For so long, Juventus dominated Serie A and Milan. 

Juve won nine successive Scudetti before being dethroned by Inter last season. Gianluigi Buffon was involved in eight of them. 

But it's a period of change in Turin, where Wojciech Szczesny is well and truly under the microscope after an error-riddled start to the 2021-22 season. 

As Juve struggle defensively, form could hardly be more contrasting heading into Sunday's blockbuster showdown in the northwest of Italy. 

Milan have continued to be a solid defensive outfit, winning their opening three league fixtures, and the resurgent Rossoneri could strike an early dagger to the heart of the Old Lady.

 

Woeful Woj as Allegri tries to avoid unwanted record 

"I think Juventus will regret not signing Donnarumma for a long time." 

That was Mino Raiola – the agent of Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma – speaking to Rai Sport on Friday. Based on what has transpired so far, he is right. 

The star Italy goalkeeper had been tipped to swap Milan for Juve in the off-season before moving to the French capital on a free transfer. Juve must be shaking their heads after watching Szczesny's torrid start to the season under Massimiliano Allegri. 

Allegri has had his hands full since returning to Allianz Stadium after two seasons away, replacing Andrea Pirlo. The title-winning boss is trying to navigate the exit of superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. If the departure of the almost-irreplaceable Ronaldo was not hard enough, Szczesny has made life even more difficult. 

The former Arsenal keeper has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, his two howlers against Udinese and Napoli the catalyst for Juve's winless start to the campaign. 

The Bianconeri could go without a victory in their first four Serie A seasonal matches for the fourth time in their history, after 1961-62, 1955-56 and 1942-43. In those campaigns, Juve did not go on to win the title. They have never lost three of the first four Serie A games in a season. 

They have conceded five goals in three matches and are yet to keep a clean sheet domestically, shipping goals in each of their past 17 league games – only twice have Juve conceded in more consecutive Serie A fixtures (19 in 2010 and 21 in 1955). That 17-game run is the worst of its kind across the top-five European leagues since March. 

 

Szczesny's numbers do not make for pretty reading.

Since 2018-19, the Poland international has conceded 90 goals in 90 Serie A appearances with expected goals against (xGA) of 99.88, suggesting he should have let in nearly 10 goals more. For some comparison, Buffon's xGA-goals conceded difference – goals he prevented, in other words –was 2.62 from 17 matches, so Szczesny holds his own there.

The numbers do not get much better, though. A maligned figure from his days at Arsenal, Szczesny has shipped 99 goals in 107 Serie A games for Juve. Since 1994-95, his average of 0.93 goals conceded is worse than ex-Juve goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar (0.70 from 46 goals conceded in 66 games), Buffon (0.76 from 373 conceded in 489 matches), Michelangelo Rampulla (0.85 from 33 conceded in 39 fixtures) and Angelo Peruzzi (0.85 from 120 conceded in 141 appearances).

Szczesny – with a save percentage of 72 and an average of 2.49 stops per 90 minutes – has committed three errors leading to goals during his time with Juve in Serie A. Since 2004-05, only Buffon managed more (13), albeit in 391 games.

This season, Szczesny's expected goals against is 5.86 through three matches. Milan counterpart Mike Maignan's figure stands at 2.33.

When Milan refused to meet Donnarumma's demands, they wasted little time turning to Maignan, who had just led Lille to a shock Ligue 1 title after upstaging PSG.

Maignan has been a steady presence in Milan with a joint-league-high two clean sheets, while the France international tops the list in save percentage (90), well ahead of Szczesny (66.67).

 

Kjaer spearheading Milan back to summit

While Juve duo Leonardo Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt lick their wounds, Simon Kjaer and Fikayo Tomori continue to flex their muscles at San Siro.

In the era of three points per win, Milan have won each of their first four Serie A seasonal games only twice: in 1995-96 under Fabio Capello and last season with Stefano Pioli at the helm. The Rossoneri won the title in 1996, while they finished second to Inter in 2020-21.

High-flying Milan are on the cusp of matching that feat thanks to the help of Kjaer and Tomori and perhaps even more than that as the resurgent powerhouse dream of a first Scudetto since 2011.

Kjaer and Tomori have formed an unlikely but rock-solid partnership at the heart of Milan's defence. Pioli's side have only conceded one goal to start the Serie A season. Since last May, Milan have the most clean sheets in the big five European leagues (seven in eight matches).

