Andrea Pirlo was happy to go back to the future to seal a place in the Coppa Italia final for Juventus at Inter's expense.

Juventus played out a 0-0 draw in Tuesday's semi-final second leg, meaning Cristiano Ronaldo's double in the 2-1 win at San Siro last week proved decisive.

Pirlo has tried to bring in an expansive passing style at Juve this season with mixed results, but the sight of black and white shirts soaking up pressure with ease in front of Gianluigi Buffon evoked memories of the years under former bosses Massimiliano Allegri and Antonio Conte - the latter now cutting  a frustrated figure in the Inter dugout.

"It's very nice," Juve head coach Pirlo told Rai Sports of the comparison.
"If I have to win what he won, you can also call me 'Allegriano'.

"We were very good, they almost never shot on goal."

Pirlo hailed Samir Handanovic as the best player on the field and the Inter goalkeeper made a couple of stunning second-half saves to thwart Ronaldo.

A final awaits against Atalanta or Napoli, who Juve beat in the Supercoppa Italiana to claim the first piece of silverware of Pirlo's embryonic coaching career.

"It was in my plans to win the Supercoppa and get to the Coppa final, but there is work to be done," he added.

"As a coach it is completely different. We are satisfied so far but we have not done anything yet."

Juve have reached the Coppa Italia final in six of the last seven seasons, failing to do so only in 2018-19.

Pirlo's Juve are unbeaten in 11 of their 12 games since the start of 2021 in all competitions, having won 10 of those matches (D1). 

Meanwhile, Juventus are unbeaten in nine of their last 10 matches against Inter in all competitions, winning six games (D3). 

Andrea Pirlo will work to make sure Juventus do not think the job is already done ahead of their Coppa Italia semi-final second leg against Inter, a tie he says they must negotiate "at all costs".

The Bianconeri returned to Turin with a 2-1 lead after Cristiano Ronaldo's brace at San Siro last week turned the first leg on its head following Lautaro Martinez's opener.

Juve are going for a 10th successive Serie A title this season, but the Coppa has not treated Italy's dominant club quite so well of late.

They lost last season's final under Maurizio Sarri and have won the competition just four times in 26 years, those triumphs coming in four straight campaigns from 2014-15.

Pirlo is making no secret of his desire to deliver success and wants Juve to maintain their recent form, a run of six wins in which they have conceded only once and won the Supercoppa Italiana.

"The team will have to play for Juventus as we have been doing in the last few games," Pirlo told Juventus TV.

"It is the second leg of a great challenge that will give us the opportunity to go to the final, a goal that we must achieve at all costs.

"It will be a tough and difficult match, a battle; however, we are ready to face it in the best possible way.

"We have to start with the attitude of being equal, we start from 0-0. We cannot remain stuck on the result of the first leg, because everything has been reset.

"It is as if it were a final, so we must have the attitude of an aggressive team who know what they want. We have to be pretty focused because this is too important to let it get away."

Juve lost 2-0 at Inter in the league immediately before this winning run and have also suffered humbling defeats to Barcelona and Fiorentina this season.

But Pirlo feels those setbacks have only made his team stronger, explaining: "The mental aspect [is better].

"We are very positive and we believe in what we do, and this is a good starting point. We have very specific goals in mind that we want to achieve and we work on this.

"The defeats have convinced us that we can do many things. We have great quality within the whole group. We have 23 starters who can play any game and we are working on this."

Juventus head coach Andrea Pirlo lauded Cristiano Ronaldo's adaptability as the defending Serie A champions beat Roma 2-0 on Saturday.

Ronaldo and an Ibanez own goal saw Juve to victory at Allianz Stadium, where the Italian giants claimed their third successive league victory.

A day after his 36th birthday, Ronaldo opened the scoring when his deflected strike clattered down off the underside of the crossbar in the 22nd minute before Ibanez's 69th-minute own goal put the result beyond doubt.

Ronaldo has been directly involved in 84 goals since his Serie A debut in 2018, scoring 68 goals and providing 16 assists, more than any other player in the competition, while the five-time Ballon d'Or winner has now scored 16 times across 17 league appearances this season.

Pirlo praised Ronaldo's willingness to adapt after Juve beat Roma, telling reporters: "Since the beginning of the season, Cristiano's made himself adaptable to our needs on the pitch.

"In some games he's played more like a proper number nine when we asked our other striker to close down the opposition's playmaker.

"In these games, he can play closer to the penalty area and be more effective in terms of goal scoring.

