Andrea Pirlo saluted the spirit of his Juventus side after they came from behind to seal a 3-1 win over Lazio in Serie A on Saturday.

The Bianconeri fell behind to Joaquin Correa's 14th-minute strike, but powered back to claim all three points thanks to Adrien Rabiot's fine strike and Alvaro Morata's second-half brace – the second of which came from the penalty spot. 

Morata's double took his goal involvement tally this season to 15 (seven goals, eight assists) – his best return in a Serie A campaign. 

The result means third-placed Juve are now seven points behind leaders Inter, having played the same number of games. 

With an eye on Tuesday's Champions League last-16 second leg against Porto, which the Portuguese side hold a 2-1 advantage in, Pirlo opted to shuffle his pack against Lazio. 

Serie A's leading goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo started on the substitutes' bench, while Federico Bernardeschi was deployed at left-back and Danilo was used in a defensive midfield role. 

While Pirlo was disappointed with his side's sluggish start, he was pleased they were able to secure all three points after going behind for the first time since the 2-1 win over Torino in December. 

"We started badly and conceded with our poor back pass, but then there was a strong reaction from the whole team despite missing so many players," he told DAZN. 

"We didn't let our heads drop, we started to step up the tempo and that was the most important thing.

"We thought about Tuesday's game. We knew tonight was like a final, some had to play in new positions and showed great professionalism and spirit of sacrifice.

"The most important thing was the three points. Danilo was ready to work in central midfield, while Bernardeschi deserves all the compliments for playing as a left-back.

"What I liked the most was the reaction of the team, as we didn't accept being behind in such a delicate and important game, so it was that spirit I appreciated."

While he did not get on the scoresheet, Federico Chiesa was particularly impressive for the reigning champions, and the winger, who laid on Morata's first, believes something has sparked amongst his team-mates. 

"We put in a great performance, but only after conceding the opening goal, which was a mistake," he said. "We proved that we have heart, grit and I think we'll battle to the end if we play like this.

"Lazio have shown themselves to be a great team, always in the fight for the top four, so it was a big game. Having said that, they are all big if we want to win the Scudetto.

"I do what the coach asks of me. Winning the ball back comes above all from the team pressing and not just individuals. The assist was mine, but I was able to get the ball because we all worked so hard to win it back.

"After tonight, I think we're all in great shape. Something sparked within us and from now on every game is a final, whether it's in Serie A, the Champions League or the Coppa Italia."

Cristiano Ronaldo was named on the substitutes' bench for Juventus' Serie A clash with Lazio on Saturday. 

With an eye on Tuesday's Champions League last-16 second leg against Porto, who hold a 2-1 lead from the first match, Andrea Pirlo opted to rest his talisman. 

Ronaldo is the leading scorer in Serie A this season with 20 goals and has netted four in his last three games. 

Speaking at his pre-match media conference on Friday, Pirlo hinted that 36-year-old Ronaldo might be suffering from fatigue. 

"When you play a lot of games, a day or two of rest is good," Pirlo said. "It also applies to Cristiano. 

"Now that we are short up front, he has gritted his teeth and will do it for as long as we need it. He has shown and continues to demonstrate his great professionalism."

Juve, who were 10 points behind leaders Inter ahead of kick-off, opted for Alvaro Morata and Dejan Kulusevski in attack.

 

Andrea Pirlo insists Juventus remain determined to push for glory on all fronts despite not being at 100 per cent, with the club heading into a pivotal stage of the season.

The reigning champions find themselves in a battle to remain in touch with Inter in the Serie A title race; they trail the leaders by 10 points, albeit with a game in hand. 

They host Lazio on Saturday in league action, then have a crucial Champions League clash with Porto to follow on Tuesday, the Bianconeri needing to overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit to make it through to the quarter-finals.

With a Coppa Italia final to come later in the year, Pirlo appreciates he will have to manage his squad carefully in the coming weeks, though insists his focus will not switch away from the Scudetto while there is still a chance of winning it for a 10th successive season. 

"All the matches are decisive for Juventus. The next game is tomorrow's match and we will concentrate on it with all our strength to win and only then will we think about Porto," Pirlo told the media on Friday. 