The pair's form has left captain Alessio Romagnoli sidelined and considering his future – not something you would have anticipated when Kjaer arrived following a brief spell at Atalanta, initially on loan in 2020.

Kjaer has come into his own in Milan, establishing himself as a key member on and off the pitch under Pioli, tallying 178 clearances in the league since January 2020 – a number only behind Torino's Bremer (219), Omar Colley of Sampdoria (214), Fiorentina star Nikola Milenkovic (205), ex-Viola centre-back German Pezzella (191) and Lazio's Francesco Acerbi (190) among defenders.

 

The 32-year-old Denmark international has also provided security in the air, with his 93 headed clearances the fourth most among defenders since January 2020, after Milenkovic (122), Bremer (119) and Colley (103).

"It happens a lot with defenders that they kind of find their own style later on. That has happened with Simon," former Denmark international Jesper Olsen told Stats Perform.

"You're playing at a top team and expected to do really well. We know your last game played doesn't count anymore, it's the next one. He just seems very settled."

Tomori, who completed a permanent switch from Champions League holders Chelsea in July after impressing on loan, scored the last time these two teams met – a 3-0 victory in Turin in May.

Milan have won two of their most recent three Serie A matches against Juventus, as many as in their previous 17 (D1 L14).

Could Raheem Sterling leave Premier League champions Manchester City?

The Englishman has slipped down the pecking order in 2021-22.

LaLiga giants Barcelona are reportedly ready to offer Sterling regular football.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA INTERESTED IN STERLING

Barcelona are targeting a loan move for Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling, according to Sport.

Sterling has fallen out of favour under Pep Guardiola this season, leading to speculation over his City future.

The England international is reportedly open to reunion with former City team-mate Sergio Aguero at Barca.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Independent claims Manchester United are prioritising a move for West Ham's Declan Rice. The Red Devils are eyeing Rice to partner Paul Pogba, who himself is the subject of transfer speculation. Out of contract at the end of the season, Pogba has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Juventus.

Lazio are interested in free agent Dani Alves following his Sao Paulo exit, reports Calciomercato. The former Barca and Juve full-back terminated his contract and reportedly met with Brazilian rivals Flamengo.

- Fabrizio Romano says Roma are preparing a new five-year contract for Lorenzo Pellegrini, who has been linked with Premier League clubs.

- Serie A champions Inter are weighing up a move for Torino defender Bremer at the end of the season, says Calciomercato. The Brazilian has also been linked with United and Liverpool.

- According to Calciomercato, City have not given up on signing Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic. The Serbia international forward was linked with City as well as Tottenham, Arsenal and Atletico Madrid before the transfer window closed.

Luka Jovic is on the radar of Juventus, per Calciomercato. Jovic is out of favour at Madrid, with the Serbia international originally tipped to return to Eintracht Frankfurt on a permanent basis.

Fikayo Tomori is not considering a Chelsea return as the Milan centre-back dreams of Champions League success with the Rossoneri.

Tomori has starred for Milan, who completed a permanent deal for the one-time England international in July following his initial loan move in 2020-21.

The 23-year-old emerged from Chelsea's academy in 2016 before eventually leaving his boyhood club, but he is not thinking about a Stamford Bridge comeback.

"I don't know, I love Milan, I love being here, Chelsea was a big part of my life, 15-16 years," Tomori told DAZN, with seven-time winners Milan back in the Champions League this season for the first time since 2014.

"I think I managed to have that dream. Play at Stamford Bridge, play in the Premier League and the Champions League. Right now I am really happy in Milan.

"We are back in the Champions League, everything is really positive, hopefully like Chelsea [who won the Champions League last season], we can win it."

In 2021-22, Tomori has tallied 15 recoveries, 11 duels won, 12 possessions won in the defensive third, eight clearances, six interceptions, three headed clearances and six aerials won, while boasting an 87.6 passing accuracy to help Milan win their opening three Serie A fixtures.

Tomori has formed a key partnership with Simon Kjaer at the heart of Milan's defence – the Italian giants have kept the most clean sheets in the top-five European leagues (seven in 8 matches) since May.

Milan have only conceded one goal in three games, keeping two clean sheets in the league this term.

Tomori and Milan travel to rivals Juventus on Sunday, aiming to make it four victories from four games to open the season.

In the era of three points per win, Milan have won each of their first four Serie A seasonal games only twice – in 1995-96 under Fabio Capello and in 2020-21 under Stefano Pioli.