"He's always adapted to what I've asked him to do this season and therefore I'm very calm about this part of how we play."

Juve are now third in the Serie A standings in pursuit of their 10th consecutive Scudetto.

Pirlo's men are four points behind second-placed Milan – who are due to face Crotone on Sunday – and five adrift of leaders Inter, though Juve have played a game less.

Juve have won six successive games across all competitions, and Pirlo added: "I don't know if it was our best performance this season. For sure we played a great match.

"Especially because after the match we played on Tuesday at San Siro [semi-final first leg against Inter in Coppa Italia]. We had to recover energy even if we rotated many players. The team had spent a lot of mental energy in that match.

"We faced a strong opponent [Roma] that force you to run a lot on the defensive side and I think that especially under this aspect we played a brilliant match tonight."

Andrea Pirlo explained Juventus' defensive approach against Roma was a tactical plan, after his side claimed a 2-0 win in Saturday's Serie A clash.

Cristiano Ronaldo – a day after his 36th birthday – opened the scoring 13 minutes in at Allianz Stadium, with Ibanez's own goal then securing the points for Juve, who moved above Roma into third place.

Ronaldo's goal was one of just three attempts Juve managed, with all of them coming from the Portugal star, as he hit the woodwork and saw a powerful effort saved by Pau Lopez.

Juve had just 43.3 per cent possession in total, with Roma having 14 efforts on goal – though they had to wait until the 61st minute to test Wojciech Szczesny, who made three comfortable saves against his former club.

"We had prepared this type of match. We knew Roma play very good football, so we were prepared to sit back, defend and then go on the counter," Pirlo explained to Sky Sport Italia.

"Our preventative marking was good, this was the approach we wanted, because it wasn't easy to go forward and be aggressive with Roma.

"Instead, we waited for them at times and attacked them at others. We basically did a reverse of the way Roma played against us earlier this season, because you need that in your locker and can't always be aggressive with a high press.

"We have found the enthusiasm, are more solid and our defensive approach is more determined now, because we learned from mistakes made in the past."

Juve have kept three successive clean sheets in Serie A, the first time they have managed that under Pirlo, while their tally of attempts was the lowest they have managed in a game since the rookie coach took charge.

Of the six clean sheets Juve have kept in the league this term, Giorgio Chiellini has featured in four of them, and Pirlo emphasised the importance of his former team-mate.

"Giorgio Chiellini is in good shape and we hope he can continue like this," he added. 

"The group has always been humble, known when it’s the time to run without the ball and when everyone needs to help out. Even the biggest champions do that and it’s a crucial element.

"I've learned that not every game is the same, especially in a very tactical league like in Italy, so you need to have different variations and alternatives, because otherwise the opponents can read you too easily."

Cristiano Ronaldo "proved his worth" in Juventus' 2-1 win over Inter on Tuesday, according to head coach Andrea Pirlo.

Ronaldo was rested for Juve's previous Coppa Italia win – against SPAL last month – but netted a brace in the first leg of the semi-final victory over Inter at San Siro.

The Portuguese star has scored the most braces of players in Europe's top five leagues with eight in all competitions this season.

Pirlo praised Ronaldo, who was replaced by Alvaro Morata with 13 minutes remaining.

"He played an excellent match and proved his worth," Pirlo said.

On substituting Ronaldo, Pirlo added: "He is playing a lot and we have many matches very close to each other.

"Saturday we will have a very important one against Roma, so I thought it would be good for him to rest and recover some energies."

Ronaldo's double came after Lautaro Martinez had opened the scoring for Inter, who beat Juve in Serie A action last month.

Pirlo, whose team won the Supercoppa Italiana against Napoli in January, said his side learned from the league outing against Inter.

"We weren't in the championship match, but it served us as a lesson, because we gathered together and the victory in the Supercoppa made us realise we can compete for every objective. We haven't done anything yet, we just won the first leg," he said.

"We have prepared the game well and if we are focused and have the right attitude it becomes hard for everyone, even though we know that it is not easy to maintain this pace by playing every three days.

"However, the squad is large and there is no problem in alternating players. In the second half we lowered ourselves a bit, also thanks to Inter, but it's normal in the 90 minutes."

Before next week's semi-final second leg, Juve host Roma in Serie A on Saturday.

Andrea Pirlo exudes composure and shows little emotion on the sidelines but that is only half the story according to Christian Vieri, who believes the "fun" first-year head coach can lead Juventus to a clean sweep of silverware in Turin.

Eyebrows were raised when nine-time reigning Serie A champions Juve turned to club great but unproven coach Pirlo following the dismissal of Maurizio Sarri at the end of the 2019-20 season.

