Stefano Pioli has revealed the referee apologised after ruling out what should have been a valid Milan goal in Monday's defeat to Spezia.

The Rossoneri slumped to a shock 2-1 loss as Emmanuel Gyasi scored with almost the final kick of a thriller at San Siro.

Title rivals Inter drew 0-0 with Atalanta on Sunday, but Milan failed to claim a win that would have sent them to the Serie A summit.

The hosts dominated the first half and took a deserved lead through Rafael Leao, just after Theo Hernandez had missed a penalty.

Yet their profligacy cost them in the second half when Kevin Agudelo equalised.

 

Milan were then left furious as Junior Messias' fine late effort was struck off due to a premature whistle from referee Marco Serra, who had blown up for a foul on Ante Rebic.

Serra appeared to realise his mistake, though that did nothing to appease Milan, who subsequently hit the bar through Zlatan Ibrahimovic only for Gyasi to snatch a last-gasp winner on the counter.

While Pioli was keen to point out the official's error, he acknowledged Milan did not control the game well enough.

"I tried to calm my players down, but I didn't manage as Spezia's goal proves," he told DAZN.

"We knew it was an injustice, we have ourselves to blame, but we share responsibility with the referee.

"I am sorry to say that. He even apologised, maybe that wasn't even a fault. It's a shame.

"However, we should have scored more goals in the first half. It's a bad night and we must react now."

 

Milan had 25 attempts in total, with eight on target. It was the most shots they have managed in a Serie A defeat since December 2017 against Verona (31).

Leao was a standout performer with four shots and as many key passes, while Ibrahimovic, making his 150th league appearance for the club, had a team-leading eight efforts.

"We could have won the game, somehow we lost," said Pioli, whose side finished the match with an expected goals (xG) value of 2.5.

"We knew we had a good chance, Leao's goal should have given us self-confidence, we failed to seal a win that we strongly wanted, but the season is still long."

Milan remain second, two points behind Inter and one ahead of Napoli in third, with Juventus next up on Sunday.

Milan slumped to a shock 2-1 defeat to Spezia as Emmanuel Gyasi scored with almost the final kick of a thriller at San Siro.

Title rivals Inter drew 0-0 with Atalanta on Sunday, but Milan could not take advantage the following day as Spezia came from behind in incredible fashion.

Rafael Leao put Milan ahead after Theo Hernandez's penalty miss, but Kevin Agudelo levelled midway through the second half.

Milan were furious when Junior Messias' fine late effort was struck off due to a premature whistle from the referee, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic then hitting the crossbar.

And Gyasi had the final say, slotting home in the 96th minute to sensationally earn Spezia's first league win at San Siro.

Spezia recorded a Serie A first as they dealt a blow to Napoli's title challenge by securing a shock 1-0 victory at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on Wednesday. 

Juan Jesus' own goal was the difference in Naples, with Spezia becoming the first side to win a Serie A match without registering a shot on target since Opta started collecting the data in the 2004-05 season. 

Napoli's third straight home league defeat saw them slip behind Milan – who Luciano Spalletti's side beat 1-0 at the weekend – and into third, with the gap to leaders Inter now standing at seven points. 

The hosts were unable to convert with any of their 26 efforts on goal, with Hirving Lozano seeing a goal chalked off for offside and Andrea Petagna adjudged to have committed a foul before heading the ball home. 

Napoli have now fired 66 shots in their past three Serie A games and only scored once – Eljif Elmas' goal in the victory over Milan. 

Paul Pogba's club future continues to be a major topic of speculation.

The 28-year-old is into the final year of his Manchester United contract.

Pogba has flirted with the idea of an extension but has been stalling on a decision.

 

TOP STORY – REAL AND PSG HOME IN ON POGBA

Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain are both ready to ramp up the race to sign Paul Pogba from Manchester United, claims Marca.

Pogba is running down his United contract, meaning he will be a free agent in mid-2022.

Real and PSG will rekindle their interest after new United interim manager Ralf Rangnick said Pogba should not need to be convinced to stay.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United forward Edinson Cavani has offered his services to Juventus, according to Calciomercato. The Uruguayan veteran has also been linked with Barcelona.