"We are still in the race on all fronts and as long as there is hope we will give our all to try to win the league. 

"The enthusiasm is there because we are going through a period of tough and important games. Tomorrow's match is also important for the standings and where we are is the same as last week. We can't make mistakes in case those in front of us do so."

He added: "We must play an intelligent game tomorrow, knowing that we are in a delicate period and we are not at 100 per cent.  

"It will be important to manage every situation and every play well, because you won't be able to go to 100 miles per hour for 90 minutes."

Pirlo is hampered in his preparations by injuries within the first-team squad, while Rodrigo Bentancur is isolating away from the group after testing positive for COVID-19. 

Alvaro Morata is nearing a return to action; the striker's recent absence has increased the reliance on Cristiano Ronaldo, who has scored four goals in Juve's past three games. 

"When you play a lot of games, a day or two of rest is good," Pirlo said. "It also applies to Cristiano. 

"Now that we are short up front, he has gritted his teeth and will do it for as long as we need it. He has shown and continues to demonstrate his great professionalism."

Pirlo revealed Leonardo Bonucci has been able to take part in some sessions, though fellow defender Matthijs de Ligt is yet to resume training. Morata, meanwhile, is "getting better every day". 

There was also good news regarding Arthur, with the midfielder sidelined since early February but potentially close to a comeback.

"Arthur's medical check-up went well yesterday, the pain is reducing," the Juve boss revealed. "We hope he can give us a hand in the next few matches, it will depend on the pain when he resumes training with the team.

"Aaron Ramsey is fine and could play tomorrow. He can be an extra resource and we might need him."

Cristiano Ronaldo made history on Tuesday to give Juventus a 3-0 Serie A victory over Spezia in Turin.

The 36-year-old struck the third goal of the game after Alvaro Morata and Federico Chiesa had put the champions in control in the second half at the Allianz Stadium.

Ronaldo's clinical finish saw him become the first player to score at least 20 goals in each of the past 12 seasons in Europe's top-five leagues.

It was a moment to savour for the Portugal star, who was playing in the 600th league match of his career, as he moved two goals clear of Inter's Romelu Lukaku in the race to finish as Serie A top scorer for 2020-21.

The result lifted Juve back to within seven points of league leaders Inter with 14 games remaining, and head coach Andrea Pirlo is not prepared to give up on their chances of a 10th title in succession.

"The gap is just the points that separate us," he told Sky Sport Italia. "We know it will be a long chase. Inter have been playing together for two years, they have a well-drilled approach, whereas we just started this season. We still intend to be there right to the end."

Pirlo felt his side's sluggish start against Spezia was "more physical than psychological fatigue", adding: "It can happen when you have so many games with the same players.

"We tried to control the game and then when the fresh legs came on, we were sharper and able to make the most of our chances."

Juventus' players still believe they can claim a 10th consecutive Serie A title this season, according to head coach Andrea Pirlo. 

The Bianconeri are 10 points behind leaders Inter, although they have a game in hand on Antonio Conte's side.

That comes at home to Spezia on Tuesday, with Juve looking to address a worrying run of form which has seen them win just once in their past five games across all competitions. 

They have, however, won their five most recent top-flight matches at the Allianz Stadium, scoring at least two goals in each of them (14 in total) and keeping a clean sheet in the past three. 

Despite the gap to Inter, Conte insists his side have not given up hope of sealing yet another Scudetto. 

"I wouldn't say we can chase the Scudetto if I didn't know that the team thinks so too," he told a media conference on Monday. 

"I know the lads believe it, they train well and want to go back to winning the title and this makes me feel comfortable.

"We don't look at who is above us or behind us, we concentrate on ourselves. The goal must remain the same. There are many games and as long as there's room to recover, we will be there.

"The initial goal was to win them all, we know we lost a few points, but that is in the past. We have to look to the future and the future is Spezia."

Juve have won 21 of their past 23 Serie A home matches against promoted sides, keeping 14 clean sheets in the process.

