Manchester United's managerial post is vacant after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked on Sunday.

Solskjaer had led United since December 2018 but failed to win a trophy, finishing runners-up in last season's Premier League and Europa League.

The lean spell has United desperate to return to their former glories with their next managerial appointment.

 

TOP STORY – ZIDANE NOT KEEN ON MAN UTD JOB

World Cup winner and ex-Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane is not interested in the vacant Manchester United job, reports BBC Sport.

Zidane left Madrid in May after failing to win LaLiga and has been linked with a host of roles since.

United have approached the 49-year-old about their vacant post but he is not interested in the position at this point.

 ROUND-UP

- Fichajes claims that reported United target Mauricio Pochettino would put Tottenham's Harry Kane at the top of his wishlist if he got the Red Devils job. The current Paris Saint-Germain boss is among those linked with the vacant post. The Telegraph claims that Pochettino is open to moving to Old Trafford at the end of this season.

- Ajax boss Erik ten Hag is United's second choice behind Pochettino reports Sky Sports, while The Sun claims the Red Devils have already approached Leicester City's Brendan Rodgers.

- Sport claims that new Barcelona boss Xavi wants to sign Al-Sadd's Algeria international striker Baghdad Bounedjah. Xavi coached Al-Sadd until taking over at Barca earlier this month.

- Tottenham may make a move for Roma midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo who is unhappy at the club, claims Calciomercato.

- Fichajes reports that Real Madrid have an interest in Mason Mount, who is currently in talks with Chelsea on a new deal. Manchester City and Bayern Munich are also interested in Mount's services.

Felix Afena-Gyan thanked Jose Mourinho after the teenage sensation opened his Roma account with a stunning brace off the bench to sink Genoa 2-0 in Serie A on Sunday.

Afena-Gyan enjoyed a fairytale outing, the 18-year-old substitute scoring twice to ruin Andrey Shevchenko's debut as Genoa head coach.

With the score deadlocked at 0-0, Afena-Gyan was introduced by Mourinho in the 75th minute and turned the match on its head, breaking the deadlock seven minutes later.

After sprinting to celebrate with Mourinho, the Ghanaian forward then sealed the victory with a sublime strike in the fourth minute of stoppage time at Stadio Luigi Ferraris.

"I thank God for this opportunity he gave me, the team, the coach, the fans, players for their amazing support," Afena-Gyan told DAZN.

"I also want to say thank you Mom, she is in Ghana, I love you."

 

It was a memorable night for Afena-Gyan, who became the first player born after January 2003 to score at least one goal in Serie A.

Afena-Gyan ticked off a number of feats – the youngest player to score more than one goal in a match in this season's top-five European League (18 years, 10 months and two days), youngest foreign player in Serie A's three-point era (since 1994-95) to score for Roma, youngest foreign player to net more than once for the Giallorossi in Serie A since 1994-95, while he is the first Ghanian to score for the capital club.

Afena-Gyan added: "Mourinho is a great person, a great manager and a great coach. He gives you the motivation to learn every day. I am very happy he is here.

"Tonight is a dream come true. It was my first goal, I was hoping for a very long time. I want to continue my performance, prove myself and do more in future."

Afena-Gyan was making only his third appearance for Roma, having been introduced to the senior side by veteran boss Mourinho in Rome.

 

"I had promised to buy Felix the boots he really likes, which are really expensive, they cost €800, so he ran over and told me not to forget! Tomorrow morning, the first thing I do is buy him the boots," Mourinho told DAZN.

"I am sorry for Mister [Daniele] De Rossi and the Primavera squad, but Felix will stay with us. The Primavera work close to us, so Felix and another four or five players have come across to the senior squad.

"What impressed me the most was his cool head in front of goal. If he is not in terms of technique fantastic, he does have a strong mentality.

"You get these kids now who think they know everything, but he is humble and you can sense he just absorbs all this information from everyone around him. That's fantastic."

