Juventus 7 Sassuolo 0: First-half blitz puts Napoli on notice
Gonzalo Higuain scored a hat-trick as Juventus sounded an ominous warning to rivals Napoli by overwhelming Sassuolo in a comprehensive 7-0 victory at Allianz Stadium on Sunday.
The champions scored four times in a one-sided first 45 minutes, and added three more through Higuain in the second half, to ease to their 10th consecutive victory in all competitions, bolstering their Serie A title defence.
Massimiliano Allegri named Gianluigi Buffon for his first league appearance since December and the 40-year-old could hardly have asked for a more comfortable clean sheet, his side's sixth straight in all competitions.
Alex Sandro opened the scoring after nine minutes and the contest was all but over by the half-hour mark as Sami Khedira hit a quickfire double to improve his season tally to six.
Miralem Pjanic's fine fourth prompted Allegri, who was forced to withdraw the injured Blaise Matuidi amid the goal glut, to make a further two changes at the break in a sign of the comfort enjoyed by the Bianconeri.
Higuain stole the spotlight with a classy treble - his first for the club - after the restart to further compound the away side's misery and cap off a win that momentarily moves Juve two points ahead of Napoli, who visit Benevento later on Sunday.
With Paulo Dybala, Juan Cuadrado and Douglas Costa all still sidelined by injury, Juve were searching for fresh avenues to goal and immediately found one in Alex Sandro.
The full-back pounced on a kind ricochet inside the area to punish the visitors for failing to clear a short corner.
Sassuolo stemmed the damage for a further 15 minutes until Khedira single-handedly opened the floodgates midway through the half.
Alex Sandro's flick-on from a Pjanic corner enabled the Germany international to open his account with a simple tap-in and he made it 3-0 moments later, exposing a high line to finish coolly past Andrea Consigli.
Juve's superb start did sour somewhat as Matuidi limped off between those two strikes, but that minor frustration was softened by a fourth first-half goal.
Pjanic - provider of Khedira's second - this time got in on the scoring, rounding off a thoroughly dominant 45 minutes by firing a sweet strike into the bottom-left corner from just outside the area.
Allegri opted to safeguard against further injuries by removing Khedira and Daniele Rugani at the interval and the changes hardly appeared to upset his side's rhythm.
Higuain almost got on the end of Mario Mandzukic's low cross, while Federico Bernardeschi slammed a low effort into Consigli.
But Juve did get their fifth in the 63rd minute when Higuain expertly fired through Federico Peluso and into the net for his 11th of the Serie A season.
The Argentina international took centre stage from there, rounding Consigli to convert again in the 74th minute before he claimed the match ball with his seventh goal in his last five top-flight meetings Sassuolo late in proceedings.