Real Madrid and Bayern Munich cup exits a warning for Juventus, says Pirlo

By Sports Desk January 26, 2021

Andrea Pirlo warned his Juventus side they risk going the way of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich if they take SPAL lightly in Wednesday's Coppa Italia quarter-final tie.

SPAL knocked out Sassuolo in the last round and make the trip to the Allianz Stadium sitting fifth in Serie B as they seek a swift return to the top tier of Italian football.

Record 13-time Coppa winners Juve enter the game as strong favourites to progress to the semi-finals, where the winner of Tuesday's game between Inter and Milan would await.

However, in a month that has seen Madrid exit the Copa del Rey with defeat to third-tier Alcoyano and Bayern lose to second-tier Holstein Kiel in the DFB-Pokal, Pirlo is taking nothing for granted.

"There are a lot of possible risks because we are facing a Serie B team on paper. But if you look at the foreign cups, Bayern lost to a team from a lower division, as did Madrid," Pirlo told Juventus TV.

"We have to assume that it will be a difficult game. We need maximum concentration because we want to go through. They are a good team that are doing well in the league and cup.

"We of course have to be careful because the main objective is to pass through to the next round.

"They are a very good team that like to play football, play with three defenders and sometimes three forwards or half-strikers. It is a difficult team to face so we will have to be at our best to avoid losing."

Juve's Scudetto hopes took a major dent with defeat to Inter on January 17, but they have since responded with 2-0 wins over Napoli in the Supercoppa Italiana and Bologna in the league.

Pirlo now has near enough a fully-fit squad to choose from and believes that will be reflected on the results front.

"It means we can improve because we have great players back," he said. "I hope to finally have the whole squad available and we can then work on all the concepts, which we have not been able to do this season."

Rodrigo Bentancur will miss the cup tie but Matthijs de Ligt and Merih Demiral will return to the starting line-up after recovering from coronavirus and injury respectively.

"Bentancur will rest for sure because on Sunday he played the whole game with a hole in his foot," Pirlo said. "We had to put three stitches in - he made a big sacrifice and now he will need a few days of rest to absorb the bruise.

"Some players who played on Sunday will rest. De Ligt and Demiral will return and start from the beginning. Then for the rest we will have a competitive team.

Pirlo also confirmed Gianluigi Buffon will start against SPAL, with regular goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny being given a breather.

Szczesny has conceded 16 goals in 14 league matches this term for a save percentage of 68.63, which is below the 74.42 he managed last season and 75.61 in 2018-19.

He made three saves against both Napoli and Bologna to keep successive clean sheets, but Pirlo is after even more from the Poland international.

"He is giving us great confidence with his performances," the rookie head coach said. "We are more than satisfied with the displays he is putting in on the pitch.

"We know he can still improve because he's a world-class goalkeeper who plays for a great team. We are hoping that he can still do better."

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    St. Louis coach Carnell referenced injury struggles, however, as his side continue to battle through a troubling period.

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    The Rapids have enjoyed a better season, sitting sixth in the West table after returning to winning ways with a 2-0 victory over Austin FC at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.

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    The next challenge for the Rapids is to secure back-to-back victories for the first time since April, though they have lost three straight on the road.

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    The first matchdays of each group at Euro 2024 are now over, after the final pool got started in style on Tuesday.

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    In Kenan Yildiz (19y 45d) and Guler (19y 114d), Turkiye became just the second nation at the European Championship to start two different teenagers in a game, after Hungary against Denmark in 1964 (Zoltan Varga and Ferenc Bene).

    And Guler, who was on the fringes at Real Madrid in 2023-24, showcased his immense potential with a superb all-round performance, capped off with a stunning, record-breaking strike.

    He is the youngest player in the tournament's history to score on their first appearance, and just the third teenager to do so, after Ronaldo for Portugal against Greece in 2004 and Ferenc Bene for Hungary against Spain in 1964.

    Indeed, Ronaldo was the previous holder of the record, having netted on his debut at Euro 2004. 

    As well as scoring, Guler also became just the third teenager on record to create as many as five chances in a single game at the European Championship finals (since 1980), along with Wayne Rooney against Croatia in 2004 (18y 241d) and Pedri against Switzerland in 2021 (18y 219d).

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    Georges Mikautadze made history with his first-half equaliser, bringing up Georgia's first goal at a major tournament, in their first such appearance.

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    Portugal 2-1 Czechia: Records up for Ronaldo and Pepe

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    Ronaldo also became the first player to feature in as many as six different editions of the European Championship finals (2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, 2020 and 2024).

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  • Sagnol proud of Georgia display as Guler gifts Montella 'perfect' birthday present Sagnol proud of Georgia display as Guler gifts Montella 'perfect' birthday present

    Georgia head coach Willy Sagnol believes his players will learn from their defeat to Turkiye, but was proud of his side's performance in Dortmund.

    The 75th-ranked side in the world captured the hearts of many neutrals in their first game at Euro 2024, coming agonisingly close to snatching a memorable point late on.

    Georges Mikautadze made history by scoring Georgia's first-ever goal at a major tournament following Mert Muldur's opener, but the minnows were undone by a piece of individual brilliance by Arda Guler before Kerem Akturkoglu sealed a 3-1 win late on. 

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    Turkiye head coach Vincenzo Montella celebrated the triumph on his 50th birthday, and Guler was able to deliver the boss his only wish.

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