Juventus opened up a three point advantage at the top of the table following a hard-fought 2-1 win over Chievo at the Stadio Marc Antonio Bentegodi in Serie A.
Alessandro Matri gave the Old Lady a 10th minute lead before Stefan Lichtsteiner finished off an incisive team move to double the visitors’ advantage with three minutes of the first-half remaining.
Cyril Thereau halved the deficit early in the second-half but the Bianconeri held on to claim all three points and re-open a three point advantage at the top of the table - and Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon claimed that knowing Napoli are breathing down their necks helps Juve play better.
"It is very motivating to know you cannot afford to get anything wrong," he said.
"There are 15 games to go and everything is still up for grabs. I am glad to have more title rivals."
With Napoli moving joint-top of Serie A following their 2-0 win over Catania on Saturday evening, the pressure was on the Old Lady to return to winning ways following last weekend’s contentious 1-1 draw with Genoa.
However, they were without the touchline-presence of coach Antonio Conte, who was serving a two game ban for derogatory comments aimed at the referee following that disappointing draw.
Mirko Vucinic and Leonardo Bonucci also served suspensions while Simone Pepe, Nicklas Bendtner and Giorgio Chiellini were all missing due to injury.
A stubborn Chievo earned a point in a scoreless draw in this fixture last season but boss Eugenio Corini was without injured Gennaro Sardo, Boukary Drame and Luciano, while Mamadou Samassa was away on international duty with Mali.
The Flying Donkeys began with some intent and their early hard running disrupted the men from Turin’s rhythm but Matri’s exceptional 10th minute volley set the tone for the rest of the half as the Old Lady put in a consummate performance.
Alberto Paloschi offered a threat with his running in behind but the ball was often not of the required quality; while, in contrast, Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal were imperious in midfield - Vdial chipping in with a majestic assist for Matri's opener.
On the one occasion the hosts did get men in support of Paloschi, Juve broke with brutal efficiency to double their advantage and effectively end the match as a contest.
Giovinco exchanged passes with Matri before back-heeling into the path of Lichtsteiner, who lifted a finish into the top corner from close range with Christian Puggioni left with little chance.
As with the first-half, the hosts began in the ascendancy and halved the arrears with just seven minutes of the second period gone through Thereau, who capitalised on a lax clearance to strike past Buffon from just inside the box.
Juve regrouped and slowed the pace of the game to restrict the Flying Donkeys to shots from distance, but, in doing so, blunted their own attacking endeavours as the game drew to a close as a scrappy affair short on chances.
Coach Eugenio Corini introduced Chievo’s record Serie A goal-scorer Sergio Pellissier but Juve played out the rest of the half unscathed to bring to a halt an alarming run of New Year form.
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- Alessandro Matri