Luis Enrique cited the struggles of France in the Nations League as debates continue as to the strength of Spain's World Cup credentials.

Spain play their final Nations League fixture of this window on Sunday, at home to Czech Republic, having picked up just five points from three games.

A pair of draws with Portugal and Czech Republic preceded a narrow 1-0 victory over strugglers Switzerland.

Luis Enrique defended his team selection and knowledge of football after the latter win, and the Spain coach again went on the front foot when asked about what La Roja's Nations League term meant for Qatar 2022.

"It's not about what I understand or don't understand. It's about looking at things with perspective. Nobody is interested in the other results of Group A," he told reporters. 

"If someone expects us to win every game then they do not know what modern football is.

"Look at the struggles of France, champion of the world and Nations League – we are not different. But we are a great team that can beat any rival, that's for sure."

As for who is the favourite for the World Cup, Luis Enrique finds it hard to look past two South American giants.

"I see Argentina above the rest and Brazil too, well above the rest," he added.

Alvaro Morata also came in for special praise from Luis Enrique, who believes the striker is the best defensive forward on the continent.

"All wingers can play as a nine. The strikers that I have brought not all of them can play as a winger," he continued.

"Morata can. I am not going to compare players but on a defensive level, no one beats Morata in Europe. He has an intelligence when it comes to pressing and physical conditions beyond any doubt.

"Then on top of that with the ball he has been very good, he has given us superiority. We want those who participate to know that they have an offensive side and another clear defensive one.

"With us if they don't do the defensive work, we can't be compact."

Alvaro Morata admits he has "preferences and options" over his next destination, as he looks set to end his second stay with Juventus.

The Spain forward has been on loan from Atletico Madrid in Turin over the past two seasons but appears poised to not remain at the Allianz Stadium.

Juventus held a purchase option on Morata and have previously hinted at completing a full deal, but that appears to now be up in the air.

Morata, previously a reported January target for Barcelona, concedes his immediate future is unclear and wants to join a club where he will get regular minutes.

"It's not up to me, I can't do anything about it," he told Relevo. "But I want to go where the club is interested in playing me.

"My wife and children will follow me wherever I need to go. I do have preferences and options."

Morata yielded 32 goals in 92 games for Juventus - five more than his first spell at the club between 2014 and 2016, when he netted 27 times in 93 matches.

The former Real Madrid and Chelsea star will hope to push for regular minutes at whatever destination he arrives at, ahead of featuring for Spain at the Qatar 2022 World Cup later this year.

Spain head coach Luis Enrique was quick to praise the team spirit and support in Seville as he suggested he will rotate following the 1-1 Nations League draw with Portugal.

Alvaro Morata opened the scoring after 25 minutes on Thursday, becoming La Roja's joint-seventh highest scorer in history alongside Emilio Butragueno with 26 goals.

Spain dominated for large parts of the proceedings in their Group A2 opener, but substitute Ricardo Horta scored with eight minutes remaining to ensure the spoils were shared.

Czech Republic are the next opponents for Luis Enrique's side on Sunday and the Spain boss vowed to rotate to evaluate all members of his squad ahead of the World Cup in Qatar.

"I have suffered more than usual," he told reporters after the game. "I was seeing that it was difficult to keep up with the rhythm of the 90 minutes and that the victory could escape us.

"But I think the team has been good. The players have coped with the heat and fatigue of the season with great determination. We are going to use all the players [in the upcoming games].

"The atmosphere, the public was superb and the attitude of my players as well. I like the team spirit. Now it's time to recover and we'll see what we can improve on.

"The idea of ​​competing throughout the game penalised us. It's difficult to keep up with the pressure for 90 minutes, but in general I'm satisfied.

"In fact, overall, I'm more than satisfied and I'm sure when I see it, I'll be even happier."

Luis Enrique was quick to hail the influence of Morata, while he defended his decision to leave Ansu Fati as an unused substitute.

"We could have won and we could have lost," he continued. "He is good in this team and everywhere, he is a player who has a goal and although he is not a player with stratospheric figures, everything he gives us is very good.