Pirlo had only re-joined Juve as Under-23s head coach a week earlier before the Bianconeri gave the 41-year-old his first senior coaching role at the Italian powerhouse, where he won four Scudetto titles among other honours during an illustrious playing career.

While there have been teething issues and a stuttering start, World Cup winner Pirlo has already tasted success for the first time as a coach in the Supercoppa Italiana, while Juve are seven points off the pace in Serie A, through to the Champions League last 16 and preparing for Tuesday's mouth-watering Coppa Italia semi-final against Inter.

Vieri spent time with Pirlo at Inter and within the Italy national team and he talked up the playful side of his former team-mate – who remains in the hunt for a Serie A, Champions League and Coppa Italia treble in his maiden season at the helm.

"Listen, Juventus can win anything every year. They have a fantastic side," Vieri, who won the 1997 Scudetto with Juve before later joining Inter for a then-world record fee in 1999, told Stats Perform News. "When you have Cristiano Ronaldo with you, you always start 1-0.

"Pirlo is a fun guy. He is the opposite of what everyone sees. He is a fun dude, he takes the p*** out of you the whole day.

"Of course, everyone is different on TV, right? He is calmer. You never see him go crazy. He is the opposite of [Antonio] Conte. You see Conte, it's like he is playing.

"It's his first experience. He is having a good time. He won a trophy already. You win games and lose games, it's part of coaching. Maybe lose more games than win, some coaches do that. But he is happy coaching, that's what he wanted to do.

"He has an amazing team. He can everything this season. Let's see what happens. Nine years in a row winning the Scudetto, of course, sooner or later you will lose it because motivation-wise, you can't have that motivation every year."

Inter will host Juventus in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final at San Siro on Tuesday.

It will be a chance for Juve to avenge their previous Derby d'Italia loss to Inter, who outclassed Pirlo's men 2-0 in Serie A action on January 17.

Inter – boasting the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez, Achraf Hakimi and Nicolo Barella – are widely viewed as the favourites to put an end to Juve's domestic dominance, which dates back to 2011.

The Nerazzurri, where Vieri spent six successful years, are second and only two points behind leaders Milan through 20 Serie A matchdays.

But Italian great Vieri believes Juve remain the "strongest team in Italy" due to their depth.

"They have 23 fantastic players," the 47-year-old added. "They have a big, long bench. [Paulo] Dybala stays on the bench, [Juan] Cuadrado stays on the bench, Arthur stays on the bench… they're fantastic players.

"I don't think the other benches are as strong as Juve's. I think Juve are still the strongest. But motivation wise, you can't win forever.

"Inter have a fantastic team this season. Hakimi, [Arturo] Vidal, [Ashley] Young, [Alessandro] Bastoni, they're all good players. They're solid, more solid defensively than three-four months ago. Up front they're fantastic. Anyone can win.

"Against Juve, Inter played fantastically [in Serie A]. Technical wise, physically. Let's see what happens in the semi-final."

Andrea Pirlo cited the 2-0 loss to Inter in January as a turning point for in-form Juventus as they prepare to face Antonio Conte's side once again, this time in the Coppa Italia. 

Arturo Vidal and Nicolo Barella scored the goals as Inter deservedly triumphed at San Siro last month, the defeat inflicting further damage on the reigning champions in their bid for a 10th straight Serie A title. 

However, since that setback in Milan, Juve have won four games in a row without conceding. That run includes lifting the Supercoppa Italiana at the expense of Napoli, as well as a Coppa Italia quarter-final success over second-tier SPAL. 

Next up in the competition is a two-legged tie with Inter and, having been second best in the previous meeting, Pirlo is confident his side learned a valuable lesson from that game.

"I want to see a team aware of their strength," Pirlo - who confirmed Gianluigi Buffon will start in goal - told the club's television channel.

"It will be the first round, because it's a 180-minute game, so tomorrow it will be important to manage it well, because it won't be decisive.  

"The match against Inter in the league taught a lot, first of all, when we are not on the right track, we are not ourselves, but from there we started with great performances.” 

As for Conte, he is wary of a repeat of what happened to Inter in the competition in the 2019-20 season, when they lost 1-0 at home to Napoli in the first leg of the semi-final. A 1-1 draw was not enough in the return fixture, meaning they were knocked out by the eventual winners. 

"You always need to be very respectful of very strong teams, and we'll certainly need to put in an excellent performance,” the former Chelsea boss told the media.

