Maurizio Sarri has challenged his Juventus side to fight against the Champions League hangovers that threaten to derail their bid for a ninth consecutive Serie A title.

Juve have dropped points in four of their 15 league games this season, two of which came immediately after midweek Champions League fixtures.

They drew 1-1 with Lecce in October following a win over Lokomotiv Moscow and were held to a shock 2-2 home draw by Sassuolo this month after beating Atletico Madrid, before losing 3-1 to Lazio a week later.

Those results have left them trailing leaders Inter by two points and Sarri has demanded they do not suffer a similar fate against Udinese on Sunday after the 2-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen that concluded their Group D campaign in midweek.

"The risks of dropping the intensity levels and dropping points after Champions League games is visible in the statistics," he told a media conference. "You can't argue when it happens two or three times.

"We've got to find out why it keeps happening and fix it. There are differences playing in Serie A to the Champions League, but it's not true to say the European opponents are more open. Bayer Leverkusen focus mainly on possession, while Lokomotiv Moscow tend to clam up.

"Perhaps subconsciously our minds can drift to other targets after so many Scudetto titles in a row, but that is something we must absolutely fight against. If we are to be competitive in the Champions League, we need to be competitive in Italy, too."

Udinese are led by caretaker coach Luca Gotti, who was part of Sarri's staff at Chelsea last season.

They have failed to win any of their past four Serie A games, but Sarri is expecting a tough match at the Allianz Stadium.

"Gotti is very talented," he said. "Udinese can transform any long ball into a scoring opportunity, so we've got to be wary of that.

"They are a dangerous team that knows how to close down well and make the game tight. They have strikers who work well and can be dangerous in different circumstances."

Midfielders Adrien Rabiot and Emre Can have struggled for game time this season, with the pair starting only five times between them in Serie A, while Can was omitted from the Champions League squad for the group stage.

Sarri says both can expect to feature against Udinese and has suggested Rabiot – a free transfer following his departure from Paris Saint-Germain during the off-season – has not yet adjusted to life at the club.

"He has struggled to settle into our football, but that is normal," he explained. "He also came off an injury and struggled more in the first half in Germany [against Leverkusen], but he came out towards the end. He is also quite introverted, which doesn't help him to settle.

"Can was immensely disappointed [at being left out of the Champions League squad]. Either Can or Rabiot will certainly play and both of them may well be on the pitch for a portion of the game."

The transfer window may be shut, but Paul Pogba's future is still making headlines.

Pogba – who is set to miss the Premier League showdown against Liverpool due to injury – reportedly eyed a Manchester United exit and a move to Real Madrid.

A switch to the Santiago Bernabeu could be on the horizon after Pogba was snapped with Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane in the United Arab Emirates.

 

TOP STORY – POGBA MEETS ZIDANE IN DUBAI

Pogba has been linked with a fresh move to Madrid after the United star was pictured with Zidane, reports The Mirror.

Pogba wanted to leave United during the previous window, with LaLiga giants Madrid and former club Juventus the two favourites to sign the Frenchman, but a move did not materialise.

However, Pogba – recovering from a foot injury – was seen with Madrid head coach Zidane during his trip to Dubai, fuelling fresh speculation over his future at Old Trafford.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to 90min, United are monitoring Paris Saint-Germain forward Edinson Cavani. The 32-year-old Uruguay international is out of contract at this season's end and has been linked to Juve, Atletico Madrid and Inter Miami.

- Inter are chasing Brescia sensation Sandro Tonali and Atalanta's Dejan Kulusevski, says Calciomercato. Both players are 19 years of age and attracting interest in Serie A.

- Calciomercato also reports Tottenham are ready to send Christian Eriksen to Juventus in exchange for Adrien Rabiot. Eriksen's contract expires at the end of the season and has been linked to the likes of Madrid and United, while Rabiot only moved to Turin from PSG at the end of 2018-19.

- Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, United, Spurs and Inter have been credited with interest in Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Denis Zakaria, according to Bild.