They face a spirited Spezia side, though, with only Inter (14) gaining more points from a losing position than Vincenzo Italiano's men (nine) in Serie A this season. Seven of those came in away matches, which is the joint-most alongside Benevento. 

And Pirlo knows his side will have to be at their best to claim all three points. 

"Spezia are proving to be up for Serie A, having a great championship," the Juve boss added. "They have achieved great results against the big teams too. It will be a difficult match.

"It will be an important match for us and we must continue to fight for the Scudetto. We will have to play an intense game from the first minute.

"We know we have been caught on four occasions, but each match was different. We have analysed the mistakes made and we will try to avoid repeating them."

Andrea Pirlo felt Juventus did not have enough leaders who could "understand the moment" as they threw away two points at Hellas Verona in Serie A action on Saturday.

Defending Serie A champions Juve were heading for a second victory of the week after Cristiano Ronaldo netted early for the visitors in the second half.

But Antonin Barak's header 13 minutes from time rescued a point for Verona, who might then have snatched victory during the closing stages as Wojciech Szczesny saved smartly from influential substitute Darko Lazovic.

Juve head coach Pirlo was disappointed with the way the Bianconeri slipped up from a position of strength, having been made to work hard for their lead against a side they have failed to beat in three attempts.

"We're sorry because we knew it was going to be a difficult, dirty game," Pirlo told DAZN.

"We had interpreted it well. We were also able to take the lead, which was the hardest thing, but then we couldn't keep the result.

"We lacked a bit of aggression, especially for the goal. It was necessary to prevent [Lazovic] from crossing easily.

"These are issues that, unfortunately, the young players still do not understand, because these make the difference and make you take home points."

When Aaron Ramsey was substituted 22 minutes from time, six of the remaining Juve players were aged 23 or younger. Alessandro Di Pardo, introduced in place of Federico Chiesa late on, was a seventh.

Meanwhile, only Alex Sandro (147), Rodrigo Bentancur (102), Federico Bernardeschi (98), goalkeeper Szczesny (92) and Ronaldo (84) had made more than 50 league appearances for Juve.

Amid the lack of experience, Pirlo turned to Alex Sandro and Ronaldo to lift their colleagues, failing to do so as the defender was outjumped for Barak's leveller while the scorer of the opener ended the game having hit the target with only two of his seven attempts.

"When you have the advantage in these games, you have to try to bring it home," Pirlo added.

"But there was a lack of experienced players, many young players, therefore few who made themselves heard and understood the moment of the game.

"In fact, I asked Cristiano and Alex to make themselves heard, to make people understand the moment, but unfortunately there were too few [leaders].

"It's a shame to have dropped two points, because the most difficult thing was to take the lead and we had to make better use of this opportunity."

Paulo Dybala is not at risk of surgery and Juventus are exploring options to get him back on the pitch as soon as possible, says head coach Andrea Pirlo.

Argentina forward Dybala sustained a knee injury in Juve's 3-1 win over Sassuolo on January 10 and was only expected to miss around two to three weeks.

Having now missed a more substantial period of time, Dybala was reportedly in Barcelona this week to get a second opinion on the issue.

An injury-hit campaign has restricted Dybala to just 16 appearances in all competitions for Juve this term, but Pirlo – who also said striker Alvaro Morata, contending with a virus, needs to rest until Sunday – said surgery is not being considered at this time.

"Alvaro Morata needs to rest until Sunday. As for Paulo Dybala, we will look for the best solution to get him back as soon as possible," Pirlo told a news conference previewing Saturday's Serie A contest with Hellas Verona.

"[Dybala] is not at risk of surgery. We will evaluate the fastest treatment to get him back into the group as soon as possible.

"He had a consultation and now we see what the best treatment can be. Unfortunately, the times have lengthened, and we have not been able to have him available."

Juve's clash with Verona is the first of five in the space of 16 days, including the return leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Porto, in which they will attempt to overturn a 2-1 deficit.

It is a crucial period for Pirlo's men given they trail leaders Inter by eight points in Serie A, albeit the Nerazzurri have played a game more.

"The Scudetto is one of our objectives and we have a duty to continue trying to achieve it," Pirlo added.