"Ansu is coming to help us in the long term, I like what I see in training but he still doesn't have the rhythm to help us in everything he wants, and it's normal.

"But I'm the coach and you have to trust me there."

Ricardo Horta scored a late equaliser as Portugal and Spain opened their Nations League campaigns with a 1-1 draw on Thursday.

Spain were defeated in the final by France in last year's competition, but entered the 2022 edition after four straight wins.

Morata fired Spain into a first-half lead as he became the joint-seventh highest scorer in La Roja's history with his 26th strike in all competitions.

Portugal offered little in response until Horta popped up with eight minutes remaining to steal a draw in the Group A2 opener.

Gavi whipped narrowly wide in the opening exchanges, while Rafael Leao – making his first start for Portugal – blasted over at the other end.

Morata opened the scoring after 23 minutes when Gavi surged forward to find Pablo Sarabia, who unselfishly squared for the forward to tap in.

Carlos Soler almost doubled Spain's lead shortly after but was denied by Diogo Costa before blazing the rebound over, while Andre Silva drilled just wide of Unai Simon's right post.

Fernando Santos responded by sending on Ruben Neves at half-time but the second-half proceedings continued in similar vein, with Spain in control.

Leao spurned a presentable opportunity by firing into the onrushing Simons' legs, before Morata prodded wastefully wide in an attempt to chip Costa.

Cristiano Ronaldo was introduced just after the hour, but it was another substitute, Horta, who equalised as he converted Joao Cancelo's whipped cross, before Jordi Alba headed agonisingly wide with the goal gaping in the closing stages.

As if the protracted transfer saga for Kylian Mbappe was not arduous enough, new transfer battle lines are being drawn for PSG and Real Madrid.

The need to rejuvenate Madrid's squad has been identified despite their LaLiga title win and progression to this season's Champions League final.

According to reports, however, they should prepare for not having everything their way again, with a new player in mind.

TOP STORY – PSG TO MAKE LATE PLAY FOR TCHOUAMENI    

PSG are preparing to make a late bid for Monaco's Aurelien Tchouameni in an attempt to snatch him from Real Madrid , according to Goal.

The 22-year-old Monaco star is almost certain to leave the Principality this off-season, but his destination remains unclear.

Madrid have reportedly been in talks with Monaco over a prospective transfer for over a year, but have not yet completed the deal.

Kylian Mbappe was believed to have recommended Tchouameni when he was in talks over a move to the Santiago Bernabeu himself.

Now Mbappe has decided to stay in the French capital, it has accelerated the race to sign Tchouameni.

ROUND-UP

– Chelsea are considering a move for RB Leipzig's Christopher Nkunku, according to Goal.

Arsenal target Tammy Abraham insists he is happy at Roma but would not rule out a move back to the Premier League, per Metro.

– In need of a striker, Tuttosport reports the Gunners are also monitoring Alvaro Morata's situation, with his loan deal at Juventus expiring this off-season.

– Tottenham are targeting Inter centre-back Alessandro Bastoni, with Manchester United also interested, according to the Gazzetta dello Sport.

Atletico Madrid president Enrique Cerezo says Antoine Griezmann is among the top three or four players in Europe and will remain with the Spanish club beyond this season.

Griezmann sealed a return to Atletico from Barcelona last August on an initial loan with an option to buy after spending just two years at Camp Nou.

He has struggled to recapture his best form with Atleti, however, having scored just eight goals in 35 appearances in all competitions.

Indeed, the France international is on a 14-game run without finding the net in LaLiga, which is one short of his longest goal drought in the competition.

Griezmann's 13 direct goal involvements in 2021-22 is the fourth most among Atletico players, meanwhile, behind Luis Suarez, Joao Felix (both 15) and Angel Correa (18).

But contrary to suggestions in the Spanish press that Atleti are reluctant to purchase the 31-year-old outright, Cerezo has made clear a deal is being worked on.

