Gonzalo Higuain says his primary aim at Juventus this season is to prove he belongs at the club after two difficult loan spells away from Turin.

The Argentine striker impressed in the Bianconeri's convincing 3-0 Champions League victory over Bayer Leverkusen, scoring the opener and setting up the second for Federico Bernardeschi.

Higuain has found himself back in favour this term having endured lacklustre loan spells with AC Milan and Chelsea in the 2018-19 campaign.

The latter of those moves was under the tutelage of current Juve boss Maurizio Sarri, who also coached Higuain at Napoli, and the Argentinian is focused on showing his worth.

"I came here with great determination, I wanted to prove I could stay here and there's a long season ahead," he told Sky Sport Italia.

Higuain received a great ovation from the home fans, who saw Cristiano Ronaldo round out the win with a third goal late on, and he was delighted to see his work recognised by the stands.

"It was a very good performance, we played with the determination you need for this kind of game. I'm happy for the goal and the performance," he added.

"The standing ovation from the fans was great, it's good when fans recognise the work you do. This victory puts us closer to qualification, even if we know that we still have plenty of work to do."

Cristiano Ronaldo earned a share of another Champions League record with his goal in Juventus' 3-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday.

The Portugal superstar drilled through the legs of Lukas Hradecky late in the Group D contest at Allianz Stadium to complete a routine victory in which Gonzalo Higuain and Federico Bernardeschi were also on target.

Leverkusen became the 33rd team in the competition that Ronaldo has scored against, meaning the 34-year-old matched a benchmark set by his fellow Real Madrid great Raul.

Ronaldo is already the player with the most goals in Champions League history, while his 17 strikes in Madrid's 2013-14 success was the most netted by a player in a single campaign.

His six Champions League final appearances is also a joint record with former AC Milan defender Paolo Maldini.

Gonzalo Higuain scored one and set up another as Juventus coasted to a 3-0 Champions League win over Bayer Leverkusen at Allianz Stadium.

The Argentina striker provided a textbook finish in the 17th minute to put Juve ahead and cleverly assisted Federico Bernardeschi to double the hosts' just after the hour.

Coach Maurizio Sarri will have been delighted to see such an effective performance from Higuain, a player who was much maligned during a difficult 2018-19 campaign. Although Juve rarely shifted through the gears, a fine outing was completed by Cristiano Ronaldo netting the third goal late on.

A win for Juve means they and Atletico Madrid each have four points from two Group D games and the Bianconeri can switch their focus to a domestic showdown with unbeaten Serie A rivals Inter on Sunday.

There was little goal threat from either side until Higuain opened the scoring in fine fashion.

Jonathan Tah failed to properly deal with Juan Cuadrado's forward punt and Higuain took a brilliant first touch before rifling low into the left corner from 20 yards.

Lukas Hradecky denied Higuain a second goal with a smart parry from the striker's bending effort from the left of the penalty area.

Ronaldo was largely quiet until a Cuadrado pass found its way to the Portugal star in the 57th minute, but he uncharacteristically shot straight at Hradecky.

Juve were celebrating again shortly after, however, as Higuain showed great feet and his centre was swept home by Bernardeschi.

Higuain should have had another assist when his low left-wing ball found a wide-open Ronaldo who again could only drill an effort against Hradecky.

It was a case of third time lucky, though, when Ronaldo drilled through Hradecky's legs after being teed up by Paulo Dybala to score against a 33rd different team in the Champions League - tying Raul's record - to round out the win.


What does it mean? Juve well on track

Juve will have been disappointed at surrendering a two-goal lead to draw their opener at Atletico, but ultimately a point at the Wanda Metropolitano is a good result. After overcoming a potentially tricky home fixture here, Sarri's side are well placed for a last-16 berth.

That's the Higuain we know and love

Higuain endured disappointing loan spells at AC Milan and Chelsea – the latter under Sarri – last season. But he has been a regular starter this term back at Juventus and his goal was reminiscent of Higuain at his best - the touch to set his strike was a thing of beauty. More good work set up Bernardeschi for Juve's second and Higuain's contributions were vital to Juve's win.

