Andrea Pirlo is hopeful Paulo Dybala will stay at Juventus after the forward came off the bench to secure a Serie A win over Napoli.

Dybala scored as a substitute in a league game on Wednesday for the first time since March 2020, steering a fine finish past Alex Meret in Juve's 2-1 win after Cristiano Ronaldo's first-half opener.

It proved to be the decisive goal, with Juve having been left living dangerously in the closing minutes after a late penalty from Lorenzo Insigne.

With a year to run on his contract, it has been suggested Juve could look to move Dybala on after this season, but head coach Pirlo is keen to keep the Argentina international.

Indeed, Pirlo believes Dybala would have made a greater impact this season had he not missed nearly four months of action with a knee injury.

"When you have a player like Dybala at your disposal, you always try to let him play. We've almost never had him," he told Sky Sport.

"When you miss someone like this, it becomes difficult, and when he comes back he helps you win.

"He still has a year on his contract. We hope to be able to keep him."

The win saw Juve bounce back from their shock 1-0 home loss to Benevento last week, but league leaders Inter remain 12 points ahead after beating Sassuolo 2-1.

Pirlo accepts the champions have themselves to blame for allowing such a gap to open up, but he was delighted with the attitude shown by his players against Gennaro Gattuso's side.

"We've lost a lot of points. We gave up too many chances on the road that led us to having this gap to the leaders," he said.

"When you sacrifice yourself for everyone in the game, you get the great benefit of the result. Everyone sacrificed themselves. Cristiano, too, when someone was out of position, he ran backwards."

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane said "Juventus are still important to me" amid links with the under-fire Serie A champions.

First-year Juve coach Andrea Pirlo is under mounting pressure in Turin, where the Italian giants are fourth in Serie A and in danger of missing out on Champions League qualification for next season.

Cristiano Ronaldo's Juve were stunned by Portuguese side Porto in the Champions League last 16 this term.

Former boss Massimiliano Allegri – who left in 2019 – has been linked with a return after meeting president Andrea Agnelli.

Zidane spent five years at Juventus, winning two Serie A titles among other honours before joining Madrid in 2001, and the Frenchman did not rule out a possible Bianconeri reunion.

"Both, Italy is in my heart, I spent five years in Turin and Juventus are still important to me," Zidane told Sky Italia.

"Future at Juve? For now I'm here, we'll see," 

Zidane was speaking after Madrid defeated Liverpool 3-1 in the opening leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie on Tuesday.

Vinicius Junior scored twice for hosts Madrid in the Spanish capital, where Marco Asensio was also on target against the Premier League holders in the absence of centre-back duo Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane.

Toni Kroos teed up Vinicius for the opening goal with an exceptional pass in the 27th minute before Trent Alexander-Arnold's error gifted Asensio a goal of his own nine minutes later.

Liverpool star Mohamed Salah reduced the deficit six minutes into the second half, but Vinicius restored Madrid's two-goal advantage within 14 minutes.

Aged 20 years and 268 days, Vinicius became the second youngest goalscorer for LaLiga holders Madrid in a Champions League knockout match after 18-year-old Raul netted against Juventus in March 1996.

"I'm happy for him because he needed to score, like Marco [Asensio] or Karim [Benzema] do," said Zidane, who took charge of his 50th Champions League fixture with his 31st victory – only Jupp Heynckes (32) won more of his first 50 managerial games in the competition than the Frenchman.

"He's playing well, he's helping the team and he gets a boost by scoring a goal.

"Vini was lacking goals and he's going to gain a lot of confidence from today. He deserves it.

"I don't know if it was his best game [at Real Madrid], but two goals in a quarter final is something very important."

Madrid have progressed from 15 of their last 16 Champions League knockout matches after winning the opening leg, only failing to do so against Ajax in the 2018-19 round of 16.

In all European competition, no side has beaten Liverpool more often than Real Madrid (four, level with Benfica), with the Reds suffering defeat in each of the last four encounters with Los Blancos.

"We studied Liverpool pretty well before the game and prevented them from playing their way," Zidane said ahead of Saturday's Clasico showdown with LaLiga rivals Barcelona.

"We weren't going to play with three at the back with Varane, 4-3-3 was the preferred choice from the start."

"3-1 is a deserved victory, I'm proud of my team, we're in good form but the players are very tired now. I hope we recover well for the Clasico."