"Griezmann is our player. He has a contract with Atletico Madrid and will stay here at Atletico Madrid," he said at an event on Friday, as reported by AS.

"In my opinion, Antoine is among three or four best players in Europe."

 

Atletico last week announced that Suarez will depart Wanda Metropolitano at the end of the campaign.

They still have Alvaro Morata on their books, though, with the Spain international's two-year loan at Juventus coming to an end after Saturday's Serie A clash with Fiorentina.

Unlike with Griezmann, Cerezo was less assertive when it came to discussing Morata's future in the Spanish capital.

"The truth is that I don't know what will happen to him," he said. "He's our player, but I don't know what will happen. I don't know if Juve will keep him or not. We don't know."

Atleti have conceded 42 goals in 37 LaLiga games this term, which is their worst record in a single campaign since 2011-12 when Diego Simeone took over midway through.

Jan Oblak in particular has endured a difficult campaign, though Cerezo rejected suggestions that the goalkeeper could move on in the upcoming transfer window.

"There are always rumours about everything," he said. "Jan is a goalkeeper for Atletico de Madrid, and he has a contract. He may yet renew for another 10 years."

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic scored a dramatic 96th-minute equaliser as Lazio came from two goals down to snatch a 2-2 draw with Juventus in Turin.

In a match where Juventus paid tribute to departing stars Giorgio Chiellini and Paulo Dybala, first-half goals from Dusan Vlahovic and Alvaro Morata seemed to have put the Bianconeri in control.

But after Alex Sandro's own goal halved the arrears, Maurizio Sarri's return to the Allianz Stadium ended in chaotic fashion when Milinkovic-Savic fired into the roof of the net with the last kick of the game.

As well as spoiling the farewell home appearances of Chiellini and Dybala, the result boosted Lazio's hopes of beating local rivals Roma to a fifth-place finish in Serie A.

Following Wednesday's Coppa Italia final defeat to Inter, it was confirmed Juventus will finish the 2021-22 season without a trophy for the first time since 2011.

Last season under Andrea Pirlo, Juventus not winning Serie A was in itself shocking, but this season has only shown further regression.

Massimiliano Allegri returning to replace Pirlo after his single season in charge was viewed as a means to halt that slide, but Juve will not just likely finish 10 points off the Serie A title winners and without a trophy this term; the Bianconeri are set to finish with a double-digit deficit in a season where the champions will likely will not break the 85-point barrier.

How much the Turin club spend relative to the rest in Italian football must be brought into context. Granted, the financial impact of COVID-19 caused significant restructuring, but they are still the only club in Italy to have a gross annual payroll in excess of €150million and are joined by Inter as one of only two over €100m. Meanwhile, seven Juventus players make up the top 10 salaries in Serie A this season.

Given that comparatively gaudy expenditure, that represents a spectacular failure – especially in comparison to the likes of the notoriously thrifty Atalanta or this Milan project that has sought to maximise value on the pitch and cut unnecessary spending. The major issue with Juve over the past four seasons has been a dramatically diminishing return on investment, but how has it manifested on the pitch?

Juventus had this inevitable capacity to find a way to win games in Allegri's first stint, but they were still volatile. It would be misguided to look at this season in isolation when in a continuum. Cristiano Ronaldo's arrival for the 2018-19 season – which was viewed as the key signing to propel them to long-awaited Champions League glory – arguably accelerated the regression.

Real Madrid's midfield and Karim Benzema allowed Ronaldo to have a largely singular role as the end point to the team's actions in possession. At Juventus, a player who was largely a finisher and was not going to force defensive collapses between the lines by that point had to take on greater responsibility in the team's build-up. Despite the Portuguese star's stature in the game, he was effectively signed for a task on the pitch he was not capable of fulfilling.

Consider that in his last season at Madrid, Ronaldo was averaging 46.87 touches per 90, and 10.02 were in the opposition's penalty area. The next two seasons at Juventus saw a dramatic shift, where for touches per 90 he averages 54.5 and 56.26 respectively. Touches in the penalty area actually decreased, however, at 6.64 and 6.92 respectively per 90.