- Manchester City have emerged as favourites to sign Hearts teenager Aaron Hickey, claims the Daily Star.

Cristiano Ronaldo is fit to face SPAL after an adductor injury and could be played in tandem with Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala, according to coach Maurizio Sarri.

Ronaldo missed Tuesday's slender 2-1 win at Brescia due to the injury, having scored the winner from the spot three days earlier against Hellas Verona.

Higuain and Dybala led the line in Ronaldo's absence, and Sarri could resist dropping one of them in order to fit last season's top-scorer back into the starting XI.

He sees no problem in playing all three together, with Juve yet to win by more than one goal across all competitions this term.

"Yes, Ronaldo can play and he can coexist with Higuain and Dybala," Sarri told reporters at his pre-match news conference.

"Higuain is a guy with great technical skill, Dybala is technically super fine and Ronaldo is a champion.

"I think they can therefore coexist in pairs and in certain phases of the game even in a three."

Adrien Rabiot made his first start for Juve in the win over Brescia and Sarri's post-match comments were interpreted as criticism by some, with the coach suggesting he expects more from the Frenchman.

But Sarri insists he was not being critical of the 24-year-old, rather realistic having not featured in a competitive match since December last year.

When asked if he was unsatisfied by Rabiot's display, Sarri hit back: "I didn't say that.

"Surely he can do much more. In 2019, Rabiot has never played, so we need to be patient without expecting everything right away.

"He has good qualities, even in physical terms. He has good strength and is technically strong. He must be supported and must get used to our football."

Adrien Rabiot said Cristiano Ronaldo is helping him improve at the Serie A champions as he hailed the Juventus superstar.

Rabiot is preparing for Saturday's league debut with Juventus against Parma after joining from Ligue 1 holders Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.

Having settled in Turin, French midfielder Rabiot praised Juve team-mate and five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo.

"I played a lot this summer, because I needed to adapt to the team," Rabiot told Sky Sport 24.

"I'm managing to create an excellent affinity with Cristiano Ronaldo, because he also plays on the left. Training with him allows me to improve myself a lot and his presence is very good for the group."

"Turin is different from Paris. It's smaller, but it's a beautiful city," he added. "I am finding myself at ease and I managed to adapt well, which is very important for what I can then give on the field.

"Personally, I can't wait to start this adventure. I feel fit, we have worked a lot this summer, but we are ready for this appointment. With Parma it will be difficult, because we are the team to beat, and everyone will always give their best against us, but we are confident."

New head coach Maurizio Sarri will not be on the Juventus bench for their opening two Serie A games as he recovers from pneumonia.

Sarri, who arrived from Chelsea in the off-season, will miss Saturday's trip to Parma as well as the home match against former side Napoli on August 31.

"The coach made an excellent impression on me," said Rabiot. "He has a precise game philosophy and knows exactly how we must play, both in the offensive and defensive phases.

"We have already absorbed his concepts and we are working well with his staff."

Maurizio Sarri urged Juventus to show less naivety on the ball after Adrian Rabiot's late lapse led to a 3-2 loss to Tottenham in Singapore.

The Serie A champions succumbed to defeat in Sarri's first match in charge courtesy of Harry Kane's sublime lob over Wojciech Szczesny from inside the centre circle in the third minute of added time.

New signing Rabiot dallied on the ball and invited a tackle from Lucas Moura, from which the ball spilled into Kane's path.

Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo earlier scored to overturn Erik Lamela's first-half opener, before Lucas equalised in the 65th minute.

"It was a difficult game, there is a difference between us in our physical preparation," Sarri told reporters.

"Tottenham have players who have known each other for years and in the first half they seemed quicker, but it's normal.

"If we want to show our football we must defend further forward. In the first half we weren't high enough up the pitch, which made things difficult.

"In the second half we pressed better and we did some good things, even though we were naive with the lost balls.

"But I think this is also affected by the level of physical conditioning."

The International Champions Cup clash was the opening pre-season match for both clubs.

