Pirlo unconcerned by Juventus slump

By Sports Desk February 21, 2021

Andrea Pirlo is not overly concerned by Juventus' poor run of form, although he knows his team must return to winning ways when they face Crotone on Monday.

Juve have not won in three matches in all competitions, following up a 0-0 Coppa Italia draw with Inter – which nevertheless secured their place in the final – with defeats to Napoli in Serie A and Porto in the Champions League.

Their performance against Porto was particularly lacklustre, but Pirlo believes the fixture congestion since the turn of the year is a major factor.

The Bianconeri played nine times in January and have been in action on a further five occasions in February, with two games every week in 2021 until now.

"I speak with the president after every game. We spoke after the game at Porto and he didn't intervene this week," Pirlo told a news conference on Sunday.

"We knew we had played a bad game, there was no reason for him to reproach the team. I raised my voice during half-time in Porto, I didn't like how we played and I didn't like the reaction.

"We switched off at the beginning of the second half and we've been analysing the mistakes this week. There's no reason to raise your voice when you know you didn't do well.

"The players must transform their disappointment into energy for tomorrow's game.

"I am not worried, we had won 11 games out of 13. It was normal to have a drop; unfortunately, we had it in a decisive moment after many games.

"It's normal not to be always focused when you play 15 games in 40 days – it's like we played half of a season in one month and a half.

"We knew it would be an intense season, we are here and we must fight for our targets."

Next opponents Crotone sit rock bottom of Serie A, with just three wins from their 22 games so far, although they are unbeaten in their past two league matches against Juve.

While the strugglers have only once avoided defeat in three successive games against a single top-flight opponent, the Bianconeri have failed to win four of their past seven league meetings with promoted sides.

"It's an important game to continue our path in the title race. It's going to be a tough game because Crotone are not going through a good moment, but they play well," Pirlo added.

"They've kept their philosophy and they are trying to impose themselves in every game."

Cristiano Ronaldo has not scored since February 6 but will look to make Crotone the 78th different side he has netted against in Europe's 'top five' league; only Zlatan Ibrahimovic (79) has scored against more such individual opponents since 2000.

Ronaldo has netted against each of the 17 current Serie A teams he has faced in so far, yet Pirlo said the former Real Madrid superstar is still working hard to improve his free-kick taking.

Since his arrival at Juve in 2018, Ronaldo has attempted 44 shots directly from free-kicks in the league but scored only once.

"Free-kick goals are important, they can decide games, especially against teams that sit deep," Pirlo said.

"Ronaldo is training well and is improving. He is calm and he is convinced he is soon going to score from a free-kick."

Related items

  • Arnautovic agent hints at Man Utd transfer offer Arnautovic agent hints at Man Utd transfer offer

    Marko Arnautovic's agent says they have received an offer from "a well-known club" amid reports linking Manchester United with a move for the Bologna forward.

    The Austria international joined the Serie A outfit last term, having spent two years with Shanghai Port in the Chinese Super League, and remains under contract until 2024 with them.

    But news broke over the weekend that United, who suffered an opening Premier League defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion, were exploring a remarkable move for the 33-year-old.

    Bologna have reportedly rejected an opening offer from the Old Trafford club, but now Danijel Arnautovic - both agent and brother to the star - has confirmed the existence of a bid and says they are working for a result.

    "It's true that there is an offer from a well-known club," he told Kurier. "I'm in contact with Bologna to see if that can be realised."

    Arnautovic previously spent a six-year spell in the English top-flight, with four years at Stoke City and two at West Ham, where he was voted Hammer of the Year in 2018.

    Since arriving at Bologna last year, the attacker has arguably been in the best form of his career, netting 14 goals in 33 Serie A games last term.

    News of a potential move for the star however has been met with a broadly negative reaction by many fans and figures associated with United, including former captain Gary Neville, who labelled them as "desperate".

  • Rumour Has It: Wolves in final stages of £35m move for Valencia's Goncalo Guedes Rumour Has It: Wolves in final stages of £35m move for Valencia's Goncalo Guedes

    After the best goalscoring season of his career, Valencia's Goncalo Guedes has reportedly earned a move to the Premier League, with Wolves said to be finalising a transfer worth up to £35million.

    After arriving at the Spanish side back in 2017 from Paris Saint-Germain, the 25-year-old forward has established himself as a regular in Portugal's international side, collecting 32 senior caps and scoring the only goal in their 1-0 Nations League final win against the Netherlands in 2019.