"The upcoming 180 minutes will determine who progresses, and the first match will be important. Last year, we lost 1-0 to Napoli at home and didn't manage to turn things around at the San Paolo despite playing very well. We will need to perform and try to do our best."

The Nerazzurri will be without Romelu Lukaku on Tuesday due to suspension after he received a yellow card for his part in a confrontation with Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the previous round. 

Conte, though, is confident he has enough strength in depth at the position to cover for the absence of the influential Belgian. Lukaku scored twice at the weekend against Benevento in Serie A action, taking his tally for the campaign in the league to 14 goals in 16 appearances. 

"It's not the first time that Romelu has been missing," Conte said. "We will have Alexis and Lautaro, who I'm sure will do well.  

"Romelu is feeling good, he responded on the pitch and scored two goals against Benevento. Now, he's being forced to rest due to his suspension and will work hard to be in good shape when he returns in the league."

Andrea Pirlo believes Juventus are starting to see the best of Federico Chiesa after he overcame his initial shyness following a loan move from Fiorentina. 

Italy international Chiesa scored his sixth Serie A goal of the season (one coming for Fiorentina) on Saturday as Juve defeated Sampdoria 2-0 at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris. 

Aaron Ramsey added the second in stoppage time as Juve made it three consecutive wins against Claudio Ranieri's side without conceding a goal. 

Pirlo is impressed with the impact Chiesa is starting to have on the defending champions but has urged the 23-year-old to add to his goal tally.

"Chiesa is a young player who joined a big club, facing international matches for the first time, and it was a big step up for him, so he was a little shy at first," Pirlo told Sky Sport Italia. 

"He's settled now, gained in confidence and has improved a great deal.

"It's good that he is finishing off the moves that we attack, and he ought to do it more often, making the most of his runs from deep."

Cristiano Ronaldo did not enjoy similar success in front of goal, the game marking the first time he has gone three Serie A matches without finding the back of the net since April 2019.

Pirlo, though, was not too critical of his star man and praised him for his contribution to both goals, the Portuguese star teeing up Alvaro Morata and Juan Cuadrado's assists. 

"Ronaldo gave his contribution again today with his passes for both goals, so the important thing is that the team wins," he added.

Juve have won six of their seven matches across all competitions in 2021 and Pirlo believes his players are starting to hit their stride as they bid to eat into Milan's seven-point lead over them at the Serie A summit.

"When the defence keeps a clean sheet, it also means the midfield and attack have started the press," he said. "We're improving, but can do even better.

"We are starting to find our form and making the movements more automatic, because in the first few games they were practically test runs, as we didn't really have a pre-season training camp.

"It took a little longer than usual, but we're finding our feet now and will keep improving."

Juve face Inter in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final on Tuesday before hosting Roma in Serie A on Saturday. 

Cristiano Ronaldo's behaviour on his days off is not Juventus's responsibility, according to Andrea Pirlo, after the five-time Ballon d'Or winner allegedly broke coronavirus travel restrictions.

Valle d'Aosta police are investigating whether Ronaldo failed to adhere to Italy's strict COVID-19 protocols by travelling to the area from Piedmont to go skiing with his girlfriend Georgina Rodriguez, as part of her birthday celebrations this week.

Both Valle d'Aosta and Piedmont are listed as "orange zone" regions, with travel between such locations prohibited.

Ronaldo, who tested positive for coronavirus last October, may face a fine if found guilty.

"Cristiano Ronaldo had a day off and on your days off you are free to do what you want," head coach Pirlo told a news conference ahead of Saturday's trip to Sampdoria.

"When they are here they are under my control, but outside of here they are free citizens and can take their own actions."

Weston McKennie has become one of Juve's key performers this season since joining from Schalke, scoring four times across all competitions from midfield since the start of December.

Pirlo believes the 22-year-old United States international has plenty of room for further improvement.

"He is so young he can improve everywhere," he said.

"We were the fastest to sign him in Germany and we are so happy to have him with us.

"He is humble and very keen to improve, especially from a technical point of view. I mean, he is a bit rough in ball control, in his body movements, but he can improve quickly.

"He is a healthy kid, he knows he is not done, he is just at the beginning and being aware of this is already a good starting point."

Pirlo has a clean bill of health, with the exception of forward Paulo Dybala, who is still nursing a knee injury.

Federico Chiesa completed the scoring in the 4-0 Coppa Italia win over SPAL and will start after shaking off an ankle problem.

Alvaro Morata put Juve in front from the penalty spot in midweek - his 13th goal of the campaign - and is ready to go again having been compromised by groin pain of late.