With Paulo Dybala as the team's attacking focal point, Miralem Pjanic had previously mitigated the deeply conservative nature of Juve's midfield, but with Ronaldo it became a bridge too far. Ronaldo might have sustained his goal involvements, but it came at the expense of the collective. The Bianconeri came no closer to winning the continental silverware he was brought to Turin to secure but, more importantly, declined domestically and were suddenly challenged for what had become a fait accompli that decade in Serie A.

Pjanic's departure at the end of 2019-20 further accelerates that regression, despite the arrivals of Arthur, Alvaro Morata, Federico Chiesa and Weston McKennie that off-season, as well as Adrien Rabiot, Mathijs de Ligt and Dejan Kulusevski the previous off-season.

Arguably, the additions of Rabiot, McKennie and Arthur have only further reinforced the rigidity of Juve's midfield over the years. Pjanic's final season saw him average 1.21 chances from open play per 90, along with 10.34 passes into the final third and 0.13 for expected assists at 92.66 touches. Not one Juventus midfielder since has been able to match all of those averages individually, and trying to replace them in an aggregate creates different requirements elsewhere.

 

Amid Dybala's increasingly marginalised status upon Ronaldo's arrival, it necessitated someone like Morata, whose fantastic movement and ability to incorporate the players around him is paired with erratic finishing in front of goal. It represents a sizeable trade-off. Still, Morata leads the Bianconeri for chances created (1.63) in open play per 90 in all competitions this season.

That provides some context for this season and Dusan Vlahovic's arrival, because he is almost the opposite to Morata – cold-blooded in front of goal, but much less flexible in build-up play and movement off the ball. Yet, while he creates fewer chances in open play (0.81) than Morata, the quality of his shots (0.13 xG per shot) is still lower than Morata's average of 0.16.

 

 

It all matters because, with the exception of Inter and Lazio, the Bianconeri still keep more of the ball than anyone else in Serie A. They both can and cannot afford for their midfield to be so palpably one-dimensional. While Juventus rank 19th across the top five leagues in Europe for touches per 90 (678.46) in all competitions, they rank 32nd for big chances created per 90 (1.56), and 50th for passes into the final third (53.02), calling into question the nature of their possession and how they actually generate their chances.

With that all in context, it can be difficult to definitively assess someone like Fabio Miretti or where he best suits in a system of play, because it is akin to developing an emotional attachment to a captor.

Yet Dybala's forthcoming departure from Turin at the end of this season is symbolic, let alone if he ends up somewhere else in Serie A.

His career trajectory over the past four years, coinciding with Juve's regression and eventual embarrassment of this season, represents how badly the club have managed squad composition and, to reference Jose Mourinho's famous quote, their Champions League dream that became an obsession. As such, they have lacked anything resembling a plan or clarity, and have been blindly led by ambition to this empty-handed season.

Massimiliano Allegri was full of praise for Alvaro Morata following Juventus' 3-1 win away to Sampdoria on Saturday.

The Spanish forward bagged a brace in an important victory for Juve, who put themselves nine points clear of Atalanta in Serie A's race for the final Champions League spot, though having played two games more.

January signing Dusan Vlahovic started on the bench for the Old Lady ahead of their second leg tie against Villarreal in the Champions League last-16 on Wednesday, but it was Morata who made the difference at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris.

Allegri was quick to compliment the 29-year-old, who followed up his first half penalty with a fine header in the 88th minute after Abdelhamid Sabiri had pulled a goal back for the hosts two minutes earlier.

"Alvaro is one of the best forwards on a technical level in Europe," the Bianconeri boss told DAZN post-match. "He will struggle more if you use him with his back to goal, but if he plays a little wider, with the space to run inside and use his characteristics, he's excellent.

"The team did well today on a technical basis. We need to improve when we are in control of the match, though, lower the tempo and then speed it up with a vertical pass. We need to understand when it's time to be patient and wait a moment."