Paul Pogba could yet make a return to Juventus, according to Mino Raiola, as the midfielder's long-term future at Manchester United remains unclear.  

Pogba is in the final year of his current deal at Old Trafford, having returned to Manchester in August 2016 after a hugely successful spell in Turin.  

The France international won the Serie A title in each of his four seasons with Juve, as well as the Coppa Italia twice. He was also part of the squad that reached the Champions League final in 2015, though the Bianconeri lost 3-1 to Barcelona.  

Speaking in Italy on Friday, Raiola, the 28-year-old's agent, admitted a move back to the Italian club Pogba joined on a free from United remains a possibility.

"Paul's contract expires next year. We will speak with Manchester United and we'll see," Raiola told Rai Sport.

"Turin has remained in his heart. There is a possibility that he will come back, but this will also depend on Juventus." 

Pogba has started the new campaign in outstanding form, providing seven assists in four Premier League games. He has created 10 chances in total in those contests, helping Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side claim three wins and a draw to sit top of the table on goal difference.

He has already surpassed last season's assists tally in the same competition, having set up three in the top flight during 2020-21.

Pogba also scored three times as United finished second behind champions Manchester City last term.

After a shock 2-1 loss to Young Boys in the Champions League in midweek, Pogba and his team-mates will hope to get back to winning ways when they travel to West Ham on Sunday. 

Juventus revealed annual losses of €209.9million as the Italian giants defended their involvement at the forefront of the failed European Super League project.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic saw income plummet for the Serie A club during the 2020-21 financial year, Juventus said on Friday.

Juventus said it had covered the losses with its share premium reserve, meaning the club's overall net debt stood at €389.2million, just €4million higher than at the end of the previous year.

The Turin club had reported annual losses of €89.7million for 2019-20, and the club said it estimated "direct and indirect adverse effects" of the pandemic from March 2020 to June 2022 to amount to €320milion, based on an assumption that economic normality would steadily resume.

Juventus, who expect to post " a significant loss" for 2021-22, said the club's board had "decided to start the process for a capital increase of up to €400million, including any share premium, to be offered to the company’s shareholders".

Since the end of the last financial year, Juventus have allowed star forward Cristiano Ronaldo to leave the club for Manchester United, collecting a transfer fee and saving significant sums on his salary.

Together with Barcelona and Real Madrid, Juventus have continued to back proposals for a Super League, despite widespread opposition to the scheme when it was revealed in April.

Where most clubs backed away from the project within days amid a wave of criticism, including the six English Premier League clubs involved, Juventus remain apparently keen for it to get off the ground.

Club chairman Andrea Agnelli was a prime figure behind bringing the concept together and Juventus included a section in their financial statement, in which they stood by their belief in the "legitmacy" of such a league.

The club described the Super League as an "alternative to the UEFA competitions but not to national leagues and cups".

The Juventus statement said: "As at today, it is not possible to predict with certainty the outcome and future development of the Super League project, of the legitimacy of which Juventus remains confident."

Nine men were arrested following clashes between Leicester City and Napoli fans ahead of Thursday's Europa League game at the King Power Stadium. 

Trouble flared both in and outside the ground, with eight of those arrested by Leicestershire Police identified as fans of Serie A club Napoli.  

It was also confirmed on Friday that a man from Leicester was detained on suspicion of violent disorder.

"Nine men were arrested yesterday evening (Thursday, September 16) following a report of football-related violence in Leicester," a Leicestershire Police statement said. 

"Shortly before 6pm, police received a report of a fight taking place in Millstone Lane involving fans of Napoli and Leicester City. 

"Eight men, identified as Napoli fans, were arrested at the scene in connection with the incident. Following further enquiries, a 27-year-old man from Leicester was later arrested on suspicion of violent disorder. 

"All men remain in custody at this time. 

"Prior to the match taking place, a report was received that a taxi driver had been racially abused. A 39-year-old man from Italy was subsequently arrested on suspicion of a racially aggravated public order offence. He has been dealt with by way of a community resolution." 

Leicester and Napoli fans also threw objects at each other towards the end of a game that finished 2-2. 

Alexandre Lacazette's future at Arsenal is uncertain and a move to Italy may beckon.

The French forward was said to have been a player Arsenal would have considered allowing to leave at the right price during the recent transfer window.

Lacazette has only managed two substitute appearances for the Gunners in the league this season.

TOP STORY - JUVENTUS PLOT MOVE FOR GUNNER

Juventus are considering a move to sign Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette, claims Calciomercato.