"He played last time and we managed to save him some minutes, so tomorrow he will be at the top of his game," Pirlo added.

"We know him well, he dwells so much on enthusiasm and that is what we need to give him back.

"But he has done well, he knows he is very important for Juventus, so I am more than convinced he will go on at his best."

Andrea Pirlo insisted Juventus had forgotten about their recent loss to Inter ahead of the Coppa Italia semi-final between the Serie A giants.

Juve booked their spot in the last four with a 4-0 thrashing of SPAL in the quarter-finals on Wednesday.

They will face Inter in a two-legged semi-final, having fallen to the Nerazzurri less than a fortnight ago in Serie A.

But Pirlo said Juve – who reached the Coppa semi-finals for the eighth time in 10 seasons – had moved on from that encounter.

"We forgot the game in Milan [against Inter] because it was in the league," the Juve head coach told a news conference.

"Next week we are going to play Coppa Italia semi-final so we will face them keen to qualify to the final. These two games are completely different.

"We have to cancel the game played last Sunday, but we have to prepare well for the semi-final."

Alvaro Morata, Gianluca Frabotta, Dejan Kulusevski and Federico Chiesa scored in Juve's resounding win over SPAL.

Morata joined Cristiano Ronaldo, Romelu Lukaku and Ciro Immobile as one of four Serie A players to have been involved in 20-plus goals in all competitions this season (13 goals and seven assists).

Meanwhile, Gianluigi Buffon started and kept a clean sheet, making one save, and Pirlo said he hoped there was more to come from the 43-year-old.

"It's a pleasure having Gigi in the team. It's a pleasure to see him training every day like a young player. This is the most important thing," he said.

"When you have that energy you can keep on [playing], otherwise you need to find something else to do. When we were playing together, I didn't expect he could have so long a career. He had serious injuries to his back and shoulder but he's been really focused to his body and he worked more than when he was young. That's why he has had this long career.

"He will play again this season because he showed he is still one of the best goalkeepers in the world. I hope we can enjoy him for more time."

Before the first leg of their semi-final against Inter on February 3, Inter will visit Sampdoria on Saturday.

Gianluca Frabotta scored his first senior goal as Juventus eased into a Coppa Italia semi-final tie against Inter with a comfortable 4-0 win over second-tier SPAL at Allianz Stadium.

Alvaro Morata scored his first penalty for Juve since February 2016 to put last season's runners up, without the rested Cristiano Ronaldo, ahead in the opening stages.

Frabotta's strike was the highlight, however – his wonderful finish handing Andrea Pirlo's team complete control.

Aaron Ramsey squandered two good chances to add to Juve's lead, though it was an error in the SPAL defence which enabled Dejan Kulusevski and Federico Chiesa to wrap things up.

Frabotta lashed a low effort across the face of goal as Juve hunted an early opener, and it duly came in the 16th minute.

Adrien Rabiot was booked for simulation after he went down under Francesco Vicari's challenge, yet the referee changed his decision after consulting VAR, and Morata sent Etrit Berisha the wrong way from 12 yards.

Morata turned provider eight minutes later, with Kulusevski stinging Berisha's palms, before Ramsey hit the side netting.

Berisha was picking the ball out of his net again a minute later, though – Frabotta thumping in a brilliant first-time strike from the edge of the area.

SPAL veteran Sergio Floccari had an immediate chance to haul one back, but sliced wide of the left-hand upright.

Frabotta almost turned provider with a wicked cross early in the second half, though Ramsey failed to turn it home.

Ramsey found his route to goal blocked by Berisha prior to the hour, while Kulusevski – who had teed up Frabotta's goal at the end of an impressive run – continued to run SPAL ragged.

Kulusevski had the goal his performance deserved with 12 minutes remaining, the forward coolly slotting home after Morata had pounced on Nenad Tomovic's mistake.

And substitute Chiesa added further gloss in the final minute of stoppage time when he rounded Berisha to tuck in.

What does it mean? Derby d'Italia coming up

Juve failed to perform when Inter came to town on January 17, but now have a chance to bite back over two legs, which will take place next month.

Between them, Juve and Inter have won the Coppa Italia 20 times, albeit the Bianconeri have the majority share in that particular aspect, having triumphed on 13 occasions.

Frabotta fires one in

Left-back Frabotta has been a regular under Pirlo this term, with Wednesday's game his 14th appearance of the season in all competitions, and the 21-year-old took his first senior goal in supremely confident fashion.