Despite Maya Yoshida's opening own goal on 23 minutes, taking the eventual three points was not a simple task for Juventus. Allegri believes the result puts his team in good stead for the return leg against Villarreal, though.

He also gave special mention to Moise Kean, who made his second start in three games after a string of appearances off the bench in February.

"Sampdoria are not an easy team to face, we needed this result to consolidate fourth place and prepare for Villarreal in the best possible way," Allegri said.

"Kean played a good game, when he plays he is always effective. He earned the penalty [for 2-0], and started the action for the first goal, so he is an important player for this squad. He has to improve from a technical point of view, but can be devastating when he has space to run into."

Juventus secured a 3-1 win away at Sampdoria on Saturday to move within a point of third-placed Napoli in Serie A.

An own goal from Maya Yoshida and an Alvaro Morata brace were enough to give all three points to Massimiliano Allegri's side at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, despite a late strike from Abdelhamid Sabiri.

The hosts had previously squandered a golden chance to get back into the game in the second half when Wojciech Szczesny saved Antonio Candreva's penalty, sealing the win and giving the Bianconeri momentum going into their Champions League last-16 second leg against Villarreal on Wednesday.

Likely with that game in mind, Dusan Vlahovic started on the bench as Moise Kean was given a start alongside Morata.

It was a quiet opening to the game, with the first shot on target from either team coming from Candreva in the 22nd minute, which was palmed away by Szczesny.

However, Juve went straight up the other end and took the lead as Juan Cuadrado's cross from the right was turned into his own net by Yoshida.

Bizarrely, Allegri's men were ahead before they had taken a single shot at goal, and their first effort of the game made it 2-0 as Morata coolly slotted home from the spot after Omar Colley had clumsily brought down Kean in the box.

A listless second half finally came to life when Adrien Rabiot was judged to have handled in the box, but Szczesny got a good hand to Candreva's spot kick down to his right to briefly keep it at 2-0.

The Polish shot-stopper could do nothing about Sabiri's free-kick in the 84th minute, which deflected in off substitute Vlahovic to give the home side late hope, but Juve had their two-goal cushion back shortly after when Morata headed in Manuel Locatelli's cross at the back post to seal victory.

Weston McKennie will not return to action for Juventus until next season, head coach Massimiliano Allegri has confirmed.

The United States international fractured the second and third metatarsals in his left foot during last week's 1-1 draw with Villarreal in the Champions League.

Juve announced the following day that McKennie would likely sit out the next eight weeks, meaning he would be back in time for the closing stages of the campaign.

However, speaking after Juve's 1-0 win over Spezia on Sunday, Allegri said he does not expect the 23-year-old to return to action again this term.

"The season is over for Weston because of his injury. He'll be back next season," Allegri told DAZN.

McKennie has featured in 28 of the Bianconeri's 39 matches this season in all competitions, his 1,954 minutes on the field the eighth most of any Juve outfield player.

The 23-year-old, who has four goals to his name, will also miss the USA's upcoming triple-header of World Cup qualifying fixtures.

Juve won in McKennie's absence against Spezia on Sunday thanks to Alvaro Morata's 21st-minute strike at the Allianz Stadium.

 

Morata slotted home the only goal of the game after being played in by Manuel Locatelli – the Spain striker's first Serie A goal since netting against Bologna on December 18.

The victory extends Juve's unbeaten run to 14 Serie A matches – their best such streak since March 2019 when going 31 without defeat – and tightens their hold on fourth place.

"It's always important for the forwards. I'm happy with the goal and the performance," Allegri said at his post-match news conference when asked about Morata's goal. 

"Today, after so many matches with the same players, all you have to do is congratulate the boys. It wasn't easy to win. We dropped in the second half. 

"For the first time we are mathematically fourth in the rankings. In the first half we had to finish the game, in the second it was normal that we would suffer a little."

Juventus have now won four Serie A matches by a 1-0 scoreline this season, a tally only sixth-placed Roma can better with five.

And the manner of this latest slender victory was particularly pleasing for Allegri.

"If you want to reach your objectives, you have to play these games with suffering and it was important to bring home the three points," he said. 