- Barcelona are plotting moves for Chelsea's trio Cesar Azpilicueta, Christian Pulisic and Antonio Rudiger, reports Mundo Deportivo.

- Milan are circling to sign Liverpool's super-sub Divock Origi as they seek a long-term replacement for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, claims Tuttomercato. Atalanta are also interested.

- Calciomercato reports that Roma are considering a move for Spezia midfielder Jiulio Maggiore. The 23-year-old is out of contract in 2023 and valued at €8m (£6.8m).

- Roma are also interested in a move for Norwich City's Max Aarons, according to Corriere dello Sport. Tottenham and Everton are also in the race.

- Lyon are interested in a move for Villarreal's Arnaut Danjuma, claims Todofichajes. Manchester United and Barcelona are also tracking the ex-Bournemouth winger.

Inter saw off Spezia 2-0 at San Siro to make it three Serie A wins in a row under Simone Inzaghi for the first time.

The in-form hosts defeated leaders Napoli and lowly Venezia in their previous two league outings and were good value for their latest victory at home to Spezia.

Roberto Gagliardini rounded off a nice team move to give Inzaghi's men a half-time lead and Lautaro Martinez, who created the opener, doubled his side's tally from the penalty spot to seal the victory.

Inter climb two points above Milan in second and within a point of Napoli, but those two teams are in action later on Wednesday against Genoa and Sassuolo respectively.

Spezia had lost each of their last four away games, conceding 14 goals in the process, but they held firm until unlikely scorer Gagliardini made a breakthrough after 36 minutes.

Danilo D'Ambrosio played the ball inside to Martinez, who flicked it into the path of Gagliardini to sweep away from Ivan Provedel into the bottom-left corner.

Samir Handanovic was required to keep out a Kelvin Amian header before half-time, though Inter gave themselves some breathing space just short of the hour mark.

Having already rattled the crossbar with a powerful drive, Martinez's next shot hit Jakub Kiwior on the arm and the forward made no mistake in converting the resulting spot-kick.

That made it goals in each of his last three league games for Martinez and, while neither he nor his team-mates could add to the scoring, Inter saw out a routine victory.

 

Daniel Maldini struggled to describe the feeling of scoring his first goal for Milan as he revealed the "demanding" but positive relationship he has with his father Paolo.

The youngster started his first Serie A game on Saturday against Spezia, 12 years and 117 days after his father, a legendary figure at San Siro, last appeared in a league game for the Rossoneri, and opened the scoring with a second-half header.

Brahim Diaz's late goal cancelled out Daniele Verdi's deflected equaliser to move Milan to 16 points from their first six games, just the third time they have achieved the feat in the three points for a win era.

However, much of the post-match focus was on Maldini, who became the third generation of his family to score for the club, 13 years and 179 days after Paolo's last league goal and 60 years and 22 days since his grandfather Cesare's final strike.

Paolo, who is also a director at Milan, was shown celebrating in the crowd by television cameras after his son's opener and the 19-year-old assured the pair share a good relationship.

"Dad is very demanding, he gives me advice and helps me," Maldini said before discussing the emotions that followed his 48th-minute finish.

"Those were good times," he continued. "I was excited even though I was calm. The teammates help me a lot and the coach too. We took home the three points and this is important."

Milan temporarily top Serie A, thanks in part to Maldini's strike and the fact Napoli play on Sunday, as they prepare to visit Atalanta next weekend.

Maldini will be hoping to star once more if he gets the nod from Stefano Pioli as he admitted he never imagined his first goal arriving in the fashion it did.

"Well, I tried to imagine how it would arrive but not the actual play itself," he told Milan's official website when asked if he had dreamed about the moment.

"It's indescribable, I still have to let it sink in.

"Fortunately, it ended up this way. It's true it felt weird to score with a header but the outcome was great."

Stefano Pioli hailed Milan's improved mental strength as they edged past Spezia 2-1 on Saturday. 