It capped a fine individual display as he became the youngest Italian player to score for Juve since Moise Kean in April 2016.

Bernardeschi injury blow

Federico Bernardeschi is still awaiting his first goal of the campaign, with the Italy international having made just six starts in total.

However, his wait might be set to go on, with the former Fiorentina attacker succumbing to a knock and going off at half-time, having failed to register a single attempt or create a chance.

What's next?

An away trip to Sampdoria is Juve's next Serie A fixture, on Saturday, while SPAL host Monza in Serie B.

Andrea Pirlo warned his Juventus side they risk going the way of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich if they take SPAL lightly in Wednesday's Coppa Italia quarter-final tie.

SPAL knocked out Sassuolo in the last round and make the trip to the Allianz Stadium sitting fifth in Serie B as they seek a swift return to the top tier of Italian football.

Record 13-time Coppa winners Juve enter the game as strong favourites to progress to the semi-finals, where the winner of Tuesday's game between Inter and Milan would await.

However, in a month that has seen Madrid exit the Copa del Rey with defeat to third-tier Alcoyano and Bayern lose to second-tier Holstein Kiel in the DFB-Pokal, Pirlo is taking nothing for granted.

"There are a lot of possible risks because we are facing a Serie B team on paper. But if you look at the foreign cups, Bayern lost to a team from a lower division, as did Madrid," Pirlo told Juventus TV.

"We have to assume that it will be a difficult game. We need maximum concentration because we want to go through. They are a good team that are doing well in the league and cup.

"We of course have to be careful because the main objective is to pass through to the next round.

"They are a very good team that like to play football, play with three defenders and sometimes three forwards or half-strikers. It is a difficult team to face so we will have to be at our best to avoid losing."

Juve's Scudetto hopes took a major dent with defeat to Inter on January 17, but they have since responded with 2-0 wins over Napoli in the Supercoppa Italiana and Bologna in the league.

Pirlo now has near enough a fully-fit squad to choose from and believes that will be reflected on the results front.

"It means we can improve because we have great players back," he said. "I hope to finally have the whole squad available and we can then work on all the concepts, which we have not been able to do this season."

Rodrigo Bentancur will miss the cup tie but Matthijs de Ligt and Merih Demiral will return to the starting line-up after recovering from coronavirus and injury respectively.

"Bentancur will rest for sure because on Sunday he played the whole game with a hole in his foot," Pirlo said. "We had to put three stitches in - he made a big sacrifice and now he will need a few days of rest to absorb the bruise.

"Some players who played on Sunday will rest. De Ligt and Demiral will return and start from the beginning. Then for the rest we will have a competitive team.

Pirlo also confirmed Gianluigi Buffon will start against SPAL, with regular goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny being given a breather.

Szczesny has conceded 16 goals in 14 league matches this term for a save percentage of 68.63, which is below the 74.42 he managed last season and 75.61 in 2018-19.

He made three saves against both Napoli and Bologna to keep successive clean sheets, but Pirlo is after even more from the Poland international.

"He is giving us great confidence with his performances," the rookie head coach said. "We are more than satisfied with the displays he is putting in on the pitch.

"We know he can still improve because he's a world-class goalkeeper who plays for a great team. We are hoping that he can still do better."

Inter beat Juventus. Juventus beat Milan. Milan beat Inter. For once it has been tough to predict the title race in Serie A.

Winning the Scudetto was not enough for Maurizio Sarri to keep his job at Juve last season, meaning Andrea Pirlo is under significant pressure as the Bianconeri chase a 10th straight league crown.

However, they have struggled to convince under the former midfield metronome and sit seven points adrift of leaders Milan in fourth, although they hold a game in hand.

There has seemingly never been a better chance for Inter, who are two points off top in second, and Milan to end Scudetto droughts that date back to 2009-10 and 2010-11 respectively.

Fans and pundits will continue to have their say on who will sit top come the end of the season, and the Stats Perform AI team have also crunched the numbers to predict the champions for the 2020-21 campaign.

With the majority of the 20 teams having reached the halfway stage of the league campaign, they have simulated how the rest of the season may play out.

 

The data model estimates the probability of each match outcome – either a win, draw or loss – based on each team's attacking and defensive quality.

Those ratings are allocated based on four years' worth of comprehensive historic data points and results, with more weighting given to recent matches to account for improvements or declines in form and performance trends.

The AI simulation takes into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes goals against and rewards them accordingly.

All that data is used to simulate upcoming matches using goal predictions from the Poisson distribution – a detailed mathematical model – with the two teams' attacking and defending ratings used as inputs.