"I have never seen a team win every game easily. You get to the Champions League and all your targets through performances like this, winning 1-0 with suffering.

"People forget quickly in football, but in my five years we had a lot of 1-0 results spent sitting in our own half for the final 20 minutes. 

"The important thing is not to let anything go in those moments."

Alvaro Morata scored the only goal of the game as in-form Juventus boosted their bid to qualify for the Champions League with a victory over Spezia.

Massimiliano Allegri's side headed into the clash at the Allianz Stadium on a 13-game unbeaten streak in the league and took the lead when Morata struck in the first half.

Spezia rarely troubled their hosts, barring an Emmanuel Gyasi second-half chance, as Juve moved six points clear of fifth-placed Atalanta, who fell to a 1-0 defeat at Roma on Saturday.

The Bianconeri are just five points adrift of leaders Inter, while they were four behind Napoli and Milan ahead of their clash later on Sunday.

 

A wayward Ivan Provedel pass after 21 minutes allowed Dusan Vlahovic and Manuel Locatelli to combine through the middle, with the latter finding Morata to coolly slot home.

Provedel somewhat atoned for his mistake with a smart stop to deny Juan Cuadrado, who was teed up by Arthur, as Juve dominated the first half.

An unmarked Gyasi should have restored parity after the interval, but he could only head into Wojciech Szczesny's hands from close range following Salvador Ferrer's delivery.

Spezia continued to grow into the encounter as they searched for a first league goal in three appearances in Piemonte, with Szczesny forced to keep out Kevin Agudelo's effort.

But Allegri's side defended resolutely to see out victory and make it 14 games unbeaten in Serie A - their longest such streak since December 2019 under Maurizio Sarri.

Kylian Mbappe is widely expected to join Real Madrid at the end of this season.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward is out of contract and has not renewed with the French giants.

Madrid have long admired Mbappe and attempted an audacious bid to sign him in August.

TOP STORY – PSG STEP UP MBAPPE RENEWAL BID

Paris Saint-Germain are ramping up their efforts to convince Mbappe to renew with the club, reports Marca.

Mbappe has previously hinted he will join Madrid at the end of this season when his PSG contract expires.

PSG are pulling out all the stops to persuade Mbappe, who has been with the club since 2017.

 

ROUND-UP

- MLS club LA Galaxy have enquired about PSG defender Sergio Ramos according to Footmercato. Ramos has made five appearances for PSG since his off-season move and may be available on a free transfer.

- Manchester United are not willing to match Napoli's eye-watering £100m price tag for Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen reports the Daily Star.

- Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Juventus are hopeful that they can retain Spanish forward Alvaro Morata, who is on loan from Atletico Madrid.

- Juventus are also in front in the race to sign Roma winger Nicolo Zaniolo, who is yet to recommit to the Giallorossi, claims Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Fulham want to sign ex-Manchester City and Liverpool forward Mario Balotelli if they win promotion back to the Premier League, claims Turkish outfit Star. Balotelli currently plays his football in Turkey with Adana Demirspor, with good form prompting an Italy recall.

Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri hailed the quality that Dusan Vlahovic has brought to the Bianconeri squad after he netted two superb goals in a 3-2 win at Empoli.

Vlahovic netted twice after Moise Kean had opened the scoring for the Old Lady in a win which saw them consolidate fourth place in Serie A, although they had to survive a late onslaught from their lively hosts.

The Serbian striker now has 20 Serie A goals this season, while the victory has given Juventus a six-point cushion over fifth-placed Atalanta, ahead of Gian Piero Gasperini's team's clash with Sampdoria on Monday.

Vlahovic's neat finishes proved the difference in a hard-fought encounter in which Empoli managed 11 attempts to the visitors' 12.

Allegri was keen to praise the in-form striker for the qualities he displayed.

"Vlahovic is an important player, he has character as well as quality," Allegri said. "You could tell straight away this lad has character, wants to win and is eager to learn. 

"He has the kind of characteristics we didn't have in the squad.