"We know that we have strong teams ahead of us, but we are Juventus and we have to keep fighting.

"There's a lot of matches close together but we will make it a virtue of necessity. We knew from the start that it would be like this. Plus, [there is] the re-arranged game with Napoli. We are in the middle of this cycle of matches; we will have to do our best.

"Only yesterday have we had a full day of training; the other sessions were mostly recovery, which was needed. We worked well, we will apply the finishing touches and [on Saturday] we will try to be great."

Andrea Pirlo vowed Juventus will "fight until the end" to retain their Serie A title after Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice in a 3-0 victory over Crotone.

Ronaldo had gone three games without goal but headed home a first-half double as Juve claimed a first win in four matches.

Weston McKennie was also on target as the champions dominated sorry bottom side Crotone, registering 27 shots in a one-sided encounter at Allianz Stadium on Monday.

Victory for Juve moved them up to third place, eight points behind leaders Inter with a game in hand.

Head coach Pirlo was pleased with the way the Bianconeri got back on track and says they are ready to roll up their sleeves and battle in the title race.

He told Sky Sport Italia: "The last two games had left us with some nerves, then luckily we managed to straighten the situation and we managed the game well."

Pirlo added: "All the teams chasing [Inter] are genuine rivals, we will try to fight until the end."

Ronaldo was among the Juve players who were guilty of wasting glorious chances, the Portugal captain only hitting the target with four of his 11 shots, and Pirlo expects the Turin giants to be more clinical in their pursuit of more trophies.

The former Italy playmaker said: "We have created a lot, it's a pity we didn't take so many chances. The important thing is to create, the goals will come."

Pirlo picked out Rodrigo Bentancur for praise after he gifted Porto an early goal in a 2-1 Champions League defeat for Juve last week.

"The midfield did well. Bentancur played without training," the Juve boss said. "Those who played tonight did well with a positive and proactive attitude.

"Bentancur was good and deserves applause because it was not easy to return to the field after the mistake against Porto."

Andrea Pirlo is not overly concerned by Juventus' poor run of form, although he knows his team must return to winning ways when they face Crotone on Monday.

Juve have not won in three matches in all competitions, following up a 0-0 Coppa Italia draw with Inter – which nevertheless secured their place in the final – with defeats to Napoli in Serie A and Porto in the Champions League.

Their performance against Porto was particularly lacklustre, but Pirlo believes the fixture congestion since the turn of the year is a major factor.

The Bianconeri played nine times in January and have been in action on a further five occasions in February, with two games every week in 2021 until now.

"I speak with the president after every game. We spoke after the game at Porto and he didn't intervene this week," Pirlo told a news conference on Sunday.

"We knew we had played a bad game, there was no reason for him to reproach the team. I raised my voice during half-time in Porto, I didn't like how we played and I didn't like the reaction.

"We switched off at the beginning of the second half and we've been analysing the mistakes this week. There's no reason to raise your voice when you know you didn't do well.

"The players must transform their disappointment into energy for tomorrow's game.

"I am not worried, we had won 11 games out of 13. It was normal to have a drop; unfortunately, we had it in a decisive moment after many games.

"It's normal not to be always focused when you play 15 games in 40 days – it's like we played half of a season in one month and a half.

"We knew it would be an intense season, we are here and we must fight for our targets."

Next opponents Crotone sit rock bottom of Serie A, with just three wins from their 22 games so far, although they are unbeaten in their past two league matches against Juve.

While the strugglers have only once avoided defeat in three successive games against a single top-flight opponent, the Bianconeri have failed to win four of their past seven league meetings with promoted sides.

"It's an important game to continue our path in the title race. It's going to be a tough game because Crotone are not going through a good moment, but they play well," Pirlo added.

"They've kept their philosophy and they are trying to impose themselves in every game."

Cristiano Ronaldo has not scored since February 6 but will look to make Crotone the 78th different side he has netted against in Europe's 'top five' league; only Zlatan Ibrahimovic (79) has scored against more such individual opponents since 2000.

Ronaldo has netted against each of the 17 current Serie A teams he has faced in so far, yet Pirlo said the former Real Madrid superstar is still working hard to improve his free-kick taking.

Since his arrival at Juve in 2018, Ronaldo has attempted 44 shots directly from free-kicks in the league but scored only once.

"Free-kick goals are important, they can decide games, especially against teams that sit deep," Pirlo said.

"Ronaldo is training well and is improving. He is calm and he is convinced he is soon going to score from a free-kick."

Cristiano Ronaldo is "selfish" and is struggling to adjust to Andrea Pirlo's style of play at Juventus, according to former Italy international Antonio Cassano.

Juventus suffered a surprise 2-1 loss away at Porto in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday, with Federico Chiesa scoring in the 82nd minute after Mehdi Taremi and Moussa Marega put Sergio Conceicao's side in control.

Ronaldo supplied two key passes and only had one shot on target in the match, with the Bianconeri facing possible elimination in the first knockout round for the second straight season. It was the first time Ronaldo had registered one shot or fewer in a Champions League match since November 2019 against Atletico Madrid.

Juve spent €112million to bring five-time Champions League winner Ronaldo to Turin in 2018 with the aim of boosting their chances of lifting the trophy for the first time since 1996.

Cassano thinks Ronaldo has struggled to adapt to the philosophy of rookie head coach Pirlo and is too focused on himself to help the team.

"I have always said, even though he is a phenomenon and has scored a billion goals, that with Andrea Pirlo's idea of football he could run into difficulties," Cassano said on Christian Vieri's Twitch channel BoboTV.

"He scores a goal per game, it's true, but he struggles with Andrea's idea. He's always been a bit selfish, he doesn't give a damn about others scoring goals.

"He's the kind of player that lives to score, not for the game, for the great match. He lives to score and in this moment the situation is getting worse. The years pass for everyone and he is having difficulties.

"The paradox is that Juventus have bought a player who has won five Champions Leagues but has so many difficulties in the Champions League.

"This is because, since Sarri, Juventus are trying to show a style that is different to its history. It's clear that Pirlo must be judged in four or five years, but Juventus want everything immediately."

Ronaldo has scored 88 goals in 116 games in all competitions for Juve and has supplied 19 assists. Juan Cuadrado (21) is the only Juventus player to have laid on more goals since the Portugal captain's arrival ahead of the 2018-19 season.

Andrea Pirlo felt a nightmare start left Juventus "a little bit scared" but Federico Chiesa's away goal at Porto got them "back on track" in the Champions League last-16 tie. 

Porto will travel to Turin for the second leg with a 2-1 lead after catching the Serie A champions cold twice at Estadio do Dragao on Wednesday. 

Rodrigo Bentancur gifted Mehdi Taremi a Champions League goal with a terrible pass to goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny after just over a minute, while Moussa Marega doubled Porto's advantage just after the break. 

Juve rarely posed a threat in a flat display before Chiesa gave them hope when he struck eight minutes from time, with Cristiano Ronaldo denied a penalty right at the death in a miserable return to his homeland. 

Pirlo thought Juve, who lost captain Giorgio Chiellini to a calf injury in the first half, struggled to recover after such an early setback in proceedings. 

"The approach became wrong after the first minute. When you have conceded a goal like this it is normal to be a little scared, you lack the certainties that should never be lacking [at this stage of the competition]," the former Italy international told Sky Sport Italia. 

"The boys are a little down, we conceded a strange goal, then the match they wanted to play was set up and it became much more difficult." 

Pirlo added: "The tiredness after so many challenging matches is there, it is not easy to keep the same pace, but it shouldn't have happened. Fortunately, we got back on track, now we will focus on the return [leg]."

Alvaro Morata has been struggling with illness and although he came on midway through the second half, Pirlo revealed the striker still felt unwell after the game. 

He said: "Morata was not well, he has not been at his best for a few days. He came on when he needed to, but after the game he felt faint, he was a bit on the edge." 

Danilo will be suspended for the second leg next month after the full-back was shown a yellow card.

Five-time Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo will play in his native Portugal for Juventus for the first time on Wednesday and coach Andrea Pirlo is expecting something special from his talisman.