The outcome of the season is then simulated on 10,000 different occasions in order to generate the most accurate possible percentage chance of each team finishing in their ultimate league position.

Without further ado, let's have a good look at the results of the simulation with the predicted final league table.

 

INTER END JUVE'S REIGN

Although they sit second at the halfway stage, our model predicts Inter will end Juve's dominance of Serie A.

Inter have a 35.7 per cent chance of topping the table for the first time since their treble-winning campaign of 2009-10 and it is projected they will do so by a two-point advantage.

Not only do Milan surrender top spot to the Nerazzurri, they slip behind Juve into third with the top three separated by just three points. It would still represent their best finish since 2012-13.

Juve's chance of retaining the title is deemed to be 23.1 per cent, marginally better than Milan's 21.6 per cent.

ATALANTA RETURN TO CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Gian Piero Gasperini steered Atalanta to Champions League qualification for the first time in their history in 2018-19 and made it back-to-back top-three finishes last season.

They are predicted to return to Europe's premier club competition by finishing fourth, edging out Napoli – they even have a 6.8 per cent chance of pulling off an unlikely title win.

Gennaro Gattuso's side have a 17 per cent probability of snatching the final Champions League qualification berth, with Atalanta's prospects narrowly superior at 17.4 per cent.

Roma are predicted to fall from their current position of third down to sixth but that is still good enough for them to deny arch-rivals Lazio qualification to the inaugural Europa Conference League.

The top six may need to beware of Sassuolo, Hellas Verona and Sampdoria, however. Sassuolo have a 0.3 per cent likelihood of finishing inside the top four, while Verona (0.6 per cent) and Sampdoria (0.3 per cent) also have an outside chance of stealing European qualification, though our predictor suggests Lazio will finish 12 points clear of Sassuolo in seventh.

 

GENOA AND TORINO ESCAPE DROP

At the turn of the year Torino were rock bottom with one win from their opening 14 games and Genoa were in the relegation zone with them.

However, Torino and Genoa have both moved out of the bottom three by claiming six points and eight points respectively over their past five games.

The two sides are predicted to maintain strong enough form to stay out of the drop zone, with Crotone (20th), Parma (19th) and Cagliari (18th) projected to suffer relegation to Serie B.

It is by no means a guarantee, though. Genoa are only 0.2 per cent more likely to come 17th than they are to suffer relegation by finishing 18th, while Torino's differential between 15th – where they are predicted to place – and third-bottom is 2.7 per cent.

Frank Lampard's appointment as Chelsea head coach was widely heralded by the club's fanbase, who were desperate for a returning hero to succeed in the dugout.

Just 18 months later and Lampard – the club's record all-time leading goalscorer who won 11 major honours at Stamford Bridge – has been sacked.

The Blues have proven in the past there is little time for sentimentality or to dwell on past successes and not even a player with the stature Lampard holds at the club has been granted extra time.

Lampard's first season in charge brought a top-four finish and an FA Cup final but a run of just two wins in eight league matches saw Chelsea wield the axe with the team ninth and 11 points off top.

A huge close-season recruitment drive that saw the likes of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech and Ben Chilwell arrive perhaps gave the Blues hierarchy itchy feet and brought about the end for Lampard.

With that in mind, we have looked at some hits and misses when players have returned to a club as boss.

HITS

Pep Guardiola

After leaving Barcelona as a player in 2001, Guardiola returned as the Barca B boss in 2007 before being promoted to head coach of the first team a year later. Over four years in charge at Camp Nou he led the Blaugrana to 14 trophies, including three LaLiga titles and two Champions League crowns. Success has continued to come Guardiola's way with Bayern Munich and Manchester City.

Zinedine Zidane

World Cup winner Zidane was part of Real Madrid's 'Galacticos' in the early 2000s and he finished his playing career at the Santiago Bernabeu. Like Guardiola, he returned to oversee the second team before stepping up to the top job after the departure of Rafael Benitez in January 2016. Zidane went on to win an unprecedented three successive Champions League titles with Madrid before stepping down in May 2018, only to return 10 months later. He has already won LaLiga and the Supercopa de Espana in his second stint, though a slump this term has left his long-term future shrouded in doubt.

Antonio Conte

In 13 seasons as a player for Juventus, Conte won almost everything there is to win – five league titles, the Coppa Italia, the Champions League and the UEFA Cup. He moved into management two years after retiring and worked his way back to Juve after spells with Arezzo, Bari, Atalanta and Siena. Juve won three straight Scudetti under Conte – the start of their ongoing dominance – before he accepted the Italy job in 2014. Conte is now battling to end the Bianconeri's domestic dominance as head coach of Inter.