Lacazette is due to become a free agent at the end of next June and it remains to be seen whether he renews, yet the Turin club may move for him in January.

Juventus' slow start to the new season may play a part in their decision-making on when to pursue his signature.

ROUND-UP

- Bruno Fernandes will be rewarded with a bumper new Manchester United contract worth £250,000 per week, claims The Sun. The deal could be announced in the next few days, representing a £100,000 pay raise on his current deal that runs until 2025.

- Chelsea will reportedly consider selling Antonio Rudiger, who has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid. Any Rudiger sale would raise funds to land Sevilla star Jules Kounde, according to Football365.

- Ansu Fati is committed to remaining with Barcelona despite the club's financial issues, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Moise Kean has insisted he does not feel the pressure of replacing Cristiano Ronaldo at Juventus following his return to Turin.

Ronaldo, who scored 101 goals across 134 matches in all competitions at Allianz Stadium, moved back to Manchester United in August as he ended a 12-year absence from Old Trafford.

Moments after the Portugal captain's departure, Kean signed for Juve on an initial loan from Everton, with the Serie A outfit obliged to buy if certain objectives are met.

The Italy forward spent last season on loan at Paris Saint-Germain, where he impressed with 13 goals in 26 Ligue 1 matches.

Despite arriving in the wake of Ronaldo's move, Kean told reporters at his Juve presentation that he is focusing on achieving success with Massimiliano Allegri's team and not on who he has replaced.

"I don’t feel any pressure in replacing Ronaldo,” he said at Thursday's news conference. "I just want to lend a hand to the team where I grew up and where I lived good times.

"I just want to play, I have no pressure, I just feel the responsibility of wearing the Juventus shirt."

Indeed, the 21-year-old has played for the Bianconeri before, making his debut aged just 16 years, eight months and 21 days to become the club's youngest ever player.

He managed seven goals in 16 Serie A appearances before an underwhelming spell at Everton, where he managed only two goals in 32 outings.

Allegri has already granted Kean cameo appearances against Napoli and Malmo and Juve's new signing is looking forward to the challenge ahead.

"Wearing the black and white jersey has always given me great emotions," he continued.

"It is the right choice, I am ready for this new challenge. I'm lucky to have played in foreign championships.

"I'm here to give a big hand to the team I grew up in. I don't feel its weight, but the responsibility of wearing this shirt and giving 100 per cent.

"We didn't start well but we have great objectives. I'm sure we will aim for great results."

Could Jurgen Klopp and Robert Lewandowski be set to work together again?

The pair enjoyed a successful partnership at Borussia Dortmund.

Now, Klopp is reportedly trying to lure the Bayern Munich forward to Liverpool.

 

TOP STORY – KLOPP WANTS LEWANDOWSKI REUNION

Liverpool are targeting Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski, according to Fichajes.

Lewandowski worked with Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund before joining Bundesliga rivals Bayern in 2014.

There has been talk Lewandowski could be ready for a new challenge amid links to Real Madrid and Manchester City, though Klopp is reportedly determined to reunite with the Poland international.

 

ROUND-UP

- Bild claims Dortmund have identified Chelsea forward Timo Werner as a possible option to replace Erling Haaland. Club are queueing up to sign Haaland, with City, Manchester United, Bayern, Liverpool, Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain all reportedly interested. Should Haaland leave Dortmund, the Bundesliga outfit reportedly see former RB Leipzig star Werner as a potential successor.

- Fabrizio Romano says Inter forward Lautaro Martinez is nearing a contract extension at San Siro. He has reportedly turned down offers from Tottenham and Atletico Madrid.

Bayern, Inter, Real Madrid and Tottenham are interested in Borussia Monchengladbach defender Matthias Ginter, reports Calciomercato.

Chelsea are looking to sign Jorginho, N'Golo Kante, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen to new contracts, according to Romano.

Harry Kane's attempt to leave Tottenham did not go according to plan before the transfer window closed.

Despite interest from Manchester City, Kane remains in London with Spurs.

Kane could be prepared to sign another contract at Tottenham…

 

TOP STORY – NEW DEAL FOR KANE?

Tottenham star Harry Kane is open to a contract extension if the offer includes a release clause, according to Eurosport.

Kane wanted to leave Tottenham in the off-season, but a move did not materialise, despite interest from Premier League champions Manchester City.

The England striker, though, could be willing to re-sign on one condition.

Paris Saint-Germain, JuventusReal Madrid and Barcelona have previously been linked with Kane.

