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."

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a first-half double as Juventus ended a run of three games without a win by beating bottom side Crotone 3-0 to go third in Serie A.

Ronaldo had failed to find the back of the net in those three winless matches, but normal service was resumed as the prolific forward took his tally for the season to 25 goals at Allianz Stadium on Monday.

The Portugal captain headed home twice in the first half and should have had a hat-trick prior to the interval as Crotone were outclassed by the champions.

Weston McKennie added a third in the second half as Juve moved eight points behind leaders Inter with a game in hand, while Crotone look destined for relegation following a fifth consecutive defeat.

Crotone almost took a stunning early lead when Arkadiusz Reca volleyed wide at the far post after Danilo slipped while attempting to deal with Junior Messias' cross.

Ronaldo drilled a free-kick from just outside the penalty area into the wall and cut a frustrated figure once again when he failed hit the target from point-blank range after Alex Cordaz got a fingertip on Federico Chiesa's dangerous cross.

Matthijs de Ligt volleyed narrowly wide and Aaron Ramsey headed an inviting centre from the lively Chiesa against the crossbar before Ronaldo finally opened the scoring.

The former Real Madrid man headed home Alex Sandro's pinpoint cross 38 minutes in, then rose to powerfully nod in Ramsey's delivery in first-half stoppage time before somehow firing wide of an open goal moments later with Crotone all at sea defensively.

Ronaldo wanted a penalty when he felt Lisandro Magallan had upended him as he shot tamely wide of the near post before Gianluigi Buffon prevented Junior Messias from pulling a goal back.

Cordaz kept out Ronaldo’s drive with his feet, but he had no chance when McKennie rifled home a loose ball as Crotone failed to deal with a 66th-minute corner.

Ramsey should have added a fourth but the busy Cordaz saved with his feet again and Federico Bernardeschi fired just over the bar against his former club as Juve put sorry Crotone to the sword.

Juventus, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and now Manchester United are all reportedly chasing Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Days out from his 22nd birthday, Donnarumma has reportedly closed a deal with the Red Devils.

Is David de Gea's future in doubt?

 

TOP STORY – RED DEVILS SWOOP FOR RECORD-BREAKER

Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma has agreed to a provisional deal with Manchester United, according to Todo Fichajes.

The report claims the deal would make the Italy star the best paid goalkeeper ever in world football.

United have had goalkeeping issues this season, with number one keeper David de Gea making a number of errors, while understudy Dean Henderson has made a handful of appearances.

Donnarumma, who celebrates his 22nd birthday on Thursday, became the youngest player in Serie A history to reach 200 appearances in Sunday's 3-0 derby defeat to leaders Inter.

The 21-year-old's current deal with the Rossoneri expires at the end of this season and he has been linked with a host of clubs including Serie A champions Juventus, Champions League holders Bayern Munich and Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain.

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."

Real Madrid, Manchester United, Barcelona, Manchester City, Chelsea and Juventus.

Europe's elite are lining up to sign Erling Haaland, but who will he join?

Whoever it is, Haaland is set to command a mammoth contract.

 

TOP STORY – HAALAND ASKING FOR LUCRATIVE DEAL

Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland wants a contract in the region of £78million (€90m) as speculation intensifies over his future, according to the Daily Star.

Haaland is a player in demand following his exploits for Bundesliga side Dortmund, linked with the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester United, Barcelona, Manchester City, Chelsea and Juventus.

The report claims Haaland wants a five-year deal worth around £300,000 (€346,000) per week.

 

ROUND-UP

- Should Kylian Mbappe leave for Madrid, Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain want to replace him with Tottenham star Harry Kane, claims the Mirror.

- Bild says Chelsea, Liverpool and United are interested in signing RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate. His centre-back partner Dayot Upamecano is set to join Bayern Munich at the end of the season, having been linked with the Premier League's elite.

Liverpool are preparing a £40m bid for Brighton and Hove Albion defender Ben White, reports Football Insider. Jurgen Klopp is desperate to bolster his injury-hit defence amid a difficult 2020-21 campaign.

- The Daily Mail says United are considering a move for Everton youngster Jarrad Branthwaite. The 18-year-old defender has impressed since joining the Toffees.

Leipzig lead the race to sign Ajax sensation Brian Brobbey, according to Diario AS. United, Milan and Bayern have also been linked.

Milan and Inter target Odilon Kossounou – who plays for Club Brugge - is also wanted by Premier League duo Arsenal and Wolves, claims The Sun.

- Calciomercato reports Juventus are eyeing Leicester City winger Timothy Castagne, who arrived from Atalanta at the start of the season.

Manchester City are counting the cost of the current financial climate and have slashed the budget assigned to lure Lionel Messi away from Barcelona.