Napoli star Victor Osimhen will undergo surgery after suffering multiple facial fractures during the 3-2 Serie A defeat to Inter.

Osimhen was hurt in a clash of heads with Inter defender Milan Skriniar as the Nerazzurri ended leaders Napoli's unbeaten start to the season on Sunday.

He was substituted in the 55th minute and taken for tests, which the club later confirmed had revealed "multiple displaced fractures of the left orbit and cheekbone".

"The player will undergo surgery in the next few days and will remain under observation at Niguarda Hospital in Milan tonight [Sunday]," Napoli said.

Osimhen is Napoli's leading goalscorer in 2021-22, with five in Serie A and four in the Europa League.

The Nigeria international scored seven times in September alone, a tally matched only by Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema across Europe's top-five leagues.

Only Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland was younger than Osimhen, who turns 23 next month, among players in those top-five leagues to score 10 or more goals in both 2019-20 and 2020-21.

 

Simone Inzaghi urged Inter to build on their strong performance against Napoli after ending the Serie A leaders' unbeaten start to the campaign.

Piotr Zielinski netted Napoli's first away goal in four league games against the Nerazzurri to open the scoring with their first strike at San Siro since April 2017.

However, Hakan Calhanoglu equalised from the spot before teeing up Ivan Perisic's header to put Inter 2-1 up at half-time, the Turkey international recording at least a goal and an assist in a Serie A match for the 10th time since his debut in 2017-18.

Lautaro Martinez seemed to have put the game out of Napoli's reach, though substitute Dries Mertens' pulled one back to overtake Antonio Vojak as the club's leading scorer in the Italian top flight with his 103rd goal.

The defending champions managed to hang on to end Napoli's 21-game unbeaten league run, taking them within four points of the top two, and Inzaghi wants more from his side ahead of a crucial Champions League clash with Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday.

"It was a key game for the season, although the most important one will be in three days' time," Inzaghi told DAZN.

"We beat a very strong Napoli side and we did it deservedly too. It's always going to be a struggle against Napoli, especially as they have on average the highest possession statistics in Serie A this season with 60 per cent.

"We must continue like this. We've got to focus on the Champions League next because it's been too many years that Inter haven't got past the group phase and we have a big opportunity to achieve it.

"Wednesday we have a great chance, we have some injuries but it's a moment like this for everyone. We have to move forward match after match. We have left some points because the Champions League is very important for us."

Inter had Samir Handanovic to thank for the three points after his stoppage-time save against Mario Rui in which he tipped onto the crossbar from the left-back's header at the back post.

Mertens then blasted over during a chaotic eight minutes of additional time and Inzaghi admitted he was concerned in the closing stages while explaining why Calhanoglu got to take the first-half penalty.

"We had been a whisker away from winning several of the other head-to-head clashes, so a little fear was inevitable towards the end during eight minutes of stoppages," he added.

"We had tests in training, Perisic, Calhanoglu and Lautaro took three penalties each and scored all three, so I said just decide between yourselves! Hakan is in great shape at the moment and I wouldn't have taken him off if he wasn't on a yellow card today."

Inter handed Serie A leaders Napoli their first defeat of the campaign as Hakan Calhanoglu recorded a goal and an assist in a 3-2 home victory on Sunday.

Napoli had not scored in any of their past four away league games against the Nerazzurri but Piotr Zielinski netted their first since April 2017 after 17 minutes to open the scoring at San Siro.

Calhanoglu soon levelled from the penalty spot before assisting Ivan Perisic's header that put Inter into the lead before the interval.

Lautaro Martinez added a third just after the hour mark and, despite a wonderful strike from substitute Dries Mertens, the reigning champions triumphed to close the gap on Milan and Napoli to four points at the summit, ending the visitors' 21-match unbeaten Serie A run in the process.

Martinez headed over as the highest scorers in the division looked to strike first against a defence that had conceded just four goals this term.

However, it was Napoli who took the lead when Zielinski arrowed into the top-right corner from the edge of the area following Lorenzo Insigne's offload.

That advantage lasted all of eight minutes as Calhanoglu rolled his spot-kick into the bottom-left corner after VAR deemed Kalidou Koulibaly to have handled Nicolo Barella's effort.

Calhanoglu turned provider for Inter's second as Perisic flicked the Turkey international's corner past David Ospina a minute before half-time.

Napoli's task mounted further when Martinez drilled into the bottom-left corner after Joaquin Correa's pass on the counter.

Inter seemed set for a comfortable victory until Mertens fired into the top-left corner after Koulibaly dispossessed Edin Dzeko, though the hosts managed to cling on thanks to Samir Handanovic tipping Mario Rui's late header onto the crossbar.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, it seems, is no longer at the wheel.

Following another drubbing, this time a 4-1 rout at Watford on Saturday, Manchester United have reportedly called time on Solskjaer's tenure.

After a lengthy meeting, the club great is set to be axed.

 

TOP STORY – SOLSKJAER TO BE SACKED

Manchester United have agreed to sack manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, according to widespread reports.

Having already been humiliated by Premier League rivals Liverpool and Manchester City prior to the international break, United's season hit a new low following Saturday's 4-1 rout at lowly Watford.

Amid a worrying slump, The Athletic, Manchester Evening News and Fabrizio Romano claim United have opted to part with Solskjaer amid links to former Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane, Leicester City's Brendan Rodgers and Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sport says Raheem Sterling has told Premier League champions Manchester City he wants to join LaLiga giants Barcelona.

Barca and City are among the clubs interested in Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette, per Fichajes.

- The Sun reports Newcastle United are looking to sign Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic. The Serbia international, who scored twice to sink Milan on Saturday, has been linked with City, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Inter, Atletico Madrid, Tottenham and Arsenal.

Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid are set to go head-to-head for the signature of Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger, says Mundo Deportivo. The Germany international is a free agent at season's end. Bayern are also believed to be interested.

Fiorentina head coach Vincenzo Italiano said Dusan Vlahovic is destined for greatness after the in-demand Serbia international scored twice to sink previously unbeaten Milan 4-3 in Serie A.

After helping Serbia qualify for the 2022 World Cup during the international break, Vlahovic scored a brace as Fiorentina stunned high-flying Milan in Florence on Saturday.

Only Bayern Munich talisman Robert Lewandowski (38) has scored more goals than Vlahovic (27) since the start of 2021 in the big-five European leagues. 

Vlahovic – who is set to leave the Viola after opting against signing a new deal – also equalled Kurt Hamrin (1960) as the Fiorentina player with the most Serie A goals scored in a calendar year.

 

The 21-year-old has been linked with Premier League champions Manchester City, Tottenham, Arsenal, Inter, Atletico Madrid and Bundesliga holders Bayern as Italiano lauded the forward.

"He is destined to a great career, not because he scores goals and knows how to play, but because of the way he trains," Italiano told Sky Sport Italia.

"It's extraordinary to watch him train, he takes all that with him into the match situation.

"We'll see what happens in future, but right now he is working so hard and giving the team everything.

 

"I've said many times, Dusan is not thinking about anything other than preparing for these games. You see his approach and impact.

"He knows everything depends on performances and has the character of a veteran."

Stefano Pioli is confident his Milan side will learn from a "painful" loss to Fiorentina after their unbeaten start to the Serie A campaign came to an end at Stadio Artemio Franchi.

Milan fell to a 4-3 defeat in Saturday's thrilling contest as they missed out on the chance to move three points clear of Napoli, who play their game in hand at Inter on Sunday.

The Rossoneri last tasted defeat in the top flight 18 games ago against Lazio in April, while not since August 2015 had they lost away to Fiorentina in the league.

Pioli's side were without a number of players through injury, including Fikayo Tomori, Davide Calabria, Ante Rebic and Mike Maignan, and that told in a poor display.

A mix-up between back-up goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu and Matteo Gabbia gifted Joseph Alfred Duncan the opening goal, which ex-Milan player Riccardo Saponara added to before half-time.

Dusan Vlahovic also scored twice, either side of a Zlatan Ibrahimovic double that had set up a tense period in the game, before Lorenzo Venuti put into his own net from the last action of the game.

Milan have now taken just one point from their last two games, having previously been held by Inter, but Pioli is hopeful his side will bounce back.

"We have to feel the pain of this defeat and make sure it doesn't happen again," he told Sky Sport Italia. "Even in this defeat I am convinced that I have a very strong team. 

"We have to learn from this. Losing hurts, as does conceding four goals. We showed that we are able to recover, but perhaps we could have done without conceding the fourth. 

"The team played as a team and with rhythm. Sometimes we missed the last pass. We had twice as many shots as our opponents, so the performance was there. 

"We are sorry because after the international break we wanted to restart with a victory."

 

Ibrahimovic became the oldest player – and the first over 40 – to score two or more goals in a single game in Europe's top five leagues this century with his double.

However, Vlahovic stole the show with a brace of his own as he made it 27 Serie A goals in 2021, equalling Kurt Hamrin (in 1960) for the most in a calendar year for Fiorentina

Indeed, only Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski (38) has scored more goals than Vlahovic (27) since the start of 2021 in the big five European leagues. 

The Serbia international has been linked with a number of the continent's big-name clubs, but Viola boss Vincenzo Italiano wants his side to make the most of the rising star while they can.

"Right now he is a player destined for an important career, not only because he knows how to score but because of how he trains," Italiano told Sky Sport Italia. 

"If he stays this same player he is destined for a great career. I don't know what his future will be, but for now we enjoy it. In this game he was loaded with buckshot and I'm happy for him."

Leonardo Bonucci scored two penalties as Juventus beat Lazio 2-0 at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday and insists that it does not matter where the goals come from as long as the Bianconeri win.

The centre-back's brace means he is now Juventus' joint-top scorer in Serie A this term, joining Paulo Dybala on three league goals for the season, and has the highest expected goals total in the squad (4.04).

It is indicative of the Bianconeri's struggles to score that the 34-year-old defender ranks so highly in those metrics, managing just 18 Serie A goals as a team so far - only good enough for joint-10th in the division.

Bonucci is unconcerned with where his side's goals come from, however, with Juventus desperate for a run of good results to lift them from seventh in the league.

"We must give our all to take Juventus back to battling for every objective," Bonucci said to DAZN. "We created a few important situations today with the strikers, such as Alvaro Morata in the first half and Moise Kean in the second.

"The important thing is to bring home the three points, it doesn’t matter who gets the goals. I believe we will bring home better results with more determination and self-belief as the season goes on.

"When you are Juve and have the start to the season we did, criticism is natural and we need to take that, but we saw that with the right spirit, we can make the difference.

"It was a fundamental victory, as it's always tough after the break for international duty. We know with this spirit of sacrifice, the games depend on us. We really did well to limit Lazio, allow them nothing and score two goals of our own."

Bonucci's success from the spot prompted questions as to why he was not on penalty duty for Italy, with Jorginho sending the ball over the bar in the 90th minute of a 1-1 draw with Switzerland on November 12 that contributed to the European champions' slide into the World Cup qualifying play-offs.

"A week ago, Jorginho was the penalty specialist and it was only right that he take it," Bonucci continued. "If I had been asked to take the penalty, it would not have been a problem."

Juventus travel to London to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League on Tuesday before hosting Atalanta the following Saturday.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice but was unable to rescue Milan as their unbeaten start in Serie A ended with a thrilling 4-3 loss at Fiorentina on Saturday.

The Rossoneri had made their best start to a top-flight season in the three-points-per win era after 12 matches and had a chance to move clear at the top of the table, but ​their 17-game unbeaten run in the league stretching back into last season was halted at Stadio Artemio Franchi.

Joseph Alfred Duncan profited from a calamitous mix-up between Ciprian Tatarusanu and Matteo Gabbia to fire the hosts ahead, before former Milan player Riccardo Saponara curled in a sensational second shortly before half-time.

Dusan Vlahovic extended Fiorentina's advantage, and while Ibrahimovic struck twice in five minutes to set up a tense period, the Serbia international notched his 14th league goal of the season to render Lorenzo Venuti's late own goal nothing more than a consolation.

Milan found themselves behind with 15 minutes played in rather comical circumstances as Tatarusanu spilled a corner and Gabbia attempted to shield the ball for his goalkeeper, but Alfred Duncan got to it first and prodded in from close range. 

Pietro Terracciano frustrated Milan with a couple of impressive stops and Ibrahimovic diverted wide from inside the six-yard box – a miss that would prove costly as Saponara bent a delightful 25-yard shot away from Tatarusanu into the top-right corner.

Vlahovic added a third against the run of play after an hour with a composed finish from a tight angle once played in by Alfred Duncan, but Milan were soon back in the game through Ibrahimovic's double.

The striker profited from a loose Giacomo Bonaventura pass to thump past Terracciano and then turned home Theo Hernandez's cut-back to leave Fiorentina sweating.

Venuti put into his own net deep into added time after Ibrahimovic's header hit the woodwork and ricocheted in off his face, but only after Vlahovic had settled any nerves with his second of the match in the 85th minute.

 

 

Juventus eased to a 2-0 win against Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday to move up to sixth place in Serie A.

A Leonardo Bonucci penalty in each half proved enough for Massimiliano Allegri's side, making it back-to-back wins in the league after they beat Fiorentina 1-0 before the international break.

Lazio were without star striker Ciro Immobile and it showed as the Biancocelesti struggled to create much in the way of chances.

Maurizio Sarri would have been hoping to do better against his former club, with his team now having won just twice in their last seven games in all competitions.

Danilo was forced off with an injury for the visitors after 15 minutes following a strong challenge from Elseid Hysaj, with Dejan Kulusevski replacing the Brazilian.

Juventus had their first penalty in the 22nd minute after Danilo Cataldi was judged to have fouled Alvaro Morata in the box following a VAR review, which Bonucci coolly dispatched past Pepe Reina.

Morata should have made it two just before half-time when Juan Cuadrado lifted a delicate ball into the box, only for the Spain striker's scissor-kick to fly over the bar.

Juve had their second penalty with ten minutes to go after Federico Chiesa rounded Reina, only to be hacked down by the goalkeeper before he could score, and Bonucci made no mistake to seal the win.


What does it mean? Juve back on track

Shortly before the international break there was slight talk of crisis at Juventus. Back-to-back defeats against Sassuolo and Verona saw the Old Lady sitting in ninth place, 16 points off the top of the table.

After victory here, they are temporarily at least up to sixth and have cut Napoli and Milan's lead at the top to 11 points, albeit with both still yet to play this weekend.

They will hope to build on three wins in a row in all competitions when they travel to Chelsea for matchday five of the Champions League in midweek, where a win will confirm them as winners of Group H.

Better week for Bonucci

Bonucci and the rest of his Italian team-mates had an international break to forget, with draws against Switzerland and Northern Ireland meaning that the Azzurri must now go through the play-offs if they are to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.

However, Bonucci's penalties against Lazio not only won the game, but also mean he has scored more Serie A goals than any other defender since the beginning of the last decade (27).

Lazio lack mobility without Immobile

Immobile is one of only four players already with at least 10 goals in the big five European leagues this season, along with Robert Lewandowski, Karim Benzema and Mohamed Salah.

Lazio unsurprisingly missed their talisman here, with only one of their eight shots at goal hitting the target.

What's next?

Lazio face Lokomotiv Moscow in Russia in the Europa League on Thursday, while Juventus travel to Chelsea in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Jose Mourinho believes Andriy Shevchenko has already shown that he can be a success as a head coach in Serie A ahead of his first game in charge of Genoa on Sunday.

The Ukraine legend replaced Davide Ballardini as head coach of the Grifoni two weeks ago after a 2-2 draw at Empoli made it nine games without a win.

Shevchenko's first game in club management sees him hosting Roma and Mourinho, who was at the helm at Chelsea when 'Sheva' arrived at Stamford Bridge as a player in 2006.

The 45-year-old recently left his role in charge of the Ukrainian national team after a quarter-final defeat to England at Euro 2020.

Shevchenko enjoyed a very successful time as a player in Italy, scoring 127 goals in 226 Serie A games for Milan, and Mourinho expressed his hope that he can have success as a manager as well.

"He was an incredible player," Mourinho said at a media conference on Saturday. "This is his first job in club management, but he did really well with Ukraine.

"I think he showed he has ideas, he has leadership... but I hope he loses the first of his club management career, like I did!"

Mourinho will also be looking to improve the fortunes of his own team, with Roma having won just one of their last seven games, and he will be missing several players through injury and COVID-19.

The Giallorossi announced on Saturday that Bryan Cristante and Gonzalo Villar have tested positive for COVID-19, and join injured quartet Matias Vina, Chris Smalling, Riccardo Calafiori and Leonardo Spinazzola on the sidelines.

"We didn't do any training this morning. It will be fun for you to think about how we will play tomorrow," Mourinho said. "The work we've done in the week has to go in the bin a bit.

"It's clear we need to find new solutions and perhaps some players will have to 'sacrifice' themselves in different roles."

The former Real Madrid and Manchester United manager knows the risks that come with playing a team under a new head coach, and believes that factor will make the clash all the more interesting.

"At the very least, it's going to be an entertaining, intriguing game," he added. "The Genoa fans will be up for the game, the players will want to impress the new coach. It's a beautiful stadium and I'm sure it will be a great atmosphere."

Simone Inzaghi is hopeful that Inter can reach an agreement with midfielder Marcelo Brozovic over a new contract.

Croatia international Brozovic is due to become a free agent at the end of the season and has been linked with the likes of Manchester United, Tottenham and Newcastle United.

While Nicolo Barella and Lautaro Martinez have recently signed new deals, fresh terms have yet to be reached with Brozovic as the January transfer window draws nearer.

According to reports from Italy, Inter directors Giuseppe Marotta, Piero Ausilio and Dario Baccin met with the 29-year-old's representatives earlier this week.

Inzaghi was unable to provide an update on Brozovic's future at a news conference on Saturday, but the Inter head coach says his bosses are aware of his thoughts.

"Marcelo is a great footballer," Inzaghi said ahead of Sunday's home clash with Napoli. "He's been here for many years and he's always doing great things.

"Our managers are here every day and they are the ones who discuss these issues. They know what I feel about the player."

Brozovic's importance was clear to see in last term's Scudetto-winning campaign when featuring in 33 of Inter's 38 Serie A games.

He has started all 12 league games this term and ranks first among Inter players for passes (755) and successful passes (696), while only Barella (17) has won more tackles than Brozovic's 11.

 

The former Dinamo Zagreb midfielder is in line to start again when Inter welcome Napoli to San Siro.

Napoli entered the weekend top of Serie A after going unbeaten through their opening 12 matches, with their last league loss coming 22 games ago against Juventus in April.

Reigning champions Inter are seven points behind their opponents and are winless in four league games this season against sides that finished in the top seven last time out.

"It'll be a very important game for our position in the table," said Inzaghi, who has lost seven of his previous 10 managerial matches against Napoli.

"Courage and motivation can make the difference. We have done well in Serie A and the Champions League. 

"We're only two points off our position at this stage last season, but it's also true that Milan and Napoli are having the kind of start we hadn’t seen in Serie A for 40 years.

"We deserved more against Atalanta, Juventus and Milan, only getting three draws, so we need to do more from tomorrow in the head-to-head clashes. The time has come to win these games."

Jesse Lingard's future does not appear to be with current club Manchester United.

Contract talks between Lingard and United have reportedly broken down.

The England international has only played eight times in all competitions this season, starting just once.

 

TOP STORY –  LINGARD SET FOR JANUARY SWITCH

Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard will make a £10million move to West Ham in January, according to The Sun.

The Red Devils are said to be looking to cash in on the 28-year-old England international before he is out of contract at the end of this season.

Lingard impressed during a six-month loan spell with the Hammers in the second half of last season, with nine goals and four assists.

ROUND-UP

- Tottenham are also interested in signing Lingard on a free transfer in the off-season, according to the Daily Express.

- United are prepared to sell Diogo Dalot to Roma in order to facilitate a deal for Atletico Madrid's England full-back Kieran Trippier, claims the Manchester Evening News.

- Marca claims that Real Madrid are ramping up their pursuit of Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger, who is out of contract at the end of this season. Bayern Munich are also said to be tracking the Germany international.

- Promising young Argentina international Julian Alvarez is being monitored by Italian powerhouse pair Juventus and Milan, reports Calciomercato. Alvarez, who has four Argentina caps, is currently with River Plate who will wait until December to evaluate any offers.

Massimiliano Allegri is convinced Italy will make it to the World Cup – but that is the least of his worries as he looks to guide Juventus back into the Scudetto picture.

Juve head coach Allegri takes his side to Lazio on Saturday for what already feels like a highly important game in the context of the season.

Defeats to Sassuolo and Hellas Verona in late October look to have almost scrubbed Juve out of the title frame, and they sit eighth heading into the weekend, already 14 points behind Napoli and Milan. It will take a sharp upturn for them to trouble the early pace-setters.

Lazio are three points better off than Juventus too, and their boss is former Juve head coach Maurizio Sarri, the man who was given the flick by the Turin giants in August 2020 after just one season.

Sarri won the Serie A title in that campaign, but a lack of European success cost him dearly. His successor, Andrea Pirlo, delivered neither, which is why Allegri was summoned to return to the Allianz Stadium top job, having won five league championships in his previous stint.

Italy is consumed by the travails of the Azzurri, with Roberto Mancini's team falling to Earth with a bump after their Euro 2020 success as they failed to earn automatic qualification for the World Cup, with Jorginho's costly missed penalty against Switzerland followed by a draw with Northern Ireland.

They still have a play-off to fall back on, so may well still feature at Qatar 2022, and Allegri spoke about Italy while addressing the focus on putting points on the board.

"Football is good because you can have opinions, you can talk, but in the end it all boils down to the results," he told a news conference on Friday.

"For a missed penalty, they've been massacring them for a week now. We need balance, there are unforeseen events that must be managed, and I believe that in the end they will go to the World Cup."

He is waiting to learn whether Paulo Dybala is available for the trip to Rome, with the Argentine keen to be involved after international duty. Allegri described the forward's calf as "problematic" but did not rule him out.

"It's a nice challenge, two teams that are floating on the edge of fourth place," Allegri said. "It will be a difficult match."

A sketchy 1-0 victory over Fiorentina, secured by Juan Cuadrado's stoppage-time goal after their visitors were reduced to 10 men, sent Juventus into the international break with a win.

 

"Right now, here you just have to do and not think. We are behind in the standings, talking is of no use at all," Allegri added.

"We just have to think about what to do to try slowly to improve in the attacking and defensive phases, as well as in the standings."

Juve have lost only two of their last 33 Serie A games against Lazio, both since 2017 (W24 D7).

Lazio have conceded at least once in their last 16 Serie A home games against the Bianconceri, their longest streak without a clean sheet at home against a single opponent in the top flight.

Sarri has previously spoken of his difficulty in bringing new elements to Juventus' play during his short tenure, but Allegri feels the current crop are malleable enough.

"Maurizio is an excellent coach and here he won a championship," Allegri said. "You'd have to ask him, he said it and not me. For me the teams are all trainable, it depends on the players you have."

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