Daniel Maldini opened the scoring on his first Serie A start, 12 years and 117 days after his father Paolo's last Rossoneri appearance, before Brahim Diaz's late winner came after Daniele Verde's deflected equaliser. 

The visitors lost the same fixture 2-0 last term and when Verde's left-footed strike made it beyond goalkeeper Mike Maignan, it looked like Milan would drop points in the early stages of the title race. 

However, Diaz proved the hero to propel Milan to 16 points in the competition after six games for just the third time in the three points for a win era, with Pioli delighted at his side's response in the face of adversity. 

"It’s a great victory, because we played well, but not very well, and getting the result anyway shows mental strength," Pioli told DAZN in his post-match interview. 

"This is a young squad, but they believe in themselves, in the team and in our approach to football. We must not lose our humility, but it’s only right they feel able to handle certain pressure and win any game. 

"The pressure and expectations have increased around us this season, but we are showing that we can handle that." 

Indeed, Maldini's winner made him the third generation of his family to score for the Rossoneri, 13 years and 179 days after Paolo's last league goal and 60 years and 22 days since his grandfather Cesare's final strike for the club.

And Pioli, who handed Maldini his first start as he was without a host of names, including Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Tiemoue Bakayoko, was impressed with the youngster. 

"The important thing about Daniel [Maldini] is that he has talent," the Milan boss said. 

"He has technique, a good vision of the game, but needs to be quicker and more intensive in shaking off his marker. 

"[Mehdi] Bourabia was keeping tight to him and all he needed was another couple of metres to get away from his marker and open up those spaces." 

Daniel Maldini was on target in his first Serie A start as Milan relied on Brahim Diaz's late winner to edge past Spezia 2-1 on Saturday.

Maldini, son of Italy and Rossoneri legend Paolo, enjoyed a dream maiden top-flight start as he headed Stefano Pioli's side into the lead after the interval at the Alberto Picco Stadium.

However, Daniele Verde's deflected effort levelled things up with just over 10 minutes to go before Diaz restored the visitors' lead in the closing stages.

Milan banished their demons from the shock 2-0 defeat in this fixture last term to move a point clear at the summit, though the chasing pack do have a game in hand.

M'Bala Nzola tested Mike Maignan twice early on, first from range and then from distance, but the Milan goalkeeper parried both away before Theo Hernandez whipped a free-kick narrowly wide.

Ante Rebic should have opened the scoring from Sandro Tonali's corner but his free header was wayward as Milan failed to make their 62 per cent first-half possession pay.

However, Maldini – appearing 12 years and 117 days after his father Paolo's last league appearance – powered a header home three minutes after the break from Pierre Kalulu's delivery to open the scoring.

Rafael Leao – one of Piolo's two-half time changes – looked to have added a second but he was denied by the right-hand post before Giulio Maggiore turned over from point-blank range following Simone Bastoni's teasing cross.

Leao again went close moments later as he dragged an effort wide to the right and Milan's failure to kill the game off came back to haunt them.

Verde twisted and turned before firing a low left-footed strike, which hit Tonali and left Maignan powerless to stop Spezia from drawing level in the closing stages.

Diaz proved the late hero as he ghosted into the area to turn home Alexis Saelemaker's low delivery and secure the win for Milan.

Massimiliano Allegri said Juventus still have plenty of room for improvement after sealing their first win of the Serie A season against Spezia on Wednesday.

The Bianconeri were hoping to avoid going five games without a victory at the start of an Italian top-flight season for the first time since 1955-56, and they started well at Stadio Alberto Picco, Moise Kean putting them ahead before the half-hour mark.

Spezia responded in barnstorming fashion, though, and went ahead thanks to goals from Emmanuel Gyasi and Janis Antiste.

Juve, who had picked up just two points from their opening four games, ensured a first victory of the domestic campaign, however, through the impressive Federico Chiesa and Matthijs de Ligt.

Victory will ensure some time out of the spotlight for Juve's under-fire players, but Allegri suggested he will not be going easy on them.

"Luckily we won a match while suffering," he told DAZN. "Otherwise we might have thought we did well and there was nothing more to do.