Debutant Rabiot said: "It was the first game, so there is still a lot of work to do. Physically I need to grow, but I felt good playing my first game.

"We are understanding each other very well within the team and with the coach."

Juve return to action against Serie A rivals Inter in China on Wednesday.

One of the more prolonged transfer sagas of the close-season is over after Juventus completed the purchase of highly rated Dutch defender Matthijs de Ligt from Ajax.

The 19-year-old is regarded as one of the finest prospects in world football and will cost Juve a total of €85.5million, with the Serie A champions beating off competition from a host of major European clubs for his signature.

Manchester United, Manchester City, Barcelona and Liverpool were all strongly linked with the imposing centre-back, but he will instead bolster Juve's already impressive squad.

Juve have moved with impressive decisiveness in the transfer market in recent times and new coach Maurizio Sarri has a particularly strong array of defenders to choose from next term following confirmation of De Ligt's arrival.

Below, we examined what Sarri's squad looks like after De Ligt's signing, what further changes could be made and how the team might start the season...

GOALKEEPER AND DEFENCE – An end of an era?

There have been changes aplenty in this department at Juve recently. Wojciech Szczesny can expect to remain first choice between the posts, but the return of Gianluigi Buffon on a year-long contract will keep the Pole on his toes.

One of the most surprising things about Juve's close season is their apparent willingness to offload Joao Cancelo, a standout performer last term. He is being strongly linked with Manchester City, as Danilo seems likely to go the other way.

Nevertheless, Juve's defence has been suitably bolstered. With Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci getting on in years, the sought-after De Ligt, Cristian Romero and Merih Demiral provide long-term quality and youthfulness at centre-back (albeit Romero will remain at Genoa on loan next season], while 19-year-old Luca Pellegrini offers competition at left-back.

Sarri's biggest decision will revolve around his centre-back choices. Having worked with Daniele Rugani at Empoli, he might see more action and De Ligt can surely expect to feature regularly.

An end to the Chiellini-Bonucci dynasty might not be far away.

 

MIDFIELD – Big roles for Pjanic and Ramsey

Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot are the new midfield arrivals and both join with massive expectations – particularly the former, who many feel could be Juve's answer to the Marek Hamsik of Sarri's Napoli side.

Sarri's favoured 4-3-3 dictates one of the midfield trio will sit deeper. He likes that player to be very comfortable on the ball and a fine passer, meaning Miralem Pjanic looks set to fill the 'Jorginho role', as the Bosnian appears rather more suited than Sami Khedira and Emre Can.

Given Rabiot's lack of action over the past year at Paris Saint-Germain, he looks to have the most work to do to break into the starting XI, while Rodrigo Bentancur's fine development means he is likely to become essential.

However, should Juve pull off the signing of Paul Pogba from Manchester United, he would surely be an automatic pick on the left of the central trident.

 

ATTACK – Departures galore expected

Juve's options in attack are numerous, and several of them were being linked with moves away even before Sarri's appointment was confirmed.

Paulo Dybala, Juan Cuadrado, Douglas Costa and Mario Mandzukic are all reportedly for sale, while Gonzalo Higuain's situation is by no means clear.

The Argentinian excelled under Sarri at Napoli and joined him at Chelsea in January, but he underwhelmed in the Premier League. As such, it is difficult to see how he fits in at Juve, but he and the coach clearly have a rapport.

Federico Bernardeschi and Cristiano Ronaldo are untouchable, while Moise Kean showed plenty of promise towards the end of last season, but if all of Sarri's expendables leave, they will be left a little short on the flanks.

Few wingers have been linked with the Bianconeri, though they are said to hold an interest in Callum Hudson-Odoi, Federico Chiesa and Burnley youngster Dwight McNeil.

 

POSSIBLE JUVENTUS XI FOR 2019-20

Szczesny; De Sciglio, De Ligt, Rugani, Alex Sandro; Pjanic, Ramsey, Bentancur; Bernardeschi, Ronaldo, Mandzukic

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