Tah error undoes Leverkusen game plan

Leverkusen had a pretty solid game plan: keep the ball, try and coax Juventus out to play, then hit the hosts on the transitions. Unfortunately, Tah's undercooked header from Cuadrado's lump in the air presented the platform for Higuain's brilliance and left his team chasing the game.

What's next?

Juventus return to Serie A action in a mouth-watering table-topping clash against Inter in the Derby D'Italia on Sunday. Leverkusen host RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga a day earlier.

Romelu Lukaku will miss Inter's blockbuster Champions League clash against Barcelona due to injury.

The Belgium striker has not travelled to Camp Nou with the Nerazzurri squad for the Group F clash against the reigning La Liga champions due to a muscular issue.

It remains to be seen if Lukaku will be fit for the huge Serie A contest with Juventus on Sunday, but head coach Antonio Conte is hopeful the quadricep problem is not too serious.

"Lukaku isn't here, he had a slight muscular issue in the quadricep that he has been carrying for 10 days," Conte said a pre-match news conference.

"He was continuing to feel the problem and the tests were negative, but we preferred in any case not to risk him. We have to rely on how the player feels in these cases.

"It's not a tear, so we are fairly relaxed and will focus on that [if he can face Juve] only after tomorrow's game with Barcelona."

Barcelona are planning for life after Uruguay striker Luis Suarez.

The 32-year-old is highly regarded at Camp Nou, however, he has struggled for form and consistency.

Now, LaLiga champions Barca appear to be lining up a possible replacement.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA READY TO SPEND €50M ON PIATEK

Barcelona are interested in signing AC Milan striker Krzysztof Piatek as a long-term replacement for Luis Suarez, says Calciomercato.it.

Suarez celebrates his 33rd birthday in January and the Barca veteran is showing signs of decline at the LaLiga champions, where he has struggled for form and consistency.

Barca will look to bring in a new face in January, with the Spanish giants ready to spend €50million on Piatek, while RB Leipzig's Timo Werner, Getafe forward Jaime Mata and Juventus veteran Mario Mandzukic have also been linked.

 

ROUND-UP

Juventus have set their sights on three Premier League players – Chelsea's Willian, and Tottenham pair Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld, according to Tuttosport. The trio will be available on free transfers at the end of the season and Eriksen tops Juve's wish list.

- The Daily Mail says Tottenham have opened contract talks with defender Jan Vertonghen. The Belgium international is out of contract at season's end and Spurs are reluctant to lose him on a free transfer.

- AC Milan are interested in signing Nice star Arnaud Lusamba, according to Calciomercato. The 22-year-old midfielder is contracted to the Ligue 1 club until 2021.

Arsenal will send scouts to watch Salzburg and Hungary star Dominik Szoboszlai in Wednesday's Champions League showdown against Liverpool, reports the Daily Mail. The 18-year-old sensation has also attracted interested from Serie A trio Juventus, Inter and Lazio.

- Eredivisie side PSV are interested in signing Manchester United's Tahith Chong on loan in January, according to the Daily Mail. The 19-year-old Dutch winger, who arrived from Feyenoord in 2016, has been involved with the first team under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Real Madrid will be looking to kick-start their Champions League campaign against Club Brugge on Tuesday after losing to Paris Saint-Germain on matchday one, while Kylian Mbappe has his eye on a record of Lionel Messi's.

Madrid were crushed 3-0 by PSG last time out, with Thomas Tuchel's men looking extremely comfortable in a match that left Zinedine Zidane under a bit of pressure.

They have since bounced back with two wins and a draw in LaLiga and they will expect to get three points at home to Club Brugge, while PSG travel to Galatasaray.

The French champions will be able to call upon the services of Mbappe this time, having missed the Madrid clash through injury, and he is close to equalling a record set by Messi.

Below, we have highlighted the key data ahead of Tuesday's contests.

Real Madrid v Club Brugge

3 - Madrid are looking to avoid losing three successive Champions League matches for the first time in their history. They have not lost three in a row in European competition since September 1981.

50 - Los Blancos have won all three of their Champions League home matches against Belgian opposition by an aggregate score of 14-2. Their most recent competitive home defeat to a club from Belgium was 50 years ago in December 1969 versus Standard Liege in the European Cup (W4 D1 L0 since).