"There are many things to improve. We have players who must do better in their decisions of the last pass, when to shoot on the target.

"Today we won an important match. We have to get out of the comfort zone, football is made up of suffering and fatigue.

"We don't have to look at the table. We try to put our first win next to the first at home against Sampdoria (this weekend).

"There are players who have important qualities and who need to improve.

"[Weston] McKennie, for example, should have scored at least four goals and those chances make the difference."

 

While Juve impressed in attack, taking a whopping 25 shots, they looked anything but secure at the back.

They have now conceded in their last 19 league games, while it is only the second time in the past 60 seasons they have let in eight goals in their first five Serie A games.

De Ligt acknowledged that he needs to improve, while the Netherlands international hopes a first win of the season will act as a springboard for Juve to climb the table.

"I always need to improve," he said. "It's normal to receive criticism. I have had a lot, for me it's not that important. I just have to work to improve.

"At Juventus we have to win all the games. Now we must start a new championship with these three points.

"Game after game, we will see how it will be. I'm happy with the points won today. We always play together, those on the pitch and those on the bench and it's very important.

"Even those who entered in the second half did very well."

Matthijs de Ligt scored the decisive goal as Juventus came from behind to beat Spezia 3-2 and belatedly claim their first Serie A win of the season.

Failure to seal maximum points at Stadio Alberto Picco would have seen the Bianconeri go five games without a victory at the start of an Italian top-flight season for the first time since 1955-56.

Massimiliano Allegri's side went ahead through Moise Kean's first goal since he rejoined his boyhood club from Everton, yet Spezia stormed back through Emmanuel Gyasi and Janis Antiste either side of half-time.

Federico Chiesa restored parity with a fine goal, though, before De Ligt ensured a much-needed first win of the campaign with 18 minutes remaining.

The Bianconeri had deservedly taken the lead shortly before the half-hour mark, with Kean collecting Adrien Rabiot's knockdown and firing in off Jeroen Zoet's right-hand post from 18 yards.

It took the hosts just five minutes to respond, however, as Gyasi cut in from the left and fired across Wojciech Szczesny courtesy of a slight deflection.

Paulo Dybala forced a fingertip save from Zoet soon after – one of 11 first-half Juve attempts to Spezia's two – but the visitors fell behind four minutes after the interval when Antiste jinked inside Leonardo Bonucci after a swift counter-attack and clipped past Szczesny.

Zoet denied Kean and Dybala, as Juve desperately tried to claw their way back into the game, and the pressure told in the 66th minute when Chiesa fired in after superbly finding his way through the Spezia defence. 

De Ligt then lifted some of the clouds that had begun to gather over the Turin giants, powering past Zoet after a corner had fallen kindly to him, much to the relief of Allegri.

Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri has demanded his team win at last in Serie A as they bid to avoid their worst five-game start to a season for 66 years.

Allegri takes Juve to Spezia on Wednesday, having snatched just two points from his first four league games in charge, a far cry from what he was looking for on his return to the top job.

Juventus have only once begun a Serie A season without winning any of their opening five fixtures, and that was in the 1955-56 season.

This is the fourth time they have strung together four without a victory at the start of a campaign, and Allegri called on his players to make sure the wait goes on no longer.

"Our technical qualities will have to come out in the long run," Allegri said. "We have to win, and then we will begin to see things differently.

"At this moment, talking about long-term goals makes no sense, the only thing to do is to beat Spezia. We have to take it one step at a time."

Juventus looked like winning game four of their domestic campaign as Alvaro Morata gave them an early lead against Milan on Sunday, but Ante Rebic equalised late on to secure a 1-1 draw.

Consequently, Juve sat third-bottom heading into the midweek games and will face a Spezia side buoyed by a first win of the campaign at the weekend, away at Venezia.

 

Allegri returned to begin a second spell as head coach in the close season, replacing the sacked Andrea Pirlo, but it has been far from smooth sailing so far.

"Compared to the match against Milan there will be some changes," Allegri told a news conference, ahead of the trip to Spezia. "We're playing every three days and some players will have played six to seven matches in a row between the national team and Juventus. Spezia won in Venice by creating a lot of chances, they are a carefree team that play without excessive worries. Playing in their stadium is not easy."