"He moved a lot more in this game, didn't just stay central, and that was a big advantage for him and for us."

 

Allegri was also asked how his number seven compared to the man who wore that shirt during his last spell in charge in Turin, two-time Serie A player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo.

"I don't think you can compare them," he said. "The previous seven won the Ballon d'Or five times, whereas Vlahovic is at the beginning of his career. 

"A good game isn't enough, [for comparisons with Ronaldo] you need immense mental strength, and he is at the start of his journey."

Vlahovic has now scored two or more goals on nine occasions in Serie A since the beginning of the 2020-21 campaign, equalling Ronaldo's tally of multiple-goal hauls in Italy during the same period.

Allegri also professed himself pleased with the forward options at his disposal, as both Kean and Alvaro Morata recorded goal involvements, but the Bianconeri boss maintained that Juventus are not contenders for the Serie A title.

He added: "Kean struggles with his back to goal and coming back to connect with the midfield, but he does well when wide and attacking the box. Alvaro Morata is the same, he gave a great pass to Vlahovic for the third goal.

"Football is very simple, you just have to put players in roles where they can work to their characteristics.

"We couldn't do that for four or five months, so we had to adapt, but we stayed in range of the top four and now we'll see what happens.

"I remain fully convinced it will take 84 to 85 points minimum to win the Scudetto. Our objective is to finish in the top four and we need to be consistent, because there's Atalanta, Fiorentina, Lazio are coming up too.

"The title will be a battle between those three up there [Milan, Inter, and Napoli]."

Juventus are now unbeaten in their last 13 Serie A games, their longest such run since a 14-match run under Maurizio Sarri between August and December 2019.

Massimiliano Allegri insisted it is "actually impossible" for Juventus to recover to win the Scudetto as he previewed Saturday's clash with Empoli.

The Bianconeri have enjoyed an upturn in form since struggling at the start of the Serie A campaign, sitting in fourth as they fight with Atalanta for the final Champions League qualification spot.

Juve are also still in Europe's elite competition – their last-16 tie with Villarreal finely poised after a 1-1 draw in the first leg – and the Coppa Italia, where they face Fiorentina in a two-legged semi-final clash across March and April.

Allegri was quick to quash suggestions Juve – who are unbeaten in 12 Serie A games – can still win the Scudetto this season, revealing he may rest either Dusan Vlahovic or Alvaro Morata on Saturday as he eyes success elsewhere.

"Tomorrow, Moise Kean could play. If he does, one of Vlahovic or Alvaro Morata will rest," Allegri said at Friday's pre-match news conference.

"Kean always has chances to score, so I am very calm. We are fighting on all fronts, even if the Scudetto is hard. Actually, impossible.

"We are out of the title race, I think that 85 points will be enough to win the title and we can't reach that. We have a Coppa Italia semi-final against Fiorentina and the Champions League against Villarreal.

"At the moment, it's a good season. Let's see which trophies we can lift, it's not easy to win every year. The important thing is to improve, but we have to do more in some situations."

 

Juve could be 12 points adrift of leaders Milan by the time they are next in action, given Stefano Pioli's men host Udinese on Friday.

Juve have won each of their last four top-flight visits to Empoli and Aurelio Andreazzoli's side are winless in nine Serie A matches, their longest such streak since November 2018, but Allegri is aware of the threat they could pose.

"We lost in the reverse fixture and it's never easy to play at Empoli," he added.

"We need to give continuity to our recent results. We need solid performance and recharge batteries, physically and mentally.

"Empoli have three offensive players, it's difficult to play against them. They have no problems in the table, we know that we must win tomorrow.

"We made many mistakes in Spain and didn't make the most of some opportunities.

"We must understand the right moment to 'kill' the opponents. We were doing well against Villarreal, but then we conceded a goal because we were too naive.

"When you play at a high level, you can't give your opponents the chance to get back in the game."

Allegri will have to do without several key figures as well, with Weston McKennie, Paulo Dybala, Alex Sandro, and Giorgio Chiellini heading a growing list of absentees.

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