 

Galatasaray v Paris Saint-Germain

14 - Mbappe has scored 14 goals in the UEFA Champions League and will be aged 20 years and 284 days on the day of this match. The youngest player to 15 goals in the competition is Messi, who scored his 15th goal aged 21y 289d.

1 - If Galatasaray avoid defeat against PSG, it will be the first time they have remained unbeaten in the opening two games of a Champions League group stage since the format changed in 2003-04.

Red Star Belgrade v Olympiakos

4 - Marko Marin was directly involved in four of Red Star's five goals during the 2018-19 Champions League campaign, including two assists against Liverpool in their only ever victory in the competition.

9 - Olympiakos have lost nine of their past 11 matches away from home in the Champions League (W2), shipping at least two goals in every defeat. Prior to this run, the Greek side had won three of their previous six on the road (D1 L2).

 

Tottenham v Bayern Munich

39 - Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski has scored in 39 different Champions League matches; only Ruud van Nistelrooy (42), Karim Benzema (45), Raul (56), Lionel Messi (68), Cristiano Ronaldo (82) have scored in more.

2 - Bayern are looking to become the second side after PSG in October 2017 to score two or more goals in six successive Champions League away group matches since the competition changed to its current format in 2003-04.

Atalanta v Shakhtar Donetsk

20 - Shakhtar goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov has failed to keep a clean sheet in any of his past 20 Champions League starts – the only keeper with a longer such run in the history of the competition is Igor Akinfeev (43 starts between 2006 and 2017).

4 - Atalanta's 4-0 defeat to Dinamo Zagreb on matchday one was the heaviest defeat by a team in their first Champions League match since Qarabag lost 6-0 to Chelsea in September 2017.

 

Manchester City v Dinamo Zagreb

10 - Against Shakhtar, City's Gabriel Jesus scored his ninth Champions League goal – should he score in this game, he will be the youngest Brazilian (22y 181d) to reach 10 goals in the competition and youngest South American since Lionel Messi (21y 99d) in October 2008.

1 - Mislav Orsic's hat-trick on his Champions League debut for Dinamo against Atalanta was the first treble scored for a Croatian team in the competition. Only two Croatian players have scored in their first two appearances in the competition; Alen Boksic in November 1992 for Marseille and Nikola Vlasic in 2018 for CSKA Moscow.

 

Lokomotiv Moscow v Atletico Madrid

7 - Kieran Trippier created seven chances in Atletico Madrid's 2-2 draw with Juventus, the most of any player on matchday one this season. Since the start of last season, only Dusan Tadic (41) has created more chances than the England defender in the competition (32).

22 - Lokomotiv Moscow's victory over Bayer Leverkusen last time out was achieved with just 22 per cent possession, the lowest by a winning team in a Champions League match since Celtic had 15 per cent and beat Barcelona 2-1 in November 2012.

 

Juventus v Bayer Leverkusen

26 - Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 26 goals in 24 appearances against teams from Germany in the Champions League – no player has more against teams from a specific nation (Lionel Messi v English teams, also 26). This will his first appearance against Bayer Leverkusen in the competition.

78 - Leverkusen had 78 per cent possession in their 2-1 defeat to Lokomotiv Moscow, the most by a team in a Champions League match since Bayern Munich had 78.8 per cent against Arsenal in February 2014.

Paul Pogba wanted to leave Manchester United before the 2019-20 season, but Opta numbers suggest the midfielder can help turn the Red Devils' poor start around.

Pogba is set to make his 100th Premier League appearance at home to Arsenal on Monday, the France international having missed recent action for club and country with an ankle injury.

The 26-year-old has been a lightning rod for criticism since returning to Old Trafford, becoming the world's most expensive player when he left Juventus in 2016.

Pogba is still United's key man - their sole world-class talent and a performer capable of winning games on his own when operating at the top of his game.

Here, we assess his Premier League career to date, comparing the upcoming landmark with his time at Juve, as well as other Premier League stars in his position.


PROLIFIC POGBA IN ELITE COMPANY

Pogba hit eight Serie A goals in each of his last two seasons in Turin, but since moving back to United he has improved his record in front of goal.