Roberto Di Matteo

Di Matteo accepted the top job at Chelsea in 2012, having previously been assistant to Andre Villas-Boas. Di Matteo – who won the FA Cup twice with the Blues as a player – went on to lift two trophies as Chelsea boss, including their first Champions League title with a penalty shoot-out win over Bayern, but he was discarded early in the following season.

MISSES

Alan Shearer

Record Premier League goalscorer, Newcastle United legend and lethal England striker – Shearer's playing career was full of success. When he retired in 2006, Shearer moved into television as a pundit, but when the Magpies came calling in 2009 he stepped in to try to save them from relegation. Sadly for Shearer he was unsuccessful, his eight-game reign ending in Newcastle slipping out of the top flight after a 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on the final day.

Filippo Inzaghi

Employing former players as head coaches had previously worked well for Milan – Fabio Capello and Carlo Ancelotti proving particularly successful. When the Rossoneri turned to Inzaghi in 2014 after Clarence Seedorf's brief tenure, the move was therefore no surprise. However, the former striker – who won eight major trophies at the club in his playing days – flopped, winning just 14 of his 40 matches in charge as Milan finished 10th, their worst league position in 17 years.

Thierry Henry

Henry made his name at Monaco after breaking into the first team in 1994, the forward going on to become a world champion and a Premier League icon with Arsenal. After a period as youth coach with the Gunners, Henry was named as Belgium boss Roberto Martinez's assistant. Permanent roles with Bordeaux and Aston Villa were mooted, but in October 2018 Henry chose Monaco. He lasted just three months, losing 11 of his 20 matches in charge across all competitions before being replaced by Leonardo Jardim, the man he had succeeded.

Juan Jose Lopez

One of the most decorated players in River Plate history, having won seven league titles in an 11-year spell, Lopez was a popular appointment after making a strong impact in his second period as caretaker manager in 2010. However, he subsequently presided over a poor 2011 Clausura campaign, forcing River into a relegation play-off against Belgrano, who won 3-1 on aggregate. It was the first time River dropped out of the top tier, sparking riots which left many people injured.

JURY'S OUT

Mikel Arteta

Arteta served Arsenal with distinction as a player between 2011 and 2016, captaining the club and winning the FA Cup twice. Success in football's oldest cup competition followed last term, with Arteta having replaced Unai Emery in December 2019. After finishing eighth, Arsenal defeated Liverpool on penalties to win the Community Shield but eight defeats from 19 league games in this campaign have left Arsenal 11th and 13 points off top spot.

Andrea Pirlo

Lampard's opportunity at Chelsea arrived when Maurizio Sarri departed for Juventus, but his stint in charge at the Bianconeri lasted just one season despite winning the Serie A title. Pirlo won four Scudetti, the Supercoppa Italiana twice and the Coppa Italia during a four-year stint as a player in Turin and was appointed head coach just a week after being installed as Under-23 boss. So far it has been a mixed bag in Juve's hunt for a 10th straight title, with six draws and two defeats in 18 matches leaving them seven points back of league leaders Milan – albeit they do have a game in hand. Pirlo also collected a first trophy courtesy of victory over Napoli in the Supercoppa Italiana last week.

Matthijs de Ligt has been cleared to join up with his Juventus team-mates after recovering from COVID-19.

The centre-back tested positive on January 8 and went into isolation, meaning he missed the Serie A games against Sassuolo and Inter, as well as the Supercoppa Italiana clash with Napoli.

However, having returned two clear swab tests, De Ligt will be included in Andrea Pirlo's squad for Sunday's home fixture with Bologna.

"Matthijs de Ligt carried out, as per protocol, two controls of molecular test (swab) for Covid-19 with negative results," a statement from the club read. 

"Therefore, the player has recovered and is no longer subjected to the isolation regime.

"He will join the team at the J Hotel for the retreat this evening and will be included in the squad list for tomorrow's match."

De Ligt has started 12 games in all competitions so far in the 2020-21 season; Juve have only lost once when the defender has played in Serie A, a 3-0 home reverse to Fiorentina.

The Netherlands international missed the start of the campaign after undergoing shoulder surgery in August, returning to action in late November.

Juventus are chasing a 10th straight league title in Italy, though have found the going tough in Pirlo's first season in charge and go into the game with Bologna outside the top four in the table.

Page 6 of 8
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.