Gonzalo Higuain injury cannot stop Juventus against Torino and other talking points

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Gonzalo Higuain has become the latest Juventus star to be sidelined.

Juventus bounced back from their Champions League collapse against Tottenham with a 1-0 derby victory at Torino.

The visitors, who surrendered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at home to Spurs in the first leg of their last-16 clash in midweek, sealed victory thanks to Alex Sandro’s 33rd-minute tap-in. But their joy was tempered by star striker Gonzalo Higuain limping off injured on 15 minutes after a collision with Il Toro goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu.

Here are the main talking points as the six-time successive Serie A-champions kept the pace with leaders Napoli:

OLD LADY’S INJURY CURSE

Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri must wonder what he’s done to anger the football gods.

Injuries and illnesses which had already sidelined the likes of versatile Croatia forward Mario Mandzukic, France dynamo Blaise Matuidi and Colombia winger Juan Cuadrado struck again within the first three minutes when Higuain was fairly cleared out by Sirigu.

The €90 million (Dh410.2m) man seemed in immediate pain, hobbling around the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino turf until he was mercifully hooked soon after. A spell on the sidelines for the Argentina centre forward will produce particular melancholy because of his return of eight goals in the previous five games, compared to zero in the prior five.

This added to the test of Juve’s mental fortitude after a team with 15 clean sheets out of 16 imploded against Spurs. They stoically passed, winning a ninth-successive league game for the first time since May 2016.

It was not all bad news for the Bianconeri. Compatriot Paulo Dybala featured as a second-half replacement, ending his spell out with a hamstring issue since January 6.

With a double-header against competitive Atalanta in the league and Coppa Italia, visit of Lazio and the second leg against Spurs up next, Juve need both their Argentine front men fit and firing on all cylinders to continue their march.

ALLEGRI STAYS SWEET FOR SAMI

There were raised eyebrows when the team sheets showed that club stalwart Claudio Marchisio had only been granted a berth on the substitutes’ bench.

The dogged skills of Stefano Sturaro were instead favoured in the 4-3-3 formation utilised to match the hosts.

Understandable, despite Il Toro gaining a pathetic one point from their last seven derby clashes.

Germany centre midfielder Sami Khedira remained in the XI even though injury had curtailed his involvement in the uncharacteristic collapse versus Tottenham. The ex-Real Madrid man’s prominence is a mystery for certain Juve fans who wonder, what does he offer?

It is seven matches since he completed a tackle in Serie A and three since an interception was made, according to whoscored.com. His pass accuracy against Torino was 96.7 per cent, yet he produced no key passes.

Living on reputation, or does he perform a role only Allegri sees?

Torino defender Cristian Ansaldi lL) vies with Juventus' German midfielder Sami Khedira.

Torino defender Cristian Ansaldi vies with Juventus’ Germany midfielder Sami Khedira.

BELOTTI IS NOT BACK TO HIS BRILLIANT BEST

Trepidation would have been felt by Juve last week when Torino predator Andrea Belotti charged from his own half at Udinese and scored a stupendous first goal of 2018, in the process, apparently, casting aside this season’s repeat injury woes.

Yet when it came to facing Giorgio Chiellini and Daniele Rugani on Sunday, he looked well short of the marksman who struck 28 times in 38 matches last season.

A lack of assuredness was best shown early on when Chiellini was robbed by Joel Obi. But with Juve’s retreating, one-man defence in danger mode the Nigeria midfielder’s pass comically slipped right under Belotti’s feet.

In this fixture in 2016/17, the 24-year-old converted a wonderful header in an eventual 3-1 loss. This time, he had just one off-target shot and a paltry 19 touches.

SANDRO CAN WING IT

Allegri’s resourcefulness has been tested in recent weeks.

With options out wide depleted, Brazil left-back Sandro was pushed up onto the wing and the recent 4-2-3-1 ditched. It is testament to the 27-year-old’s ability how effortless he made this change.

Instincts of a striker were on show to loiter on the goal line and convert a searching cross from early substitute Fernando Bernardeschi – himself an injury doubt.

Only Miralem Pjanic and compatriot Douglas Costa (four) completed more dribbles than him (three). Only Chiellini and Dybala (three) drew more fouls (two).

Performances like this reinforce why he is so coveted.

Juventus' Brazil star Alex Sandro (2nd r) celebrates after scoring.

Juventus’ Brazil star Alex Sandro (2nd r) celebrates after scoring.

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