BREAKING NEWS: Juventus confirm Allegri return after Pirlo departure

By Sports Desk May 28, 2021

Massimiliano Allegri has returned to Juventus for a second spell as head coach after Andrea Pirlo's departure.

Pirlo on Friday left the Turin giants barely nine months after signing a two-year deal to take over from Maurizio Sarri.

The former playmaker failed to live up to expectations as a coach and Juventus brought an abrupt end to his reign. 

The Bianconeri wasted little time in revealing that Allegri has returned as boss of the Serie A giants, who were dethroned as Italian champions by Inter this month.

Allegri, who was linked with Inter and Real Madrid before agreeing to rejoin his former club, had been out of work since ending his hugely successful tenure with Juventus two years ago.

The 53-year-old masterminded five consecutive Scudetto triumphs in his first spell at the club, and his team lifted the Coppa Italia on four occasions.

Juve were beaten Champions League finalists with Allegri at the helm in 2014-15 and 2016-17.

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    Roberto Mancini suggested the failings of Italy are due to the problems within Serie A where "coaches don't let young players play because they are afraid of making mistakes".   Italy secured their first European Championship since 1968 with a penalty shoot-out win over England last July, but World Cup play-off heartbreak followed in March for the Azzurri against North Macedonia.   The narrow 1-0 defeat meant Italy missed out on a second successive World Cup, having failed to qualify for both Russia in 2018 and Qatar four years later.   Italy's failure was met with widespread criticism of the domestic game in which critics suggest younger players are not offered as many opportunities to develop, with a preference to rely on foreign players.   This was represented by Mancini's reliance on the likes of Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne, with the younger players largely remaining on the periphery at Euro 2020.   Mancini, speaking at a forum to discuss Italian football on Friday, acknowledged little has changed in Italy to develop homegrown talent in recent years as he expressed his concern.   "In the last four years, little has happened and in fact in the national team we are always the same," he said, as quoted by CalcioMercato.   "The first thing is to give more confidence to the coaches as Milan did with [Stefano] Pioli: two years ago he seemed to be leaving, today he is winning the championship.   "Many coaches they don't let young players play because they are afraid of making mistakes. Being down to 32 per cent of Italian players [in Serie A] is highly limiting for all national teams.   "[Nicolo] Zaniolo arrived in Coverciano [Italy's training base] for the first time and looked like a child, after two months everything has changed. The boys improve quickly."

    Mancini was quick to praise the race for this season's Scudetto, with Milan requiring just a point on the final day at Sassuolo to secure the title ahead of Inter, who have an inferior head-to-head record.

    However, he reiterated his desire to see younger players provided with more opportunities.

    "First of all we must say that it was a beautiful championship, where many have fought for the Scudetto until recently," he added. 

    "I don't know who will win, I think Milan are at a bit of an advantage. But the matches must be played, then whoever wins will deserve it, be it Inter or Milan. Both have had a great championship anyway.

    "Honestly I hoped more players could come through, but in recent years the situation hasn't changed: there are many good young people who can't find chances."

    As for Italy's failings in World Cup qualification, Mancini is targeting a response from his side, who start their Nations League campaign at home to Germany on June 4.

    "We absolutely didn't deserve to go out, but we have to accept defeat and start again," he continued. 

    "We know we don't have big choices, but we have to come up with something like what happened four years ago."

  • The Numbers Game: Manchester City ready to disappoint Steven Gerrard and Liverpool The Numbers Game: Manchester City ready to disappoint Steven Gerrard and Liverpool

    Look away Liverpool, this may make for painful reading. Manchester City are not quite home and hosed in the Premier League title race, but all signs point to them brushing off Aston Villa on Sunday to clinch the trophy.

    Another gripping race for domestic dominance culminates in City hosting Villa, while rivals Liverpool face Wolves at Anfield.

    If City drop points, a Liverpool win would make Jurgen Klopp's team the champions. Yet recent history shows us that City rarely stumble against Villa, so a slip-up in the clash with Steven Gerrard's side would be a monumental shock.

    A sixth title in the Premier League era beckons, which would rank City outright second behind Manchester United's haul of 13 championships.

    Stats Perform takes a look here at key Opta numbers ahead of the final-day showdown

    Saving the best for last

    Pep Guardiola has repeatedly denied City lost their nerve against Real Madrid, when they remarkably surrendered what should have been a match-winning lead in the Champions League semi-finals.

    Such wild things happen in football, Guardiola has reasoned, which is why he will take a meticulous approach to preparation for the Etihad Stadium clash with Villa. There could yet be an extraordinary finish to the season, but not if Guardiola can help it.

    City have kept running through the tape in each of Guardiola's seasons in England, winning all five of their final league games under the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss. That ranks as the best such 100 per cent record for a manager in the competition's history.

    Going back even further, to the start of the Abu Dhabi ownership era, City have lost just one of their final league games in the last 13 campaigns (W10 D2). That loss came when they went down 3-2 at home to Norwich City in 2012-13 when Brian Kidd was in caretaker charge for the last game. A year previously, they famously beat QPR by that same scoreline to clinch a first Premier League title.

    This season, City have lost just one of their last 27 Premier League games (W22 D4), and are unbeaten in 11 since losing 3-2 at home to Spurs in February.

     

    What it would mean for Guardiola

    The City manager, who reports have claimed is ready to extend his contract until 2025, stands on the brink of Premier League history.

    Should his side keep Liverpool at arm's length, Guardiola will become the outright leader for English top-flight titles among non-British managers, going one clear of both Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho.

    This would be his fourth such Premier League title success in England, with only Manchester United's Alex Ferguson winning more. Guardiola has no intention of staying long enough to match Ferguson's staggering stack of 13 titles.

    City have won 168 of the 227 Premier League games they have contested in the Guardiola era, scoring 562 goals in that time. Those are inevitably league-best figures, and it would be hideously out of character for them to crack against Villa.

    A one-sided rivalry

    It was not always this way, of course. Villa finished ahead of City as recently as the 2008-09 season (finishing sixth to City's 10th), but the tables turned in the dynamic between the teams when the Abu Dhabi investment began at the Etihad Stadium.

    In recent years, this has been almost a formality victory for City, who have won nine of their last 10 Premier League games against Villa (D1), including the last six in a row.

    City's last defeat to Sunday's opponents was a 3-2 loss at Villa Park in September 2013.

    It is even more of a grim story when the focus falls solely on the games in Manchester. Villa have lost 15 of their last 16 away league games against City, losing each of the last 11 in a row since a 2-0 win in April 2007. This run of 11 is Villa's longest away losing streak against an opponent in their league history.

    What's more, Villa's record when facing any league-leading team is unimpressive. They have won just one of their 21 Premier League away games against league leaders (D3 L17), beating Leeds United 2-1 in January 2000, and have lost the last seven by an aggregate score of 21-1.

    Villa pulled off a shock of sorts when beating fourth-placed finishers Chelsea on the final day of last season, but they have not won their last game of a league campaign in consecutive seasons since the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons. The second of those wins came against champions Arsenal, but that is almost a quarter of a century ago.

     

    Doubling up on the last day?

    City will have Erling Haaland on board next season, so a flip of tactics seems inevitable to accommodate the prolific striker. This term, City have tended to rely on their midfield and attacking wide players to deliver in front of goal, and three players have reached double figures: Kevin De Bruyne (15 goals), Raheem Sterling (13) and Riyad Mahrez (11).

    Now it could be Phil Foden's turn.

    Foden has scored nine Premier League goals this season, and if he scores against Villa it would make this season the first for City with two English players (Foden and Sterling) scoring at least 10 goals in a league campaign since 2004-05, when Robbie Fowler and Shaun Wright-Phillips were the pair.

  • Mbappe's mother confirms agreements in place with PSG and Real Madrid as decision looms Mbappe's mother confirms agreements in place with PSG and Real Madrid as decision looms

    Kylian Mbappe's mother has confirmed the forward has reached contract agreements with both Paris Saint-German and Real Madrid, and all that remains is for the 23-year-old to make a final decision.

    Mbappe, who is out of contract next month, is a long-standing target of Champions League finalists Madrid, although PSG have also made their desire to keep the 2018 World Cup winner public – with head coach Mauricio Pochettino declaring on Friday he wants the France international to stay "for many more years".

    He has scored 25 league goals and added 17 assists to guide PSG to their 10th Ligue 1 title this term, with his total of 42 league goal contributions the highest of all players in the big five European leagues.

    Mbappe was voted Ligue 1 player of the season for a third successive time last week, before declaring at the Union Nationale des Footballeurs Professionnels (UNFP) award ceremony in Paris that he would announce a decision on his future before France's Nations League fixtures in June.

    The player's mother and agent Fayza Lamary has now confirmed reports that Mbappe has agreed similar terms with both PSG and Madrid. 

    "There are no new sessions in order to negotiate the future of Mbappe after the expiration of his contract with Paris Saint-Germain. These sessions have ended," she told Kora Plus.

    "We have an agreement with Real Madrid and another agreement with Paris Saint-Germain, and the negotiations have already ended, now Kylian has to choose.

    "The two offers are equal from Real Madrid and Saint-Germain, there are no big differences between them, but we are waiting for Kylian to choose what he wants."

    PSG will bring the curtain down on their Ligue 1 season when they host Metz on Saturday, with Mbappe having contributed to seven more league goals than their final-day opponents have scored this season (35).

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