Gonzalo Higuain © Gallo Images
Gonzalo Higuain hit his second brace in as many games as Paulo Dybala- inspired Juventus warmed up for their midweek Champions League clash against Barcelona with a shaky 2-0 win over Chievo on Saturday.
Juve's 25th win of the campaign took the Turin giants, chasing a record sixth consecutive scudetto, nine points clear of Roma, who face Bologna on Sunday looking to tighten their grip on second spot.
Juve are also set to meet Lazio in the Italian Cup final after a 5-4 semifinal aggregate win over Napoli in midweek, when Argentina striker Higuain scored twice in a 3-2 second leg loss at the San Paolo stadium.
But despite seeing Dybala deliver an inspiring performance against Chievo, coach Massimiliano Allegri will be expecting improvements on Tuesday when Juve host Barcelona for the first time since losing the 2015 final to the La Liga giants in Berlin.
Nevertheless, it was a defiant Allegri who fired a preemptive strike at eventual critics looking for more of the beautiful game from the Italian giants when he told Premium Sport: "It makes me laugh when I read about 'spectacular football'. That's okay for the circus, but our job is to go out and win.
"I have really good players, and it's not about entertaining. There are dirty games sometimes, not all games are the same. But we still have to go out and win them."
Gianluigi Buffon's 616th appearance in Serie A meant the Juve 'keeper overtook retired Inter Milan great Javier Zanetti (615), although he remains behind Paolo Maldini's impressive tally of 647 games.
Although he had little to do in a first half that saw Higuain fire past Andrea Seculin from Dybala's smart cutback on 23 minutes, Chievo kept Juve running throughout.
"It was a difficult game, but we knew it would be like that," Higuain said. "Chievo are a tough side, but we've got the three points."
Juve were quick off the mark, but spurned several occasions in a one-sided opening half, Seculin blocking a snapshot from Sami Khedira before finger-tipping a powerful Dybala strike out from under the bar after the Argentine playmaker pounced on a misplaced pass.
Minutes later, Dybala skipped past Ivan Radovanovic and cut back for Higuain to sweep a rightfooted firsttimer inside the far post.
But Juve were wasteful again, Khedira skewing wide from Juan Cuadrado's cross and then Bostjan Cesar coming in to block Cuadrado's drive from a great Dybala ball.
Buffon made his first real save shortly after the restart when he got down low at his near post to beat away a Sergio Pellissier effort.
But Juve were soon back in control, and still hitting wide of the target.
With his back to goal, Higuain spun to volley inches wide and Juve were lucky when, at the other end, Roberto Inglese rose to nod Valter Birsa's cross just over Buffon's crossbar.
A great exchange between Khedira and Dybala saw the Argentine playmaker skew narrowly wide of the far post.
Dybala hung his head in frustration, and Higuain followed suit with a similar gesture when he fired wide of the upright from 10 yards out after pouncing on a ball fired back into the area.
Buffon was alert to a Birsa strike from the edge of the area, but was finally celebrating when Higuain calmed nerves with his second of the game in the final minutes.
After Dybala's smart dribble into the box, Stephan Lichtsteiner delivered a powerful cross across goal that Higuain controlled before firing past the wrong-footed Seculin.
On-loan Benfica midfielder Bryan Cristante hit a late leveller as Atalanta stayed on course to qualify for the Europa League with a 1-1 draw at home to Sassuolo.
Gian Piero Gasperini's men will remain fifth after the weekend even if Inter, now four points behind in sixth, beat struggling Crotone on Sunday.
Lazio, who ousted Roma from the Italian Cup in midweek, will close to within one point of third-placed Napoli with a win at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday.