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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gianluigi Donnarumma is attracting interest from across Europe.

Donnarumma's Milan contract expires at season's end and the star goalkeeper is yet to commit.

Premier League giants Chelsea are reportedly ready to prise the Italy international to London.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA LAUNCH DONNARUMMA BID

Chelsea are ready to make a move for Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, according to Libero Quotidiano.

Donnarumma's contract expires at the end of the season and Premier League giants Chelsea are set to submit an offer worth £9million (€10.5m) per season, despite already boasting the world's most expensive goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga and Edouard Mendy.

The Italy international has also been linked with the likes of Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sky reports teenage sensation Jamal Musiala has signed a long-term contract extension with Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich. The new deal is reportedly worth €5m per year and will tie him to Bayern until 2026.

Manchester City have joined the race for Atalanta star Robin Gosens, according to Virgilio. Gosens has had interest from Serie A rivals Inter and Juventus but Atalanta are understood to want €40m (£34m) for his services.

- The Daily Mail says Leicester City are planning for Jamie Vardy's long-term replacement by targeting a £15m move for Celtic forward Odsonne Edouard.

- Santiago Arias is being circled by EvertonRoma and PSG this off-season, according to Kicker. Arias is currently on loan at Bayer Leverkusen from Atletico Madrid.

- InterLive claims Inter are keen on Juve goalkeeper Mattia Perin, who is currently on loan at Genoa, and may use Matias Vecino in exchange. The Nerazzurri are looking for goalkeeper cover for Samir Handanovic.

Inter head coach Antonio Conte believes Alexis Sanchez is in his best condition since he joined the club, while the Chilean has compared himself to a "caged tiger".

Sanchez followed up his goal in the Nerazzurri's weekend win over Genoa with a vital brace in the 2-1 triumph at Parma on Thursday. 

The result moved Inter six points clear of Milan at the Serie A summit after Stefano Pioli's side were held to a 1-1 draw by Udinese on Wednesday. 

Sanchez spent last season on loan at Inter from Manchester United, but only managed four goals across all competitions. 

He is up to five this term despite largely playing second fiddle to Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez.

While acknowledging that those two are still his preferred partnership in attack, Conte stressed the importance of having a firing Sanchez waiting in the wings. 

"He is in the best condition we've ever seen him at the moment," the Inter boss told Sky Sport Italia.

"He knows only hard work will take him to a certain level, and now Romelu and Lautaro know that Sanchez is right behind them too. 

"It's important for us to create these situations with competition for places.

"Don't forget for a year-and-a-half we had to carry on with just Lukaku and Lautaro, nobody else. We had Sebastiano Esposito last season, he's now in Serie B at Venezia."

Sanchez agreed with Conte's assessment of his condition and said he is eager for more playing time. 

"I am a player with a lot of experience, the coach trusts me and I am happy," he said. 

"I always want to play and be at 100 per cent. I feel like a caged lion and the more I play, the better I feel. That's always been the case since I started playing football.

"I love this sport. I love playing, and the more I play, the better I feel. We've all made sacrifices, worked hard, watched videos, studied, trained and every day learned something new."

The win over Parma means Inter have now claimed 59 points or more from the opening 25 games of a Serie A season for the fourth time in the three-points-for-a-win era. 

They won the title in the previous three (2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09), yet Conte is refusing to get carried away and warned his side against losing their focus.

"We are in a very good position, certainly a vast improvement from last season, but we also know every game is a battle and we can drop points against anyone," he added. "That is why we must never underestimate any opponent.

"We want to do our best. If our best means we are here at the end of the season, we'll be very happy and proud, because it'll mean we've made incredible leaps forward in a very short period of time."

Inter are next in action on Monday when they host Atalanta.

Inter moved six points clear at the Serie A summit as a brace from Alexis Sanchez sealed a 2-1 win away at struggling Parma on Thursday.   

Scudetto rivals Milan were held to a 1-1 draw by Udinese on Wednesday and Antonio Conte's side took full advantage of that slip up to move closer to a first league title since the 2009-10 campaign.   

Sanchez, who scored in the weekend win over Genoa, set Inter on their way to a sixth consecutive top-flight win with his fourth league goal of the campaign nine minutes into the second half.   

The former Manchester United player added another eight minutes later as Inter, who gave the hosts hope of salvaging a draw when Hernani scored 19 minutes from full time, claimed yet another three points to pull away from their neighbours at the top of the table.

Parma carved out the first clear sight of goal in the contest, Samir Handanovic pawing away Jasmin Kurtic's header in the 15th minute.   

A sluggish Inter did not have a shot on target until the 33rd minute when Milan Skriniar's effort inside the six-yard box was well kept out by Luigi Sepe.   

The Parma goalkeeper then thwarted Romelu Lukaku after he had been played in by Marcelo Brozovic, while the Belgium international also headed wide before the interval.   

However, Inter started the second half brightly and went ahead in the 54th minute when Sanchez's strike from eight yards proved too powerful for Sepe, creeping over the line before Riccardo Gagliolo could clear.   

The Chile international claimed his second in the 62nd minute, sliding his finish past an exposed Sepe after a barnstorming run from Lukaku created the opportunity for his team-mate.   

Hernani set up a tense finale with a controlled volley from 10 yards from Giuseppe Pezzella's cross in the 71st minute, yet Inter held on to take another significant step towards the title.

Juventus have announced midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur has tested positive for COVID-19.

The Uruguay international – who played the entire match as Juve defeated Spezia 3-0 in Serie A action on Tuesday – is asymptomatic, as confirmed by the club on Thursday.

Bentancur is now isolating and seemingly certain to miss Saturday's league game against Lazio in Turin.

"The club is in contact with the relevant health authorities for the definition of an effective implementation of the protocols required to allow the training and competition activities of the team group," Juventus said in a statement.

The 23-year-old's positive test also makes him a major doubt for the upcoming return leg of the last-16 Champions League tie against Porto.

Juve lost 2-1 in the first meeting, with the reverse fixture to take place next Tuesday.

Bentancur has made 33 appearances in all competitions this season, including 18 starts in the league for Andrea Pirlo's side.

Erling Haaland continues to dominate headlines.

The Borussia Dortmund sensation is one of the most sought-after players in Europe.

Manchester City and Real Madrid are reportedly going head-to-head to sign the Norwegian.

 

TOP STORY – AGUERO OUT, HAALAND IN?

Manchester City want to sign Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland as a replacement for veteran forward Sergio Aguero, according to Bild.

Aguero, who has been hampered by injury this season, is out of contract at the end of the current campaign.

Haaland is a player in demand, having been linked to Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Liverpool, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich.

But Haaland dominates the front pages of Thursday's Marca, Diario AS and Mundo Deportivo in Spain amid Madrid's interest.

The Norway international reportedly wants to listen to Madrid, who will need €150million to prise Haaland to the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato reports Lyon star Houssem Aouar remains on the radar of Juventus. Aouar has previously been linked with the Serie A champions, as well as Arsenal.

Chelsea are interested in Monaco's defensive midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni, claims ESPN.

- O Jogo says Liverpool could reignite their interest in Sporting CP defender Nuno Mendes. Juve, Madrid and Milan have also been tracking the 18-year-old, who has a £60m (€70m) release clause.

Edinson Cavani is open to extending his United contract, according to Fabrizio Romano. Cavani joined United as a free agent on a one-year deal at the start of the season. The former PSG star has been linked with Boca Juniors.

Stefano Pioli did not see any shortage of commitment from his Milan side in the 1-1 Serie A draw with Udinese, but conceded the quality was lacking.

Franck Kessie scored a 97th-minute penalty with the last kick of Wednesday's encounter at San Siro, as Milan's title hopes took another hit – Inter now have the chance to move six points clear should they beat Parma on Thursday.

Milan's equaliser came courtesy of a remarkable error from Jens Stryger Larsen, who inexplicably handled in the area as Udinese looked to see out what would have been just a second away win in their last eight league matches on the road.

The Rossoneri were without their talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is set to miss up to three weeks with a thigh injury, and Milan head coach Pioli acknowledged his team were missing the "characteristics" the 39-year-old brings, while also bemoaning Mario Mandzukic's absence.

"We wanted to win, it's a shame," Pioli told DAZN. "We knew that it would be difficult against a team with everyone behind the ball.

"I saw determination and a lack of clarity. There was a lack of quality and rhythm, not anger and determination.

"We start again as always with the next match. Each game has its own story. On Sunday we found an opponent who wanted to play, Udinese instead play this [defensive] type of game.

"Today we lacked the right characteristics to face this type of match, we lacked the two real strikers in the squad. [Rafael] Leao and [Ante] Rebic have other characteristics.

"Now we must try to resume our run. A half positive result, let's think about the next game."

Leao and Rebic both struggled to assert themselves against Udinese's three-man defence.

Rebic – the second-highest scorer in Serie A in the back half of the season (since January 29), behind Inter's Romelu Lukaku – failed to have an attempt on goal or create a chance, while Leao only tested Juan Musso with a tame flick late in the first half.

Pioli did not look to single out his attackers, however, though he acknowledged Leao in particular has a lot to add to his game.

"I always expect a lot from my players," Pioli said. "Rafa has characteristics more suited for attacking spaces.

"When he finds a closed defence, he still doesn't have the shrewdness to anticipate the defender."

Ibrahimovic was watching on from close to the bench and was seen looking disgruntled at Milan's display.

"We didn't come out of this game satisfied, he's like everyone else," Pioli explained.

The good news for Milan is that, in Kessie, they have a midfielder on 10 goals in all competitions this season, though nine of them have come from the penalty spot.

Kessie's cool finish, timed at 96:20 was the latest Milan have scored in Serie A since 2017, while the Ivory Coast international has now netted 25 league goals in total for the Rossoneri – matching Robinho's tally.

Franck Kessie's penalty salvaged a last-gasp point for Milan against Udinese at San Siro but Zlatan Ibrahimovic's absence was felt as the Rossoneri's title hopes took another blow in a 1-1 draw.

Leading scorer Ibrahimovic is set to miss up to three weeks with a thigh injury and on Wednesday's evidence Milan could struggle to cope.

With leaders Inter in action on Thursday, Milan would have moved to within a point of their city rivals with a victory, yet a mistake from Gianluigi Donnarumma looked set to cost them.

Rodrigo Becao's 68th-minute header found its way past the Italy goalkeeper, but Jens Stryger Larsen's inexplicable handball enabled Kessie to rescue a point from the penalty spot with the last kick of the game.

Juventus have completed the permanent signing of Weston McKennie from Schalke for a further initial fee of €18.5million.

The United States international signed on a season-long loan for a fee of €4.5m last August.

The 22-year-old has impressed in his first few months with the Serie A champions, scoring five goals in 31 appearances in all competitions, including in the 3-0 Champions League win away to Barcelona.

His five goals in Serie A have already made him the leading American scorer in the history of Italy's top flight.

On Wednesday, Juve announced McKennie had signed a four-year contract. The €18.5m will be paid to Schalke over three years and could rise by a further €6.5m in variables.

"Weston McKennie's adventure with the Juventus shirt started very well and, as they say, the numbers don't lie," Juve said in announcing the deal.

"Wes has proven to be a very important resource for coach [Andrea] Pirlo, having already put his signature on important performances and goals. It's impossible not to think about his goal against Barcelona at Camp Nou, or the one in the Derby della Mole – his first in the black and white jersey.

"It's also important to note that he is also the youngest midfielder in this league with at least four goals, as well as the best American scorer in Serie A history. In six of the goals he has actively participated in (four goals and two assists), Juventus have always won.

"It's because of this, that as of today, he has become an outright Juventus player, with the club having made the move permanent from Schalke."

Could Gianluigi Donnarumma swap Milan for London?

Donnarumma's future with Serie A outfit Milan is far from certain as he prepares to become a free agent.

While Chelsea already boast Edouard Mendy and Kepa Arrizabalaga in their goalkeeping ranks, the Premier League giants are reportedly interested in Donnarumma.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA EYE DONNARUMMA

Chelsea are monitoring Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma amid his contract situation at San Siro, according to Eurosport.

Donnarumma is out of contract at season's end and while Milan have been discussing a new deal, the Italy star is yet to commit to the Serie A club.

The 22-year-old has already been linked with the likes of Manchester United, Juventus, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain.

 

ROUND-UP

- Diario AS reports PSG are fighting Real Madrid to sign Bayern star David Alaba. The Austria international will leave Bayern on a free transfer at season's end and while he has been tipped to join Madrid, PSG remain keen on him, along with Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea.

Inter have reached a "handshake agreement" with Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, claims Sport Mediaset. The Netherlands international, whose contract expires at the end of June, has been linked to Barcelona.

- Borussia Dortmund are increasingly resigned to losing star forward Erling Haaland at the end of the season as they turn to Sevilla's Youssef En-Nesyri, says Eurosport. Haaland is one of the most sought-after players in Europe, wanted by City, United, Madrid, Barca, PSG, Chelsea, Liverpool and others.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic declared "I have been the best on this stage" as the Milan star made his controversial debut at the Sanremo festival.

Ibrahimovic has been criticised for attending the music event, which spans four days, while Milan fight for the Serie A title.

It also comes as the 39-year-old forward nurses an injury, forcing him to miss Wednesday's clash against Udinese at San Siro after exiting Sunday's win away to Roma.

But Ibrahimovic looked comfortable on Tuesday, stepping out on stage as co-presenter while joking with fellow presenter Amadeus.

"It is an honour to be here, but also an honour for you to have me here," Milan's top goalscorer Ibrahimovic told Amadeus.

"Normally I feel big, powerful, but here I feel small. Still bigger and more powerful than you, though."

Ibrahimovic added: "First of all, there will be 22 singers in the competition, 11 against 11, otherwise it's not right.

"Seeing as there are 26, sell four of the singers, I hear Liverpool are looking for players. If not, put them in the garden and I'll get them working.

"The second rule is about the stage. It's too small, made for small people like you. I need the stage to be 105 metres by 68 metres, like the pitch at San Siro.

"No stress, don't worry, as long as Zlatan is here, everything will be fine. Zlatan's Festival lasts 90 minutes plus stoppages.

"I have been the best on this stage. Not just tonight, but of all time."

Ibrahimovic has scored 14 Serie A goals this season – only Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo (19) and Romelu Lukaku (18) have managed more – as Milan sit second in the table, four points behind leaders Inter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alvaro Morata scored within a minute of coming on as a substitute to help Juventus to a 3-0 win over Spezia at the Allianz Stadium on Tuesday.

The Spain striker struck just after the hour mark before Federico Chiesa's improvised finish and a late Cristiano Ronaldo strike secured an important three points for the Serie A champions.

Having been held to a draw by Hellas Verona last time out, this was an important match for Andrea Pirlo's men, although they looked far from their best in a frustrating first-half performance.

The introduction of Morata helped to turn the tide as Juve moved to within seven points of Inter and three of second-placed Milan, with Ronaldo's effort making the Portugal star the first player to score 20 goals in each of the past 12 seasons in Europe's top-five leagues.

Riccardo Marchizza nearly caught Juve cold seven minutes in, turning and shooting just wide of the left post following Diego Farias' pass.

There was little Juve threat to speak of until Ronaldo, making his 600th career league appearance, smashed a strike off the base of the post three minutes before the break.

The home side's best work was coming down the left, Weston McKennie almost capitalising on a loose backpass and Dejan Kulusevski sending over a cross that Ronaldo could not meet with conviction.

Spezia did not heed the warning and substitutes Federico Bernardeschi and Morata combined from that same position, the latter finishing at the near post and the goal awarded after a VAR review.

With Morata keeping the Spezia defence busy, Kulusevski found Chiesa in the box and, after his initial shot was saved, he expertly hooked in the rebound for 2-0.

Ronaldo was frustrated by goalkeeper Ivan Provedel from a free-kick but left the keeper with no chance, netting a crisp finish a minute from the end of normal time.

Wojciech Szczesny did not have a save to make until the final kick of the match, when he pushed away Andrej Galabinov's tame penalty to deny the visitors a consolation.

Lazio turned up for a Serie A clash with Torino on Tuesday, but their opponents stayed away in a move that looks set to trigger a fresh dispute over how Italian football is handling the coronavirus crisis.

The Stadio Olimpico fixture had an early evening kick-off, scheduled for 18:30 local time, and home side Lazio duly arrived, with coach Simone Inzaghi announcing a team for the game.

That was already in the knowledge, however, that Torino would not be present to provide the opposition, having stayed in Turin on the advice of their local health authority after a COVID-19 outbreak.

Torino's home match against Sassuolo, due to take place last Friday, was postponed because of those cases becoming apparent.

However, Lega Serie A decided the Lazio game should go ahead, despite Italian Football Federation (FIGC) president Gabriele Gravina declaring it was an "objective impossibility" to get the match on.

Gravina, quoted in La Gazzetta dello Sport, said he understood Torino's situation to be "a full-blown force majeure" and not a spur-of-the-moment decision not to travel to Rome for the game. League chiefs, however, were not as obviously sympathetic.

A string of training sessions were postponed by Torino last week. At around the time Lazio published their team sheet for Tuesday's game, Torino posted a training update, saying players had been working individually because of the restrictions imposed by local authorities.

The Corriere dello Sport newspaper said referee Marco Piccinini declared the game abandoned at 19:15 in Rome, adding that two Lazio players were called for routine doping tests despite the fixture not being played.

It remains to be seen what steps Lega Serie A takes next, but there has been a precedent of sorts this season, when Napoli were barred from travelling to Turin to face Juventus in October.

League chiefs had turned down a request to call off the game and awarded a 3-0 victory to Juventus, also docking Napoli one point. However, the Naples side appealed to the Italian Olympic Committee's Collegio di Garanzia dello Sport - the highest sporting court in the land - and overturned the Lega Serie A decision. That game will be replayed, with March 17 reportedly a possible date.

Lazio sporting director Igli Tare told Sky Sport Italia ahead of Tuesday's intended kick-off time: "I could say many things, but I keep them to myself.

"We respected the rules and we came to the stadium. Now we will wait 45 minutes, then we will leave everything in the hands of the competent bodies.

"Would I have preferred to play? Absolutely yes."

Tare said it was not important whether he understood Torino's point of view.

"I just have to respect the rules of the Lega," he said. "We know how things stand. We are here and this is the only thing that matters."

Ante Rebic has been passed fit to partner Rafael Leao up front but it remains to be seen if Alessio Romagnoli will start when injury-hit Milan face Udinese in Serie A on Wednesday.

Rebic scored the winner in the Rossoneri's 2-1 victory over Roma on Sunday before being withdrawn due to injury.

Milan head coach Pioli says the Croatia international will be ready to start against Udinese and Leao will take his place in the team after coming off the bench at the weekend to replace Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Asked about Rebic's fitness, Pioli said: "He's fine, he can start against Udinese. On Sunday he played a great match, his characteristics are important for us. There is no doubt about his qualities."

Pioli said following the much-needed win over Roma that he suspected Ibrahimovic, who is appearing at the Sanremo music festival, was weary rather than wounded and the talismanic striker will not face Luca Gotti's men.

Milan are taking no risks over Ibrahimovic's fitness, with a Europa League showdown against his former club Manchester United to come next week.

Hakan Calhanoglu will also miss the encounter with Udinese, which second-placed Milan will start knowing a victory would leave them just a point behind leaders Inter, while Ismael Bennacer and Mario Mandzukic are expected to return next week.

Leao has not scored since January 9, but Pioli has full faith in the 21-year-old.

"Up until a few days ago we talked about an improved Leao and inside the game," he said. "I'm satisfied with Leao, tomorrow he will start from the beginning.

"From a mental point of view he is ready, he has grown a lot."

Captain Romagnoli was left out of the starting line-up at Stadio Olimpico and Pioli refused to be drawn on whether the defender will be restored to the side.

"The matches are all important but also different, for me to be able to choose is great luck," Pioli said. "Only tomorrow morning we will try the starting eleven, we will choose the most suitable team and the best players."

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