Zidane added: "We haven't won anything. We're happy with what we're doing. What the players are doing is tremendous considering the difficulties we've had."

Andrea Pirlo was not concerned by a meeting between former Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri and president Andrea Agnelli, insisting he retains the support of the Serie A champions.

Reports this week revealed Allegri, who won five Scudetti in five seasons in Turin, had met with Bianconeri chief Agnelli.

That appeared to increase pressure on Pirlo, whose first season as a senior coach has badly gone off the rails.

Juve are fourth heading into Wednesday's game against Napoli, who are fifth on the same number of points.

After nine consecutive Serie A titles, Juve risk missing out on Champions League qualification for next season.

But Pirlo feels he still has the backing of Agnelli, who informed him of the encounter with Allegri, a coach who has been without a job since his departure in 2019.

"There is no position," Pirlo said ahead of the Napoli game. "I was warned by the president himself about the meeting with Allegri.

"Football is one thing, friendship is another. I have a daily relationship with Agnelli, we tell each other everything that happens.

"I knew about this meeting and I know I have his confidence, then obviously it's up to me to prove that I can be the coach for next season as well."

Pirlo might find the going tough against Napoli, as the Partenopei arrive in Turin on a four-match winning run in Serie A.

Napoli have also won their previous two games against Juve, while they have a joint-high five wins over the Bianconeri since the start of their sequence of nine championships in a row.

Pirlo will also be without Merih Demiral, Leonardo Bonucci and Federico Bernardeschi following positive coronavirus tests, but the coach insisted he had no issue with the game going ahead.

The fixture was originally scheduled to take place in October but did not go ahead as planned, after Napoli did not travel to Turin on the recommendation of their local health authority (ASL).

"We respect the protocol," Pirlo said. "We are in tune with what the ASL says. We will do what we have always done, we will present ourselves and play."

Paulo Dybala, left out against Torino on Saturday after breaching COVID-19 regulations, is back in contention, while Pirlo is keeping faith with Wojciech Szczesny and Dejan Kulusevski, who have each been guilty of recent on-field mistakes.

Juve had not committed a single error leading to a goal in Serie A this season until March but have since had three.

Szczesny's, against Torino, also saw Kulusevski - at fault against Lazio - give the ball away cheaply.

"Szczesny will play because after a negative performance there is always a desire for redemption," Pirlo said, adding: "I spoke to Kulusevski. I reassured him. Mistakes can happen - you have to raise your head."

Juventus knew exactly what they were getting when hiring Andrea Pirlo and would be wrong twice if they decided to make a change now, according to Fabio Cannavaro.

Despite winning Serie A for a ninth successive season, Juve reacted to the team's shock Champions League exit to Lyon last year by sacking head coach Maurizio Sarri.

Pirlo was promoted from within to the top job, the former Italy international - who had only just been appointed as the club's new under-23 boss - signing a two-year deal to take charge of the first team.

His debut campaign has been tough, both at home and abroad. Juve's dominance in the league looks set to come to an end, while their hopes of European glory were dashed again at the last-16 stage, this time unexpectedly losing over two legs to Porto.

Pirlo's position has come into question as a consequence, yet former team-mate Cannavaro insists the club must show faith in the decision they made to appoint him in the first place.

"When Juve chose Andrea they knew very well that he had no experience," Cannavaro said in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport

"It is logical that he should have his time to mature, even in the relationship with the team. There are still 30 points at stake, so it is right to leave it.

"And he did good things, throwing young people and managing a complicated dressing room, one full of people who have won a lot. Of course, some things don't work, he was wrong: he is a human.

"It's a heritage that must be protected. After all, if Juve don't confirm his position, what did they choose him to do last summer?

"They would be wrong twice if they take that decision now. And the blame can't only be his if the players make mistakes on and off the pitch."

Pirlo's Juve have a 57.14 per cent win percentage in Serie A, having scored 56 goals and conceded 25. The team averages exactly two points a game, considerably lower than the 2019-20 season.

They face a fight just to qualify for the Champions League again: Saturday's 2-2 draw against Torino saw them slip to fourth in the table, with a crucial home game against Napoli - who sit fifth, albeit level with Juventus on 56 points – to come on Wednesday.

As for Sarri, his solitary campaign in charge averaged out at 2.18 points per game, the former Napoli and Chelsea boss winning 68.42 per cent of his league fixtures as he secured the title again.

However, both slip below the lofty standards set by Massimiliano Allegri in his final year in the job. In 2018-19, his squad won 73.68 per cent of their Serie A outings, conceding just 30 goals as they picked up points at a rate of 2.37 per game.

Andrea Pirlo has admitted he is fed up with Juventus failing to display enough imagination and ambition to overcome rivals' spoiling tactics.

A 2-2 derby draw with lowly Torino on Sunday followed a shock 1-0 loss to Benevento before the international break, with hopes of a 10th successive Scudetto now forlorn.

Pirlo's first season as head coach has been one of major underachievement given the quality within his squad, but Juventus have said they will support his plans to take the team forward.

It means Pirlo looks sure to get a second season, but he and the club's leadership will expect to see more from the team in 2021-22, with the coach telling his players their current level is not good enough.

"We've played lots of games so it's natural for a bit of fatigue to creep in but we can't let that happen," Pirlo said.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a 79th-minute leveller after Antonio Sanabria's double saw Torino overcome losing an early goal to Federico Chiesa. Rodrigo Bentancur fired against the post, but Juventus could not find a third goal.

"After we equalised we took control of the game again and hit the post, so we did respond well," Pirlo said. "But when we're up against sides that sit in and defend it's hard to play through the middle - we have to channel moves down the wings.

"We need to be a bit patient, keep the ball moving and attack down the flanks.

"Obviously I'm not happy when we don't win and we're dropping lots of points. We have to work hard on occupying the space better and finding more options between the lines."

Giorgio Chiellini said there were "too many mistakes" before looking ahead to Wednesday's clash with a Napoli side who could yet pip Juventus to a Champions League place.

Juventus sit fourth but are only ahead of fifth-placed Napoli on goal difference.

Chiellini, quoted on the club website, said: "We have to stick together, keep our heads down and carry on working hard every day.

"We have another important match on Wednesday and it's one we need to win. We must push on, keep giving our all and try to secure our minimum target, which is qualifying for the Champions League. We know it's going to be a battle until the end of the season."

Andrea Pirlo said sloppy Juventus only had themselves to blame for a 2-2 derby draw against relegation-threatened Torino on Saturday.

Juve's slim hopes of retaining the Serie A title suffered another blow as they had to settle for a point from a frantic clash with their city rivals at the Olimpico Grande Torino.

Federico Chiesa put the champions in front, but Antonio Sanabria nodded home a deserved equaliser in the first half.

A poor Dejan Kulusevski pass and a mistake from Juve goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny allowed Sanabria to put Torino in front only 15 seconds into the second half.

Cristiano Ronaldo levelled 11 minutes from time before Rodrigo Bentancur struck the post as Juve slipped up again, having suffered a shock defeat to Benevento before the international break.

The fourth-placed Bianconeri are well adrift of leaders Inter, and head coach Pirlo said there were no excuses for their latest setback.

He told DAZN: "Unfortunately we complicated the games by ourselves. We also made a good start, we unlocked them but then we let it slip.

"We thought we could play another kind of second half and instead we went under and the game got difficult.

"We make mistakes that are happening a little too often, we lose concentration. We need to improve and understand that we cannot be devoid of focus, not even for a second.

"Whenever you make a mistake, you pay for it."

Juventus trio Arthur, Paulo Dybala and Weston McKennie have been left out by head coach Andrea Pirlo as punishment for their breach of coronavirus protocols.

Italian newspaper La Stampa reported that police were called to McKennie's home late on Wednesday to break up a social gathering, with such events forbidden under current social restrictions.

Arthur and Dybala were among those to attend, despite a nationwide curfew put in place amid the global health pandemic.

Ahead of Saturday's derby with Torino, Pirlo confirmed the three players would not be involved – and did not make it clear exactly when they will be considered again for first-team action.

"The three players involved in the episode are not called up for tomorrow's match and we will see when they will resume," the Juve boss told the media on Friday. "Having said that, let's talk about the derby.

"I took the decision not to call them, the club did the rest. This certainly wasn't the right time to have a dinner until late, both because it was two days away from a match and out of respect for those who respect the rules."

For Dybala, it is the latest setback in a difficult season. The forward has featured in just 11 Serie A games in 2020-21 and has been sidelined since the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie with Porto through injury.