 

ROUND-UP

Juventus could face competition from Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich for City forward Gabriel Jesus, reports Calciomercato. Juve are keen to bolster their attack following Cristiano Ronaldo's exit but face a battle should Robert Lewandowski leave Bayern. Lewandowski has been linked with the likes of City and Madrid.

- Fabrizio Romano claims United are planning to offer Luke Shaw a new contract at Old Trafford. However, United are prioritising new deals for Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba.

Liverpool are among the contenders to sign Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, says 90min. Haaland has been linked with United, City, Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern, Juve and PSG but 90min claims Liverpool have held talks with his agent Mino Raiola.

Paulo Dybala expressed his desire to resolve his contract renewal with Juventus after helping the Serie A giants defeat Malmo in their Champions League opener.

Dybala scored Juve's second from the penalty spot in Tuesday's 3-0 victory as they coasted to a sixth consecutive group-stage away win and maintained their perfect record against Swedish opposition in Europe.

However, with less than a year left on Dybala's contract, there is the possibility that the 27-year-old could depart on a free transfer at the end of the season.

Juve vice-president Pavel Nedved sees the former Palermo star as a central piece to his project and reassured that his side are confident of reaching an agreement – a sentiment Dybala echoed on Tuesday.

"My renewal? I always try to give my best," Dybala provided a post-match update to Sport Mediaset.

"The parties are talking, there are great expectations from everyone. We hope for a good ending.

"I'm happy to score. It helps me psychologically, it makes me play calmly, with serenity, to help the team. Today we won and I'm very happy.

"We were returning from bad performances, the results did not support us, but we knew that this is another competition and what to do. We did it, playing with serenity, as a great team. Now we must continue on this."

Milan president Paolo Scaroni insisted the Rossoneri are committed to a long-term project as they attempt to follow a blueprint similar to that of Liverpool.

The Serie A outfit are readying themselves for their first Champions League appearance since March 2014 on Wednesday against Jurgen Klopp's men, who have lost just one of their last 12 group-stage clashes at Anfield.

Head coach Stefano Pioli's preparations have been perfect so far, winning all three Serie A games to sit joint-top with Roma and Napoli, but Scaroni says Milan's focus is just on achieving Champions League qualification once more.

"The priority is to be back in the Champions League, Milan must always be there," Scaroni told Radio Anch'Io.

"If we can do better, we will be happy. The goal is at least fourth place, then if we end first, I will be delighted."

"Stefano Pioli has created a perfect mix with young and experienced players, building a real team, aggressive and fun. The coach has never been on the brink, ours is a long-term project since the first day."

The visitors' record on English soil is poor, too, given they have won just one of their last 13 in European competition against English opposition.

However, Scaroni referenced the gulf in income between his side and other European outfits as an important differentiator ahead of the repeat of the famous 2004-05 Champions League final between the two sides.

"I cannot forget that on Wednesday we will go to Liverpool, a club that earns €100 million from the box office, while we get €35m," Scaroni continued.

"Serie A clubs need new stadiums that can allow us to reach the European clubs otherwise fans will have to accept performances that are not at a European level."

Asked when Milan would start building a new stadium to bridge the gap, the president responded: "We are at a good point, I am optimistic even if there will be a mayoral election soon. October will be a crucial month.

"After the approval of the city council, which I hope will happen by the end of the year, it will take six months for the design.

"At that point, the construction could start in the second half of 2022 and, between 2024 and 2025, it could be ready."

Are Barcelona set to make a splash in 2022?

After losing Lionel Messi on a free transfer due to their crippling debt, Barca are busy planning for next season.

Franck Kessie and Youri Tielemans are believed to be on the radar at Camp Nou.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA EYEING PAIR

Barcelona are targeting Milan star Franck Kessie and Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans, according to reports.

Kessie is out of contract at the end of the season and he is yet to re-sign at Milan amid links with Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham.

Mundo Deportivo claims LaLiga giants Barca are considering a move for the Ivory Coast international, as well as Tielemans – who is reportedly wanted by the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fichajes says Premier League champions Manchester City are plotting a bid for Leeds United and England star Kalvin Phillips.

Real Madrid are interested in Lyon's Rayan Cherki as a long-term replacement for Karim Benzema, per Fichajes. It comes as Madrid continue to pursue PSG's Kylian Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland.

- Calciomercato claims Juventus are considering a move for Madrid left-back Ferland Mendy.