The 33-year-old Barca captain could depart his boyhood team in the 2021 off-season after publicly trying, and failing, to force an exit from the Catalan club last August.

A reunion with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City has been the subject of much speculation, but Messi may have to compromise to make the move happen as the Premier League leaders' bargaining power has taken a hit.

 

TOP STORY – CITY FORCED TO LOWER MESSI CONTRACT OFFER

City had already tabled a five-year contract designed to tempt Messi to switch LaLiga for the Premier League – but the numbers have now changed, reports The Sun.

A package worth £600million (€693m) had reportedly been prepared in order to tie the six-time Ballon d'Or winner down for the rest of his career, should he opt to leave Barca at the end of the season.

But The Sun says City will now not match the terms set in August, and the offer has dropped to £430million (€496m), potentially opening the door for Paris Saint-Germain to swoop.

ROUND-UP

Chelsea have already made contact with winger Jonas Hofmann, according to Bild, as the Borussia Monchengladbach exodus threatens to begin following the news that coach Marco Rose is leaving for Borussia Dortmund next season. Hofmann played for Thomas Tuchel at Dortmund.

Milan midfielder Franck Kessie is also in Tuchel's sights, and the Blues could offer Fikayo Tomori to the Serie A giants on a permanent deal as part of a player-plus-cash exchange, reports Il Milanista.

- Everton loanee Moise Kean has netted 14 goals in 25 games for PSG and his parent club will not part with the Italy international for any less than £60m, says Fabrizio Romano, while Juventus want to bring the striker back to Turin, according to Le 10 Sport.

 

Everton 'will demand £70m for Moise Kean transfer' after impressing at PSG https://t.co/3PvjhBQ1rf

— Sun Sport (@SunSport) February 18, 2021

- 'If there are opportunities, I will have a look at them,' is what Wilfried Zaha told the Financial Times Business of Football Summit, reports The Sun. The Crystal Palace winger has been previously linked with Arsenal and Tottenham.

- Gunners midfielder Lucas Torreira, currently on the fringes while on loan at Atletico Madrid, is close to securing a move to Fiorentina for next season, claims Gazzetta Dello Sport.

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has been fined €5,000 but avoided a suspension after using a "blasphemous expression" during Juventus' 4-0 win at Parma in December.

The 43-year-old was caught on camera committing the offence when shouting instructions to team-mate Manolo Portanova.

The FIGC opened disciplinary proceedings against Buffon and the veteran keeper risked a one-man ban for his comment.

However, the National Federal Court only "partially accepted" the FIGC's referral at Thursday's hearing and former Italy international Buffon escaped with just a fine.

Buffon has served as back-up to Wojciech Szczesny since returning to Turin from Paris Saint-Germain in 2019 and has made nine appearances in all competitions this season.

Giorgio Chiellini will be monitored on a daily basis after scans revealed the Juventus defender suffered no muscle damage to his right calf against Porto. 

Chiellini was forced off in the first half of Juve's 2-1 Champions League defeat away in Portugal on Wednesday, Merih Demiral taking his place in the 35th minute. 

The Serie A side were already one goal down at that stage, while Moussa Marega added a second for Porto soon after the break. However, Federico Chiesa halved the deficit with a potentially crucial late away goal in the first leg of the last-16 tie. 

Porto will travel to Turin for the return fixture on March 9 and, having avoided any serious injury, Chiellini could be fit to feature on home soil. 

"Giorgio Chiellini underwent radiological examinations this morning at the J | Medical that excluded muscle injuries to his right calf. His condition will be monitored day by day," a statement from the club read. 

Andrea Pirlo's squad underwent a recovery session on Thursday as they turn their focus back to league matters. 

The reigning champions are next in Serie A action on Monday, when they host bottom club Crotone at the Allianz Stadium. 

Chiellini – who has helped the Bianconeri win nine straight top-flight titles in Italy – has made 15 appearances in all competitions this season, Pirlo's first in charge.

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.

Kylian Mbappe's future is in his own hands after showing the world what he is capable of while scoring a hat-trick in Paris Saint-Germain's 4-1 Champions League demolition of Barcelona.

With his contract in the French capital set to expire in June 2022, Mbappe ultimately has the choice of either signing a new deal or leaving his hometown team – and the World Cup winner has been non-committal so far.

Should the 22-year-old sensation decide to take his career abroad, there will be no shortage of suitors, with four European giants ready to swoop.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL, MANCHESTER CITY, REAL MADRID, JUVENTUS EYE IN-DEMAND MBAPPE

If PSG cannot persuade Mbappe to sign a long-term extension, they will not want to lose a world-class talent without a fee, so the Ligue 1 champions have placed a €200million (£173m) tag on his head, according to Le Parisien.