Allegri said his team are "still making too many technical mistakes" and pointed to them failing to win a string of loose balls midway through the Milan game.

The "feverish" Giorgio Chiellini misses out for Juve, but Allegri confirmed Matthijs de Ligt and Federico Chiesa, substitutes against Milan, would start.

He wants to see more from Chiesa, who shone for Italy at Euro 2020 but has had a shaky start for his club this term.

In the second year of his loan from Fiorentina, Chiesa has played just 100 minutes and started only one domestic league game so far in 2021-22, creating two chances for others and having three shots, each of which went on target.

He awaits a first goal or assist in Serie A this season, having managed nine in each column last term.

"He must understand how to manage himself for 90 minutes, when to accelerate and when to brake," Allegri said. "And we all have to grow. So do I.

"You don't need to hammer the players. You need to understand what to do to grow. We are working together to reach important goals, both at the level of team results and personal growth."

Antonio Conte believes "sport must be meritocratic" but called on UEFA to reflect after the European Super League project Inter signed up to crumbled.

Inter were among the 12 teams from Serie A, the Premier League and LaLiga to on Sunday back the formation of a breakaway tournament.

However, following widespread criticism, the plans fell apart on Tuesday as clubs opted to pull out in the wake of significant backlash from supporters, politicians and the media.

The Nerazzurri announced prior to their Serie A meeting with Spezia on Wednesday they would no longer be taking part in the Super League.

Conte is confident the club have made the right decision, but he urged UEFA to understand why the teams wanted to step away from the Champions League.

"As a sporting man, I think we mustn't ever forget tradition. This is history and it should be respected," Conte told Sky Sport Italia.

"We mustn't forget the passion for sport, and sport must be meritocratic. We work to win and to earn something. Meritocracy must always be first and foremost.

"Having said that, everything that happened shows it's only right that UEFA reflect too. They organise tournaments, take all the revenue and reserve only a minimal part of that for the teams who are actually taking part in these tournaments.

"The players are squeezed like lemons with this packed fixture list and get very little for it. The organisations need to consider better remuneration. Clubs invest in coaches and players, so they deserve some of the revenue they help to generate.

"If you get 10 from rights and keep seven of it for yourself, giving out just three to everybody else, that's not really fair. I think the split needs to be reconsidered."

UEFA announced on Monday that a new format for the Champions League would come into effect in 2024, with the competition expanding to accommodate 36 teams.

Instead of being split into groups, qualifying clubs will be part of a single league and play a minimum of 10 games rather than six.

Asked for his opinion of the new set-up, Conte replied: "I haven't really reflected on the format. It doesn't matter how many teams are in there, the important thing is that there is meritocracy, otherwise sport loses its meaning.

"Meritocracy is the most important thing, but also the organisations including those who run the international fixtures need to consider spreading out the resources a little better."

Inter were held to a 1-1 draw at Spezia but extended their lead at the top of Serie A to 10 points due to Milan's 2-1 home defeat to Sassuolo earlier in the day.

"Pressure is inevitable, and let's not forget that many players are challenging for something important for the first time. They are doing very well and I think we could easily have deserved the win," said Conte.

"I was happy with the intensity of the performance, though we could've had more quality in the final third, which is why we're talking about a draw rather than a win.

"There are fewer rounds left. We can see the finish line and the pressure is taking its toll.

"We used up a lot of energy and have another physical game coming up against [Hellas] Verona [on Sunday]."

Inter extended their lead at the Serie A summit to 10 points but could only draw 1-1 with Spezia following another Samir Handanovic error on Wednesday.

In their first match since joining and withdrawing from the much-criticised European Super League project, league leaders Inter failed to fully capitalise on second-place Milan's 2-1 loss to Sassuolo earlier in the day.

After scoring an own goal in the 1-1 draw that ended Inter's 11-game winning run in Serie A at Napoli on Sunday, some more shoddy goalkeeping from Handanovic enabled Diego Farias to put Spezia in front early on at Stadio Alberto Picco.