Juventus meet Porto in the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday, with the Old Lady determined to improve upon last year's continental exit at this stage to Lyon.

Madeira-born Ronaldo, 36, has not played club football in Portugal since November 2016 when Real Madrid defeated his former club Sporting CP 2-1 in the Champions League.

Pirlo said Ronaldo's return home had provided added motivation for Portugal's all-time top scorer and current international captain.

"[Cristiano Ronaldo] is back home in Portugal," Pirlo said on Tuesday. "He is keen to score even more.

"He proved in the Coppa Italia and with his history in the Champions League, that he lives on the adrenaline of the knockout stages. He is proud to be back home and wants to show them who Cristiano Ronaldo still is."

Ronaldo netted a double in Juve's Coppa Italia semi-final victory over Inter earlier this month, while he is a five-time Champions League winner (four times with Real Madrid and once with Manchester United).

However, continental success has eluded Ronaldo since his move to Juventus in 2018, having lost in the 2018-19 quarters to Ajax and the 2019-20 last 16 to Lyon.

Remarkably since his move from Madrid to Turin, Ronaldo has scored all seven of Juventus' goals in the Champions League knockout stages, which was not lost on skipper Giorgio Chiellini.

"Cristiano is special, but I am not the one who discovered that," Chiellini said.

"He has been added value for us. We have been lucky to train with him to see every day the little secrets helping him become the true champion he is.

"Tomorrow we will play in Portugal, his home, I hope he will have even more motivation to perform well and score."

Juventus will be without Leonardo Bonucci for Wednesday's Champions League last-16 match at Porto.

Centre-back Bonucci sustained a minor muscular problem during training and joins Juan Cuadrado (hamstring) and Paulo Dybala (knee) on the sidelines.

However, Juve head coach Andrea Pirlo is boosted by the return of Aaron Ramsey from a muscular complaint of his own - the Wales midfielder having been absent from the Serie A champions' four games so far across all competitions this month.

"Leo is not available, he had a little problem in training. We will evaluate but he is not available for tomorrow," Pirlo explained at his pre-match news conference.

"Ramsey can play while Dybala is not ready yet, but everyone wants to be with the team."

Porto followed their opening 3-1 defeat to Group C winners Manchester City with five consecutive clean sheets in this season's competition.

Pirlo knows Sergio Conceicao's men will prove a tough nut to crack and likened them to Diego Simeone's famously robust Atletico Madrid.

"I expect a very complicated match, they defend very well," he said.

"They are a team with a bit of the Atletico Madrid style: tight, compact lines.

"We must not force plays. The Champions League is a particular competition, different from the [Italian] championship.

"There are many teams fighting to win, everyone wants to do it and it depends a lot on [your form] when you face the teams. It is important to be mentally ready."

A 1-0 weekend defeat at Napoli due to Lorenzo Insigne's first-half penalty left Juve fourth in Serie A - eight points shy of leaders Inter, albeit with a game in hand.

It means the Bianconeri could relinquish possession of the Scudetto for the first time in a decade, but Pirlo insists his maiden season at the helm remains broadly on track.

"We won the Supercoppa Italiana, we are in the final of the Coppa Italia, we are in the running for the Champions League," he said.

"We are still well placed in the league. We are in the running on all goals and this is the most important thing."

Ending Juve's 25-year wait for a third success in Europe's premier competition would certainly represent a job well done. 

"The Champions League is a goal," Pirlo added. "The important thing is to believe in it, to know that we are a team that can reach the end. 

"This is the most important thing."

Juventus head coach Andrea Pirlo questioned the "dubious" penalty awarded to Napoli and claimed his side are treated differently to other Serie A clubs.

Lorenzo Insigne scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot after Giorgio Chiellini caught Amir Rrahmani in the face with a flailing arm.

That was one of only two shots on target Napoli managed in Saturday's 1-0 win at Estadio Diego Armando Maradona, compared to six for Juve - five of those in the second half.

And Pirlo, who saw Juve lose for the second time in five league matches to drop more points in the Scudetto race, felt his side were hard done by.

