Pirlo makes it clear for Juve: It's our duty to put pressure on Inter

By Sports Desk March 20, 2021

Andrea Pirlo wants Juventus to put the pressure on Inter as they aim to close the gap between themselves and the Serie A leaders this weekend.  

With a coronavirus outbreak at Inter forcing their game against Sassuolo to be postponed, Juve can move within seven points of the Nerazzurri with a home win over Benevento on Sunday - their final game before the international break.  

The reigning champions – who are looking to win the Scudetto for a 10th successive season – have won their last seven league games at the Allianz Stadium too, scoring at least two goals in each of those matches while conceding just three times.  

While they do have the Coppa Italia final against Atalanta to come later in the season, Juve's surprise Champions League exit to Porto in the last 16 leaves them with time to focus fully on league duties.  

"It's our duty to put pressure on Inter and we have to do it match after match, starting tomorrow," Pirlo told the media on Saturday.

"Our only goal now is to win as many points as possible, in order to put pressure on Inter and to make it all to play for in our game against them.

"I've spoken to the team, let's see where we are after each match, thinking towards the future. We must try to win as many games as we can.

"It will not only depend on us, but we must believe that we can always win. We are aware and convinced."

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    Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni voiced concerns about the physical condition of his players while highlighting the importance of Lionel Messi after La Albiceleste booked their spot in the Copa America quarter-finals.

    Papu Gomez was the hero for Argentina, with his 10th-minute goal sealing a 1-0 win over Paraguay on Monday and a spot in the last eight of the showpiece CONMEBOL tournament.

    There was no rest for superstar captain Messi, who equalled Javier Mascherano's record for most Argentina appearances with his 147th cap, despite Scaloni's men backing up from Friday's success against Uruguay.

    Messi has not missed a minute of Argentina's three Group A games so far, amassing 74 touches against Paraguay while winning 75 per cent of a team-high 16 duels.

    The six-time Ballon d'Or winner had the most shots (three) and shots on target (two) among his team-mates as Argentina extended their unbeaten streak to 16 matches, dating back to 2019.

    "The reality is that Messi has been playing every game and it is very difficult not to count on him, even though he is tired he continues to make the difference," said Scaloni, who introduced the likes of Angel Di Maria and Sergio Aguero into the starting XI.

    "Today we made several changes and despite that we were able to take all three points."

    Without a major title since the 1993 Copa America, Argentina snapped a four-game winless drought against Paraguay in Brasilia.

    Argentina ended the contest with a total of eight shots (five from outside the box) – their second lowest figure during the Scaloni era, tied with the match against Ecuador in October 2020 and one more than they registered against Paraguay at the 2019 Copa America.

    Paraguay controlled possession across the 90 minutes – 56.9 to 43.1 per cent, the first time in the last nine meetings with Argentina they had more ball possession.

    "What worries me is the physical condition of the players because we came from playing three days ago and today the conditions were not the best, so we had to rotate players," Scaloni told reporters.

    "The first half we played very well and in the second, due to the merit of Paraguay and their good physical condition, as a result of many days off, they had more control of the game. The team showed a good image in the first half, but there are always things to keep improving."

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    "The beauty of all this is the process," Lionel Scaloni said post-game.

    Sixteen games unbeaten and through to the Copa America quarter-finals for the 14th consecutive CONMEBOL tournament.

    Papu Gomez's delightful 10th-minute effort over onrushing Antony Silva extended Argentina's undefeated streak, while snapping a four-match winless drought against Paraguay on Monday.

    Add seven clean sheets during an unbeaten run, dating back to the 2019 Copa America semi-finals, and it sounds wonderful for La Albiceleste in pursuit of a first major title since 1993.

    This is not your usual Argentina, despite boasting a record six-time Ballon d'Or winner – Lionel Messi, who equalled Javier Mascherano's appearance record with his 147th cap – hellbent on claiming an elusive international trophy.

    Aside from Gomez's delicate finish, there was not much to write home about. After a promising opening half, Argentina faded. A growing theme under head coach Scaloni.

    Argentina ended the Group A contest with a total of eight shots (five from outside the box) – their second lowest figure during the Scaloni era, tied with the match against Ecuador in October 2020 and one more than they registered against Paraguay at the 2019 Copa America.

    Paraguay controlled possession across the 90 minutes – 56.9 to 43.1 per cent, the first time in the last nine meetings with Argentina they had more ball possession. Fortunately for Scaloni's side, La Albirroja did not manage a shot on target.

    At a time when Argentina was reeling following another early and unsuccessful World Cup campaign, ousted in the round of 16 at Russia 2018, Scaloni stepped into a hot seat so few were willing to take on.

    The seven-time Argentina international provided stability when superstar captain Messi initially retired. Scaloni oversaw a run to the 2019 Copa America semi-finals – La Albiceleste settled for third.

    Fast forward to this year and even amid a lengthy undefeated streak, there are growing questions over Scaloni, the style of football and Argentina's ability to put an end to 28 years of anguish.

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    Argentina qualified for the Copa America quarter-finals after ending their drought against Paraguay with a 1-0 victory.

    Not since the 2015 Copa had Argentina tasted a win over Paraguay – a run of four consecutive matches – but La Albiceleste snapped that winless streak thanks to Papu Gomez on Monday.

    Gomez scored the winner in the 10th minute, scooping an effort over onrushing Paraguay goalkeeper Antony Silva, for his second goal from just his sixth international appearance.

    As Lionel Messi equalled the record for most Argentina appearances, Lionel Scaloni's men extended their winning streak to 16 games in Brasilia.

    Angel Di Maria and Sergio Aguero were named in the starting XI for the first time during this year's Copa, and the veteran Argentina pair were heavily involved early.

    Aguero had a great chance to put Argentina ahead in the seventh minute after some woeful defending saw the ball fall to his feet inside the six-yard box, however, the Barcelona recruit's reactive effort went just over the crossbar.

    Argentina did break the deadlock three minutes later via Gomez, who beat the offside trap and finished delicately over Silva after Di Maria cut a ball perfectly to the Sevilla star.

    Paraguay ended the half with more possession – 55.2 per cent to 44.8 per cent – as Argentina dropped off after scoring the opening goal.

    Argentina did find the back of the net for a second time on the stroke of half-time, wheeling away in celebration after Gomez's cross was inadvertently put into his own net by Paraguay defender Junior Alonso but it was ruled offside.

    There was a promising spell of sustained pressure from Paraguay, who had not lost to Argentina in six years, to start the second half.

    Paraguay continued to dictate proceedings without creating anything meaningful as Argentina booked their spot in the knockout phase in pursuit of a first major title since winning the 1993 Copa America.

     

    What does it mean? Argentina roll on

    Argentina are a tough team to beat at the moment. Not since the 2019 Copa America have La Albiceleste tasted defeat – a run of 16 consecutive matches without a loss. They have kept seven clean sheets during that run.

    Messi milestone

    The six-time Ballon d'Or winner celebrated another milestone on Monday, equalling Javier Mascherano for the most senior Argentina appearances – 147. Messi is already the country's all-time leading scorer (73).

    Toothless Paraguay

    Paraguay enjoyed more possession and a better passing accuracy, but it did not translate to anything meaningful up front. Eduardo Berizzo's side ended the contest without a shot on target.

    What's next?

    Argentina will conclude their Group A campaign against winless Bolivia in Cuiaba on Monday, while Paraguay meet Uruguay on the same day.

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