Juventus 2-0 Cremonese: Bianconeri close in on top-four finish despite Pogba blow
Juventus moved to the brink of Champions League qualification with a 2-0 Serie A win over Cremonese on Sunday, though their victory was marred by another injury suffered by Paul Pogba.
With one eye on Thursday's decisive Europa League semi-final clash with Sevilla, Massimiliano Allegri made seven changes to his line-up, handing Pogba his first Serie A start since returning to Turin.
Pogba's outing lasted just 24 minutes as he was substituted in tears after appearing to suffer a thigh injury, and though his withdrawal initially affected Juve, fellow midfielder Nicolo Fagioli broke Cremonese's resistance with a powerful drive after half-time.
Bremer headed a late second as Juve went eight points clear of fifth-placed Milan with three games remaining, leaving them favoured for a top-four finish, provided their 15-point deduction is not restored.
Juve struggled to break Cremonese down in a low-key opening, and they suffered a huge blow when Pogba pulled up innocuously, before exiting the field visibly upset seven years to the day after his last Serie A start.
Danilo was unable to convert the rebound when Marco Carnesecchi spilt Bremer's header 32 minutes in, and that was as close as the Bianconeri came before being booed off at half-time.
Federico Chiesa blazed over the crossbar as Juve sought an improvement after the break, while Adrien Rabiot forced Carnesecchi into action with a powerful 25-yard strike.
Chiesa turned provider as Juve broke the deadlock after 55 minutes, though Fagioli was deserving of all the credit as he hammered the winger's lay-off into the roof of the net from 20 yards out.
A VAR review denied Juve a second goal when Arkadiusz Milik converted with 16 minutes remaining, but the contest was over five minutes later when Bremer reacted quickest to nod in following a corner.
What does it mean? Juve edge towards finish line
Juve's hopes of Champions League qualification have been under threat on several occasions this season, including when they were hit with a 15-point deduction in January, and more recently when they ended April with a four-match winless run in Serie A (D1 L3).
However, Allegri's men have hit form just as their rivals have faltered, winning three successive games to move well clear of Milan.
Off-field matters could yet have an impact, but on the pitch, Juve know any further slip-ups from the Rossoneri will confirm their place in the top four.
Pogba woes continue
Pogba returned to Turin from Manchester United with much fanfare last year, but it's fair to say his Juve comeback has not been successful.
Beset by injuries since pre-season, Pogba has made just six league appearances this campaign, featuring for a total of 84 minutes.
Fagioli steps up
Following Pogba's withdrawal, Juve needed somebody to step up and provide some attacking inspiration.
Fagioli, who spent a period in Cremonese's youth system and enjoyed a loan spell with the club last season, did just that.
Following his thunderous strike, he is one of just two midfielders born this century to score three goals and register three assists in Serie A this term, alongside Udinese's Lazar Samardzic.
Key Opta facts:
- Only Scudetto winners Napoli (42) have gained more points than Juventus' 38 in Serie A since the start of 2023 (20 games played).
- Reaching 4,801 points in the all-time Serie A standings with Sunday's win, Juventus have become the first team to win 4,800 points in Italian top-flight history.
- The Bianconeri have seen 21 goals scored by players born since the start of the year 2000 in Serie A this term, more than any other team.
- Pogba made his first competitive start for 390 days, last doing so in Manchester United's 4-0 Premier League loss to Liverpool on April 19, 2022.
- Pogba has made 10 appearances in all competitions this season. The Frenchman has not played more than 25 minutes in any of those games, recording that figure against Atalanta last week.
- Bremer has scored 10 headed goals in Serie A since the start of the 2019-20 season. Only Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk has matched that tally among defenders in Europe's top five leagues during that period.
It's all to play for as Juventus head to Sevilla for the second leg of their Europa League semi-final tie on Thursday, following a 1-1 first-leg draw.
Relegation-threatened Cremonese, meanwhile, host Bologna in Serie A on Saturday.