    Having never previously scored more than five league goals in a season, Guedes racked up 11, as well as six assists, in Valencia's last LaLiga campaign, and helped his side through to the final of the Copa del Rey.


    TOP STORY – WOLVES CLOSE IN ON GUEDES

    Wolves have no shortage of talent, boasting arguably the strongest Portuguese contingent in the Premier League, including manager Bruno Lage, and four starters from their opening fixture against Leeds United – Pedro Neto, Daniel Podence, Ruben Neves and Jose Sa, with Joao Moutinho and Nelson Semedo among the others in their ranks.

    According to the Daily Mail, all signs point to Guedes being added to that list, while at the same time a starting position may be opening up as Morgan Gibbs-White's name continues to be included in heavy transfer speculation, with Nottingham Forest keen to sign him for a similar price Wolves will fork out in this reported deal.

    Flipping an unproven talent like Gibbs-White into an established international performer like Guedes would likely be seen as a win by the club, but if they do wish to retain their English midfielder, the Daily Mail is also reporting they should be able to collect £12m from Everton in exchange for centre-back Conor Coady.


    ROUND-UP

    – The Guardian is reporting Leicester City and Southampton are interested in Callum Hudson-Odoi after the 21-year-old informed Chelsea he would like to leave on loan, and the Daily Mail claim Borussia Dortmund are also a potential landing spot.

    – The Mail is also reporting that Chelsea's Timo Werner is close to a permanent deal to return to RB Leipzig, with the fee said to be around £30m.

    – According to the Northern Echo, Newcastle United have decided to make a run at in-demand 19-year-old striker and Manchester United target Benjamin Sesko from Salzburg.

    Feyenoord have accepted a £12.6m bid from Bournemouth for 25-year-old Argentine defender Marcos Senesi, per The Sun.

    – The Athletic is reporting United have made a £6.8m bid for 33-year-old Bologna striker Marko Arnautovic, who has previously spent six seasons in the Premier League between Stoke City and West Ham.

  • Pedri describes playing with Lewandowski as a 'luxury' after Barca hammer Pumas UNAM Pedri describes playing with Lewandowski as a 'luxury' after Barca hammer Pumas UNAM

    Pedri described playing with Robert Lewandowski as a "luxury" after both players starred in Barcelona's 6-0 demolition of Pumas UNAM in the Joan Gamper trophy on Sunday.

    The Blaugrana ran riot in their traditional Camp Nou curtain-raiser, with goals from Pedri (two), Lewandowski, Ousmane Dembele, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Frenkie de Jong condemning the Mexican side to a crushing loss.

    Barca took just 20 minutes to establish a 4-0 lead as Pedri scored twice after laying on new signing Lewandowski's opener, with the Poland striker returning the favour to tee up the skilful midfielder's second strike.

    Lewandowski – who scored 50 goals in all competitions during his final season with Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich last term – was named as man of the match, leading Pedri to shower him with praise. 

    "It was important for us to win in front of our fans and we have achieved it by playing a good game," the midfielder said.

    "The coach asks us all to reach the top and that we score goals, and I hope it continues like this. We've had a good pre-season and we wanted to start scoring soon.

    "It is a luxury to play with Lewandowski, I really enjoy seeing how he finishes and how he links up.

    "The president [Joan Laporta] and everyone have done a great job, and we will fight until May for it to be a very beautiful year for us all."

    With Lewandowski joining Franck Kessie, Andreas Christensen, Jules Kounde and Raphinha in moving to Camp Nou ahead of the 2022-23 season, hopes are high that Barca can challenge for silverware – even if speculation persists that they may be unable to register their newcomers.

    For Xavi, the performance against Pumas – for whom Barca legend Dani Alves featured – represented the standard the Catalan giants must hit in every match.

    "Everything went well tonight, I'm very happy with the good game and for the fans, who have been excited. This is the way," Xavi declared.

    "We are in a good dynamic of play and results, but we have to continue working for this to work. The sensations are good, yes, but there is no need to lower the pace or the intensity during the 90 minutes.

    "Today it is understood that we relaxed a bit because we were 4-0 very early and it was a friendly, but in official competition you cannot lower your guard."

    Barca begin their LaLiga campaign at home to Rayo Vallecano next Saturday.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.