United are ready to rival Barca, Juve and Bayern Munich for RB Leipzig attacker Dani Olmo, according to Marca.

Jose Mourinho said he will remember Roma's last-gasp victory over Sassuolo after celebrating his 1,000th career match in wild fashion.

Mourinho's milestone game ended in the Roma head coach sprinting down the touchline to celebrate Stephan El Shaarawy's 91st-minute winner with the Giallorossi fans in Sunday's 2-1 dramatic success at home to Sassuolo.

Former Porto, Chelsea, Inter, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Tottenham boss Mourinho has won 638 of his career matches across all competitions, boasting a 64 per cent winning percentage, to go with 25 titles as a manager.

After Mourinho oversaw Roma's third win from three Serie A fixtures to start the season atop the table, the 58-year-old revelled in the memorable fixture.

"Because during the week I was lying to people, telling everyone this wasn't a special game – perhaps I was trying to convince myself as well," Mourinho, who is in his first season with Roma, said.

"But actually it was – this game had a really special meaning for me. And I am sure I will remember it for the rest of my life, because my 1000th game as a coach was this one.

"I didn't want to lose it, and I was very scared of having that be my lasting memory of the moment. So I was lying to everyone beforehand. It was a very special feeling."

Mourinho – a Champions League, Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A and Primeira Liga winner among other honours – added: "Today it could have finished 6-6 or 7-7, they could have won 2-1, whatever. In the final few minutes Rui Patricio made two or three incredible saves and we missed two or three chances when the goal was gaping. It was an incredible game for the neutral, an absolutely extraordinary match, with so many emotions to it.

"Today I wasn't 58 years old, but 10 or 12 or 14, when you start dreaming about a career in football. Running like I did [down the sideline], I was running like a child. And I apologised to [Sassuolo coach Alessio] Dionisi for that.

"I congratulated him and his players: they played brilliantly. Tonight we won, but if they had won I would not have been able to have any complaints."

It is the first time in Mourinho's illustrious career that he has won the first five games at a club.

"I didn't know that," Mourinho replied when it was put to him. "It's the same as the milestone of 1000 games – I only realised when I was eight or seven short. They are not numbers I'm particularly interested in.

"Obviously I'm happy with the three points, and the great spirit we showed. But we cannot ignore Dionisi and how he must feel: He's a great coach, Sassuolo have a real identity about them – one that comes from De Zerbi, but he has applied his own elements to that. They are a great squad; I realised that as soon as I started studying them.

"These are three massive points for us. Perhaps God decided that I didn't deserve to have a negative memory of this particular game."

Roma, meanwhile, have won six consecutive home games in all competitions for their first time since December 2017 (seven).

Stefano Pioli says Zlatan Ibrahimovic has a "fire within him" after he marked his return from injury on Sunday with a goal in Milan's 2-0 win over Lazio.

Ibrahimovic – making his return to action following a knee injury sustained in May – was introduced as a substitute in the 60th minute and wasted little time making an impact, tapping in just seven minutes later to double his side's advantage.

They had earlier gone ahead thanks to Rafael Leao's second goal of the season, while Franck Kessie saw a penalty crash back off the crossbar in first-half stoppage time.

The result means Milan have won their first three Serie A fixtures in consecutive seasons for the first time in the Italian top flight.

Ibrahimovic will turn 40 next month, but Rossoneri boss Pioli insists his age will be no barrier to him enjoying another successful season at San Siro.

"Zlatan hadn't played for four months, so I'm glad he scored a goal and will get stronger in the next games," he told DAZN.

"He has this fire within him. The way he battles in training as well as games, all aiming to be the best. You don't feel the years when you do that."

 

Leao has already scored a third of his Serie A tally from last season, with his strike against Lazio coming from a joint game-high three shots.

While Pioli is expecting big things from the Portuguese forward, he urged him to sharpen up on his finishing.

"Rafa was already a strength for this team last season, but he's still 22 years old. It's only his third campaign in Italy, the second working with me," he added.

"He needs to become more efficient in the finish, because he almost always gets past his defender and just has to finish off more of those chances."

There was drama at the full-time whistle when Lazio boss Maurizio Sarri was shown a red card for an altercation with Alexis Saelemaekers.

Sarri played down the incident but was clearly unhappy with the Belgium international's behaviour.  

"It was nothing in particular," Sarri said.

"The young lad made a gesture that you shouldn't do to older people and Ibrahimovic then calmed everything down. These things happen on the pitch."

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