Aided by the fact he often takes penalties for the Red Devils, Pogba has hit 24 goals in his 99 Premier League appearances to date - which includes three games before he left United as a youngster unable to break into Alex Ferguson's plans.

Pogba's first 100 Serie A appearances saw him score 22 times, so his effectiveness in front of goal has increased slightly, with no midfielder netting more than his 13 Premier League goals last term.

In fact, since Pogba rejoined United, only three midfielders have scored more Premier League goals: Dele Alli (32), Christian Eriksen (27) and Gylfi Sigurdsson (26), all of whom typically play closer to the opposition goal than the World Cup winner.


MORE ASSISTS SINCE UNITED RETURN

Pogba is also a creative force, of course, and his 49 goal involvements (goals plus assists) over the same period matches Sigurdsson's combined total.

Opta numbers suggest Pogba has enjoyed significant development in this side of his game in the last three seasons, with 25 assists in his 99 Premier League appearances to date besting the comparatively low 11 he managed in 100 league games for Juve.

Pogba's record in this regard compares favourably with the Premier League's elite again. Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne has contributed a peerless 44 assists, with Spurs star Eriksen not too far behind the Belgium international on 38.

David Silva is the only other midfielder to have posted more assists than Pogba in this period, though, indicating his playmaking talents have perhaps gone under the radar. He has created 162 chances in 99 Premier League games, compared to 124 in his first 100 Serie A appearances.


A MIDFIELDER WHO DOES IT ALL

Pogba's all-round talents make him almost one of a kind in the Premier League. No other midfielders can match the combination of playmaking, goalscoring and ball-winning he offers to United when at his best.

Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Pogba has recorded 640 recoveries - a tally that beats of his Premier League contemporaries who offer the same gifts in the final third. This total is more in keeping with a defensive-minded midfielder like Mark Noble, whose recoveries tally stands at 616 in the same period.

Pogba's tackle success rate in the past three campaigns is 70.29 per cent, comparable to Manchester City's energetic midfielder Bernardo Silva (70.79 per cent) and, again, ahead of players such as De Bruyne, Eriksen, Sigurdsson and Alli.

Few midfielders dictate play for their teams to the extent Pogba does for United. Since his return to the club, he has touched the ball 8,190 times in the Premier League - a tally towards the top of the tree for the league and behind only David Silva, Eriksen, Fernandinho and Granit Xhaka.

However, one statistic clearly indicates Pogba is simply playing for a worse team at United than he did when at Juve. His win ratio in 99 Premier League appearances to date is 57 per cent, compared to 71 per cent in his first 100 Serie A games.

As good as Pogba is - at both ends of the pitch - he cannot do it all on his own.

Maurizio Sarri shifted the weight of Champions League expectation to the four English clubs involved as he urged Juventus to attack the competition with freedom.

Juve host Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen in their second Group D game on Tuesday after squandering a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at Atletico Madrid in the opening round of matches.

Failing to preserve three points was seen as a disappointment but former Chelsea boss Sarri wants his team to feel completely removed from pressure in their pursuit of a long-awaited success in Europe.

The Bianconeri last won the Champions League in 1996 and a failure to end that drought contributed to Massimiliano Allegri's departure as head coach following five otherwise excellent seasons – during which time he reached the 2015 and 2017 finals.

Premier League teams have lifted the trophy on five occasions since Juve's most recent triumph, including Liverpool in an all-English final last term.

"For managers and players, the Champions League is the top competition," Sarri said at Monday's pre-match news conference.

"We ought to be here to have fun too. You are here to play the best games in Europe. We must live it cheerfully and not with heaviness.

"Sometimes, instead, we feel a meaningless sense of pressure. Meaningless because at this time it is highly unlikely for an Italian club to be the favourite.

"We can be among the favourites but in this moment English clubs are the favourites for reasons we all know.

"I am trying to make this burden lighter because these games are played with a lot of pressure.

"We should play with a great determination and focus but also with pride and satisfaction."

Sarri's men enter the Leverkusen clash on a three-match Serie A winning run that has kept them within two points of leaders Inter, who are in action away to Barcelona on Wednesday.