Ivan Perisic bundled in the equaliser on his 200th appearance in all competitions for Inter, who saw Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez each denied by the offside flag late on as they failed to find the winner that would have boosted their Scudetto hopes further.

Spezia were without their top scorer M'Bala Nzola but managed to take a surprise lead in the 12th minute when Farias' effort from just outside the box squirmed past Handanovic.

Inter's final pass was often lacking but after Nicolo Barella sliced their best opportunity wide, Achraf Hakimi teed up fellow wing-back Perisic for the equaliser ahead of half-time.

The Nerazzurri were buoyed by the goal and Martinez saw his shot come back off the post before being gathered by Spezia goalkeeper Ivan Provedel.

A woeful back pass from Ardijan Ismajli gifted Lukaku a chance to put Inter in front after the hour mark but he was unable to round Provedel cleanly and the keeper recovered well to block his second attempt.

Milan Skriniar was unable to turn substitute Alexis Sanchez's free-kick home before Martinez rattled the upright again in the 80th minute.

Lukaku and Martinez were frustrated by offside decisions, but it looked like the winner was finally about to arrive when the pair combined in stoppage time. However, the Argentina international lashed his effort straight at Provedel.

Italy boss Roberto Mancini handed first call-ups to Atalanta captain Rafael Toloi and Spezia midfielder Matteo Ricci as he selected a 38-man squad for the three upcoming World Cup qualifiers. 

Brazilian-born Toloi has been residing in Italy since leaving Sao Paulo to join Atalanta in 2015 and has received the citizenship that makes him eligible to represent the Azzurri. 

The 30-year-old has been summoned at the first opportunity by head coach Mancini, who has observed the centre-back as a prominent member of the Atalanta team that has caught the eye in Serie A and the Champions League. 

Ricci, 26, joined Spezia from Roma in July 2018 and helped the team win promotion to Serie A last season. 

He has yet to score in the top flight for Spezia this term but has had two assists and created 16 chances, while winning possession 139 times, a team-high mark. 

Italy face Northern Ireland in Parma in their Group C qualifying opener next Thursday, then tackle Bulgaria in Sofia on March 28 before playing Lithuania three days later in Vilnius. 

The Inter trio of Alessandro Bastoni, Nicolo Barella and Stefano Sensi will only be involved if they have the all-clear from health authorities, given they are currently subject to COVID-19 restrictions after positive tests at the club. 

Inter's Stefan de Vrij and Matias Vecino tested positive for coronavirus, and the Nerazzurri said on Thursday all players would be prevented from joining up with their international teams, although that may change if they return negative test results on Monday. 

The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) said Ricci must also be similarly cleared to join up. 

Italy are unbeaten in 22 games and have qualified for both Euro 2020, which takes place in June and July, and the Nations League Finals in October. 

Italy squad: Alessio Cragno (Cagliari), Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan), Alex Meret (Napoli), Salvatore Sirigu (Torino); Francesco Acerbi (Lazio), Alessandro Bastoni (Inter), Cristiano Biraghi (Fiorentina), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Napoli), Emerson Palmieri (Chelsea), Gian Marco Ferrari (Sassuolo), Alessandro Florenzi (Paris Saint-Germain), Manuel Lazzari (Lazio), Gianluca Mancini (Roma), Leonardo Spinazzola (Roma), Rafael Toloi (Atalanta); Nicolo Barella (Inter), Gaetano Castrovilli (Fiorentina), Bryan Cristante (Roma), Manuel Locatelli (Sassuolo), Rolando Mandragora (Torino), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma), Matteo Pessina (Atalanta), Matteo Ricci (Spezia), Stefano Sensi (Inter), Roberto Soriano (Bologna), Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain); Andrea Belotti (Torino), Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Federico Bernardeschi (Juventus), Francesco Caputo (Sassuolo), Federico Chiesa (Juventus), Stephan El Shaarawy (Roma), Vincenzo Grifo (Friburgo), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Moise Kean (Paris Saint-Germain).

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."

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