Le Parisien reports the price may not deter the Frenchman's admirers, who include Premier League rivals Manchester City and LiverpoolReal Madrid and Juventus.

While those clubs may want him, it is unclear if all of them would be able to afford Mbappe, who is set to make more than €30m per year gross on his next contract. Reports claim PSG will aim to price their Champions League rivals out of a deal.

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.

Mehdi Taremi scored after only 61 seconds as Porto caught lacklustre Juventus cold twice to seize the initiative with a 2-1 first-leg win in the Champions League round of 16.

Porto had never beaten Juve in five European matches, but the Primeira Liga champions made it a miserable return to his homeland for Cristiano Ronaldo on Wednesday.

Ronaldo was starved of service as Sergio Conceicao's side showed a far bigger appetite for the fight at Estadio do Dragao, with Taremi gifted a first Champions League goal by a terrible mistake from Rodrigo Bentancur.

Moussa Marega doubled Porto's lead right at the start of the second half, but Federico Chiesa struck eight minutes from time to leave the tie well poised ahead of the second leg on March 9.

Bentancur made it a nightmare start for Juve, failing to get enough on his back pass and allowing Taremi to slide in ahead of Wojciech Szczesny for his fourth goal in as many games.

That early blow failed to jolt Juve into life and Matthijs de Ligt deflected Sergio Oliveira's shot wide after a sloppy pass from a shaky Szczesny.

The Bianconeri lost captain Giorgio Chiellini, who was replaced by Merih Demiral, to a calf injury before Agustin Marchesin was finally called into action, diving to his left to keep out Adrien Rabiot's acrobatic attempt.

Juve were caught napping again at the start of the second half, when Marega's left-footed strike beat Szczesny at his near post after Wilson Manafa cut the ball back at the end of a marauding run.

The impressive Oliveira came close to adding a third Porto goal when his strike was saved by Szczesny, while Bentancur rifled just over the crossbar at the other end in a rare moment of concern for Conceicao's well-drilled side.

Porto looked rock solid but their run of five consecutive Champions League clean sheets ended when Chiesa converted Rabiot's cutback and Marchesin denied Alvaro Morata an equaliser soon after.

Ronaldo wanted a penalty for a challenge from Zaidu Sanusi but referee Carlos del Cerro Grande and the VAR saw it otherwise as Porto held on to their slender advantage.

Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo will look to inflict more Champions League pain on Porto and Borussia Dortmund travel to Sevilla for the first leg in the round of 16 on Wednesday.

Juve advanced from Group G at a canter, winning five of their six games to finish level on points with Barcelona.

The Serie A champions will be expected to knock Porto out, but Andrea Pirlo will be braced for a stern test in the first leg at Estadio do Dragao.

Sevilla do battle with Dortmund at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan a couple of days after it was announced that Borussia Monchengladbach head coach Marco Rose will take over at the Bundesliga club at the end of the season.

We take a look at the best stats on the two ties courtesy of Opta.

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."

Cristiano Ronaldo says Juventus need to "bring their A game" as they begin their quest to reach a first Champions League final in four years.

The Serie A champions progressed as winners of Group G after a 3-0 win over Barcelona at Camp Nou on matchday six.

They begin the knockout phase on Wednesday against Porto, who were the only side to avoid two defeats against Manchester City in Group C.

Porto have failed to beat Juve in five previous European encounters and the Bianconeri are one of only two teams to play the Portuguese giants away at least twice without ever conceding a goal.

Andrea Pirlo's side have won 11 of their previous 13 Champions League matches, including all three away from home this season, but they come into the contest off the back of a 1-0 league loss to Napoli that leaves them eight points behind leaders Inter, who have played a game more.

Juve have failed to get beyond the quarter-final stage since they last reached the final in 2016-17, when two goals from Ronaldo helped Real Madrid to a 4-1 win in Cardiff.

The 36-year-old is determined to lead Juve back to another final this term as they aim to end a 25-year wait for European football's biggest club prize.

"This is what Champions League is all about: the knockout rounds," Ronaldo wrote on Instagram on Tuesday. "It's almost as if another competition starts from this point on and everybody has to bring their A game, because every detail can make the difference.

"In the last couple of years we went home sooner than we wanted, but we continue to aim higher every season and this year is no exception.

"Tomorrow we have a very importante [sic] game against a very strong team and I can only hope that it may be the beggining [sic] of the long walk we want to take until the final. Respect for the opponent, ambition for the victory and 100 per cent focus on our goals. Let's go, guys! Fino Alla Fine!"

Porto were the first team Ronaldo faced in the Champions League knockouts in the 2003-04 campaign, when Jose Mourinho's eventual winners eliminated Manchester United in the last 16.

His last appearance against them came five years later, when his Puskas Award-winning goal at Estadio do Dragao sent United through to the semi-finals.

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