm for Juve,” Allegri said. “You can go out or you can go through, but the other teams have to respect us and I think that in the last few seasons they’ve begun to do so.”

Juventus remained on course for an unprecedented sixth successive scudetto as they stayed eight points clear of AS Roma and 10 ahead of SSC Napoli.

“It was an important step,” Allegri said. “It was fundamental to win this match because we play Napoli after the break. We had one of the best first halves of the season, for our intensity and the chances we created.”

Juan Cuadrado scored the only goal of the match in the seventh minute, heading in Kwadwo Asamoah’s cross.

Sampdoria reserve goalkeeper Christian Puggioni was in for the suspended Emiliano Viviano and he pulled off several fine saves to deny Gonzalo Higuain.

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon set a new club record when he passed 39,681 Serie A minutes for the Bianconeri.

“I’m happy to have reached this number,” the 39-year-old Juventus and Italy captain said. “To have done so as part of such a strong team, winning so many trophies, is even more pleasing ... I hope to have many more crucial minutes in my legs, my head, my heart and my hands.”