The title rivals meet in a top-of-the-table encounter at San Siro on Sunday but Sarri insists his sole focus is on the task at hand.

"Thinking beyond this game would be a sensational mistake," he said of Leverkusen's visit.

"We still have a lot of room for improvement.

"Our objective is to go all the way in the Champions League, but it's a competition that is decided in fine moments. 

"I expect a good result. It's a difficult game and our first one at home in the Champions League this season."

Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri is reluctant to start Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain in a star-studded front line.

Higuain looked set to leave Juve in the close-season but, having worked under Sarri at both Napoli and Chelsea, the 31-year-old has been given a prime role in the squad so far this term.

The striker has featured in five of Juve's six Serie A games this season, making four starts, though he has only managed one goal – scoring in a 4-3 win over his and Sarri's former club Napoli in August.

Ronaldo and Dybala were preferred for Saturday's meeting with SPAL, with the latter teeing up his strike partner for a late goal in a routine 2-0 victory.

However, the duo had struggled to link up to much effect before Ronaldo's headed effort, Dybala having picked out his team-mate only once in the first half as Juve failed to make their dominance count for more than Miralem Pjanic's stunner.

Despite his side having displayed some wasteful finishing in recent weeks, Sarri has no plans to throw his three star forwards onto the pitch from the start of games just yet.

"Playing Cristiano, Dybala and Higuain all together from the start is an interesting suggestion," Sarri told a news conference ahead of Juve's Champions League match with Bayer Leverkusen.

"But we are not yet ready for the level of balance required. For now we could only try this solution for parts of the match.

"It's a fascinating hypothesis but you have to see everything. For those watching it is beautiful, [but] we must evaluate everything."

Complicating matters further for Sarri has been the introduction of Aaron Ramsey, who has recovered from the injury that saw him miss a chunk of his final season at Arsenal.

Having made his bow as a substitute in Juve's opening Champions League fixture against Atletico Madrid, Ramsey has started the last three Serie A games, marking his full debut with a goal in the 2-1 victory over Hellas Verona.

The speed at which Ramsey has overcome his injury problems has surprised Sarri, though Juve's boss sees plenty of potential for improvement from the Wales international.

"Ramsey has surprised me in his recovery from injury, and he was included very quickly in the team," Sarri added.

"I believe, however, he still has a lot of room to improve. I see a great level of application during training, which gives me hope.

"In the last two games, the ease of dribbling has increased. Now we need to speed it up and improve our scoring."

Could Massimiliano Allegri be the man to rescue AC Milan?

Marco Giampaolo is under increasing pressure at San Siro after Milan slumped to a fourth defeat in their first six games of the Serie A season.

Allegri led Milan to their last league title in 2010-11 and, now unemployed, he shapes as being a target for the club once more.

 

TOP STORY – MILAN EYE ALLEGRI

Allegri is one of the favourites and the choice of many of AC Milan's leaders to be their next head coach, according to Calciomercato.

The 52-year-old spent three and a half years at Milan before taking over at Juventus, where he won five Serie A titles.

Allegri could be set for a return to Milan, who are struggling in 16th in the table, just one point clear of the relegation zone.

ROUND-UP

Ansu Fati has made an impression with Barcelona early in the season and he could be set for bigger and better things. Cadena SER says the 16-year-old will be included in the pre-list for Spain's Euro 2020 qualifiers against Norway and Sweden in October.

- Staying in Spain, Real Madrid are considering a move for United States star Megan Rapinoe, according to AS. Set to have a women's team starting next year, Madrid are considering trying to sign the Reign FC attacker.

Inter coach Antonio Conte wants to sign Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic, reports Calciomercato. Matic – who is out of contract at the end of the season – has struggled to establish himself in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side this season amid links to Juventus.

- Tuttosport claims Juve will offer out-of-favour midfielder Emre Can to Paris Saint-Germain in exchange for full-back Thomas Meunier.

- With Genoa struggling in the relegation zone, Aurelio Andreazzoli is also under pressure. Sky Sport says the Serie A side made contact with former Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso after being thrashed 4-0 by Lazio.

- Arsenal still want to see Mesut Ozil make a move. The Sun reports the Premier League club want to send the playmaker out on loan and would even contribute to his wages to make a move happen.

- Desperately needing to add to their attack, United are weighing up a move for Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic in January, according to the Mirror. United were heavily linked with the Croatian during the close season.

Juan Cuadrado expects Antonio Conte's fast-starting Inter to pose a genuine Serie A title threat to Juventus this season.

Inter overcame Alexis Sanchez's red card to beat Sampdoria 3-1 on Saturday and extend their winning start to six matches.

Juve earlier saw off SPAL 2-0 in Turin but remain two points adrift of the leaders ahead of next Sunday's crucial top-of-the-table clash at San Siro.

Colombia international Cuadrado has seen enough from the Nerazzurri to know his team will not be allowed to cruise to another Scudetto.

"Inter are a great team," Cuadrado told Sky Sport Italia.

"They have everything [required] to be up there. We have to keep fighting to stay ahead. It will be a great battle next Sunday and we hope to be at 100 per cent."

Cuadrado, 31, completed 90 minutes at right-back against SPAL, plugging a defensive gap following injuries to Danilo and Mattia De Sciglio.

Though naturally a winger, he will likely have to continue at the back until after the international break.

Cuadrado believes the recently retired Andrea Barzagli's return to the club in a technical coaching role can help hone the defensive side of his game.

"I've always played on the wing but I'm at the coach's disposal to give everything I can," the former Fiorentina and Chelsea man said.

"Even more so in this moment of emergency, I will try to give my best and do the defensive phase well.

"I've already talked with Barzagli about it. His experience will surely help."

Before the Inter match, Juve must negotiate a Champions League meeting versus Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday.

Maurizio Sarri's men squandered a two-goal lead in drawing 2-2 at Atletico Madrid in their Group D opener.

If Manchester United want to keep Paul Pogba, it is going to cost them.

Pogba wanted to leave Old Trafford as Real Madrid and Juventus circled before the transfer window closed.

Now, Pogba has some personal demands for United.

 

TOP STORY – POGBA MAKES CONTRACT DEMAND

Manchester United star Paul Pogba wants to double his salary to £30million in order to stay at the club, reports Tuttosport.

Pogba eyed an Old Trafford exit prior to the close of the transfer window, with LaLiga giants Real Madrid and former club Juventus interested.

A move did not materialise and now Pogba is looking to secure a new bumper contract in Manchester.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to the Daily Star, England manager Gareth Southgate is Tottenham's first choice to succeed Mauricio Pochettino. The pressure is on at Spurs, who are struggling for form as doubts grow over Pochettino's future in London. Despite Tottenham's dismal start to the season, though, The Sun claims Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is reluctant to part with Pochettino as he feels it would benefit rivals United and Madrid.

- The Express reports West Ham have slapped a £100million price tag on Manchester United and Manchester City target Declan Rice. The Red Devils were linked with the England international during the off-season, however, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side were unable to lure Rice to Old Trafford.

Bayern Munich are still interested in injured Manchester City winger Leroy Sane, according to The Sun. Bundesliga champions Bayern were hoping to sign Sane before the Germany international suffered a serious knee injury.

- The Mirror claims Champions League holders Liverpool fear losing manager Jurgen Klopp to Germany. The Premier League leaders believe they will not be able to convince the former Borussia Dortmund boss to stay at Anfield should he be presented with an opportunity to replace Joachim Low.

Madrid are ready to compete with LaLiga rivals Barcelona for the signing of Napoli's Spanish midfielder Fabian Ruiz according to reports from La Gazzetta dello Sport and Mundo Deportivo.

- Manchester United will demand £20million for Dean Henderson after re-signing star goalkeeper David De Gea, says The Sun. England Under-21 keeper Henderson is on loan at Premier League side Sheffield United but dropped a clanger in Saturday's defeat to Liverpool.

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon revelled in his record-breaking appearance after eclipsing Paolo Maldini for most games at club level.

Buffon – back in Turin after a season with Paris Saint-Germain – made his 903rd appearance for Juventus in Saturday's 2-0 Serie A win over SPAL to break Maldini's appearance record.

The 41-year-old Buffon matched Maldini's record in last week's victory against Hellas Verona before returning to the bench for Tuesday's trip to Brescia, however, the Juve star was back on the field for the visit of SPAL.

After surpassing fellow Italian great Maldini, Buffon told reporters: "It's a great satisfaction, I wasn't aware I was so close to this record two games ago, I found out at the last game. I was told I had reached Paolo [Maldini].

"It makes me very happy and very proud, proud for what I did, but as I said to your colleagues, I am happy because I got here not dragging myself, but as a high-level player. That's what I think I can say without being presumptuous.

"Therefore I also added, earlier on, that I will always thank my parents and my wife, which has been benevolent with me, but I can also say that there's something of my own in all this."

Buffon returned to Juve during the close season after a one-year spell at Ligue 1 champions PSG, having also previously represented Parma.

Unlike Maldini, who spent his entire career with Serie A rivals AC Milan, Buffon's appearances have been spread across three clubs.

He played 220 matches for Parma at the start of his career, was used 25 times in a largely underwhelming campaign with PSG last time out and has now featured 658 times for Juventus.

Inter head coach Antonio Conte urged his players to take the intensity of their performances in Serie A into crunch games with Barcelona and Juventus.

Conte's side played virtually half of their 3-1 win over Sampdoria on Saturday with 10 men as they maintained their 100 per cent winning run.

Inter secured victory thanks to goals from Stefano Sensi, Alexis Sanchez and Roberto Gagliardini, while Jakub Jankto netted for Sampdoria.

Sanchez, on loan from Manchester United, had a particularly eventful game as he scored his first Inter goal and was then sent off a minute into the second half for a second bookable offence.

Inter are two points clear of Juventus at the top of Serie A after six straight victories and Conte wants to use that as a springboard as they head to Camp Nou before hosting the Italian champions at the weekend.

"We need to recover our energy to make an intense match so we can make it difficult for Barca," said Conte. "I do not have to tell you the opposition teams we are playing.

"If you want to put Barcelona in difficulty, you have to play an intense game but at the same time you have to be good at limiting and not letting them play, otherwise it becomes a problem.

"You also have to be good at dribbling and building. This beginning in the league is the result of so much work and a lot of willingness on the part of the boys."

The victory saw Conte equal Roberto Mancini's best start to a season, although he still needs two more wins to overtake legendary Inter head coach Helenio Herrera's record of seven in the 1966-67 season.

 

Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri revealed he has yet to watch Inter in action this season ahead of next week's top-of-the-table showdown in Serie A.

Reigning Italian champions Juve moved above Inter into top spot with Saturday's 2-0 win over SPAL at the Allianz Stadium – Conte's side featuring away to Sampdoria shortly after.

Inter won their first five matches this season and will return to the summit with victory over Sampdoria in their game in hand.

Juve travel to San Siro in eight days but Sarri will not turn focus to that match until after the midweek clash with Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League.

"I haven't actually watched any Inter games this season as we've focused mainly on the teams we are facing next," he told Sky Sport Italia.

"We'll watch a couple of Bayer Leverkusen matches and then go to dinner.

"I hear that Inter are playing very well? I had no doubt they would considering the quality of the coach and their players. I always said this would be a far more balanced season."

Juve were frustrated by SPAL keeper Etrit Berisha for large parts of Saturday's contest, but an impressive hit from Miralem Pjanic and a late header from Cristiano Ronaldo made it three league wins in a row for the Turin giants.

Sarri acknowledged his side were a little off the pace in the first half, despite managing four attempts on target, but was pleased they got the job done on home soil.

"We had a few difficulties finding the right tempo in the opening stages, especially as SPAL were so clammed up," he said.

"It wasn't the tempo of the players. We moved the ball too slowly and there wasn't enough movement off the ball.

"It was better in the second half - we created many chances and conceded very few. I was pleased with the determination shown by the players who came off the bench."

Gonzalo Higuain was left on the bench as Sarri used Ronaldo alongside Paulo Dybala, the latter teeing up his strike partner with a fine delivery to settle the contest.

"Cristiano Ronaldo was lively and created four or five scoring opportunities, while Higuain has been doing well this season.

"It's good to have three forwards where any combination you choose - you can't really go wrong."

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