"They barely had a shot on goal and we lost through a dubious decision," he told Sky Sport Italia. "We played a good game but did not get the result we deserved.

"We played the ball around but not quickly enough, allowing Napoli to get back. We created more chances in the second half but did not find the goal."

Asked to elaborate on why he considered the 31st-minute penalty to be dubious, Pirlo said: "If you give a penalty for that then any contact in the box is punishable.

"If that had been given for us there would have been a lot of controversy and complaints, though I don't know if we would have been given a penalty in a situation like this."

Juventus have had five penalties in Serie A this season, putting them level with Roma and Sassuolo and behind only Milan, who have had an incredible 14.

Alex Meret, a late addition to Napoli's starting line-up after David Ospina sustained an injury in the warm-up, made six saves to frustrate Juve in front of goal.

Cristiano Ronaldo had four on-target shots kept out, while Alvaro Morata had a goal disallowed for an infringement by Chiellini - making his 400th Serie A outing - in the build-up.

But rather than blame his attackers for firing a blank, Pirlo instead credited Meret for standing firm between the sticks.

"My players played the game they had to," he said. "It is normal that playing so many games close together means a loss of sharpness.

"But both those who started and came on from the bench had an excellent game. The only thing lacking in the end was a goal.

"There's no guarantee the team that scores the most goals then wins the Scudetto. 

"We create plenty of chances and the Napoli goalkeeper was man of the match, so I can't complain about my strikers today."

Napoli's victory was their first in four matches and eases the pressure on boss Gennaro Gattuso, who was reportedly set to be sacked had his side lost again on Saturday.

However, Gattuso - a former team-mate of Pirlo's for club and country - insisted he never doubted the backing of his players and staff.

"We showed great heart and determination," he said. "Juve deserved something more, but my team was under pressure and fought hard to keep the clean sheet.

"I never had doubts on this squad, otherwise I would've packed up my things and gone home. 

"You can't get anywhere without the faith of the players. I always felt they were ready to do what I asked and that’s what matters."

Andrea Pirlo feels sorry for friend and former team-mate Gennaro Gattuso, whose job is hanging by a thread ahead of Napoli hosting Juventus.

Sixth-placed Napoli welcome the Serie A champions on Saturday with reports suggesting Gattuso's spell as head coach could be over if they suffer an eighth top-flight defeat.

Gattuso came out in bullish fashion when asked about his future after his team were defeated 3-1 by Atalanta in their Coppa Italia semi-final on Wednesday.

He insisted it was the club's hierarchy who must answer any questions over his future.

Juve, meanwhile, reached the final by beating Inter 2-1 on aggregate, with Pirlo joking he was now 'Allegriano' after deploying a defensive style in the 0-0 second-leg draw and their last league victory over Roma.

"It's part of our job, but we are always minded to do our best," Pirlo said about Gattuso.

"The games are important, then it can happen that there may be some difficult moments.

"I'm sorry for Rino's situation, but I have to think about my problems. We want to do well and are trying to win games."

Napoli will have their work cut out against Juve, who have not conceded a goal in three consecutive Serie A games, their longest streak since reaching six in a row under Massimiliano Allegri in December 2018.

Of returning to a style previously deployed by Allegri at Juve, Pirlo added: "We faced Roma and Inter in a different way by our choice, but it doesn't mean that we will always play like this.

"These are my choices based on the opponent, but the approach remains the same - to command the game and press high. 

"It's not always possible to press high up the pitch, sometimes it is better to sit deep and let the opponents keep possession."

Juve sit seven points behind leaders Milan with a game in hand and Pirlo acknowledged it may not take as many points as normal to claim the Scudetto.

He added: "More than 80 points will certainly be needed, but compared to other years, I think it has dropped a bit due to the many competitions and the general level of the league. 

"It is difficult for a team to stay at the top all year."

Having won 2-1 in January 2020, Napoli are looking to win two consecutive games against Juve in Serie A for the first time since 2011, when they were playing under Walter Mazzarri.

Napoli have been up and down under Gattuso, drawing only one of their last 25 Serie A matches, with 15 wins and nine defeats.

Page 5 of 8
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.