The Argentina international issued an apology via Instagram on Friday having attended the gathering with his colleagues, adding: "I know that in such a difficult moment for the world with COVID it would've been better not to make a mistake, but I was wrong to stay out to dinner."

Pirlo is also without defenders Leonardo Bonucci and Merih Demiral after both tested positive for coronavirus during the international break.

It is hardly ideal for the reigning league champions as they desperately look to stay in the title race; Juve suffered a shock 1-0 home loss to Benevento last time out and trail leaders Inter by 10 points.

"Tomorrow is very important, we will speak to each other before the match in order to face it in the best possible way. The approach doesn't change, you play to win, always," Pirlo said.

"After defeats you have to get up and react as best you can. We are ready to do that, we will show great pride, we have champions and a great group who want to react."

Pirlo will have Alex Sandro available after he returned to training without any issues, while Danilo offers an option for Juve in either defence or midfield.

Torino have won only one of their past 29 Serie A derbies between the sides, though they too are in need of points as they sit precariously placed in 17th, just above the relegation zone.

Juve are unbeaten in their past 33 league fixtures against teams starting the matchday in the bottom four (W29 D4), their last defeat against such opposition coming back in May 2016 against Verona.

Manchester City have been linked with Erling Haaland.

As Sergio Aguero appears headed for an exit, Pep Guardiola wants to bolster his attack.

But Danny Ings has reportedly emerged as an alternative to the expensive and in-demand Haaland.

 

TOP STORY – CITY TARGET INGS

Manchester City are considering a move for Southampton star Danny Ings, according to Sky Sports.

City's all-time leading goalscorer Sergio Aguero is out of contract at the end of the season and no closer to extending his deal in Manchester.

Pep Guardiola's City are reportedly among the admirers of Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland, who has also been linked with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool and Juventus.

With Haaland set to command a huge fee, City are eyeing former Liverpool forward Ings as a cheaper alternative.

 

ROUND-UP

- Gazzetta dello Sport and Corriere dello Sport report Juventus head coach Andrea Pirlo is on the brink of being sacked. Juve are out of the Champions League and 10 points off the pace following their shock loss to Benevento. Former boss Massimiliano Allegri has been linked with a return, while La Repubblica claims Atalanta's Gian Piero Gasperini, Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi and Luciano Spalletti are on a three-man shortlist.

- Former Chelsea and Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri is Roma's number one option should they sack head coach Paulo Fonseca, says Gazzetta dello Sport. Fonseca – under pressure in the Italian capital – has also been linked with Napoli, alongside Hellas Verona's Ivan Juric. Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso has been linked with Fiorentina, Torino and Bologna.

Neymar re-signing with Ligue 1 holders PSG is "just a matter of time", according to Fabrizio Romano.

Aaron Ramsey is interested in a move to Premier League champions Liverpool, according to Calciomercato. The Juventus midfielder, who left Arsenal for Turin in 2019, is seen as a possible replacement for rumoured Barca target Georginio Wijnaldum at Anfield.

- The Daily Express reports Arsenal are eyeing Barcelona misfit Philippe Coutinho. However, a move will depend on whether Arsenal sign loanee Martin Odegaard permanently from Madrid.

Xabi Alonso is set to become the new head coach of Borussia Monchengladbach next season, replacing Dortmund-bound Marco Rose. Romano, however, insists no contract has been signed as the former Bayern Munich star remains in charge of Real Sociedad's B team.

Andrea Pirlo must not let the disappointment of Juventus' shock defeat to Benevento linger for too long, Italy head coach Roberto Mancini has warned. 

The rookie Juve boss saw his team waste a chance to reduce Inter's advantage over them at the Serie A summit to seven points, with Adolfo Gaich sealing a 1-0 triumph for Filippo Inzaghi's side. 

Questions over Pirlo's leadership have already been asked and will persist, as the prospect of a 10th successive Scudetto disappears almost over the horizon.

It would take an Inter implosion and for Juventus to suddenly become infallible for the Bianconeri to catch the Nerazzurri. Neither prospect looks likely.

Mancini understands the pressure Pirlo is under and advised him to adopt a positive mindset to overcome his difficulties. 

"It is a delicate moment for him, but it is the life of all the coaches," he told a media conference. 

"The frustration must last as little as possible, then you have to think positively knowing that this happens in football. 

"He is young and he has started [his managerial career] in a big club. He has a bit of difficulty but he has begun a path."

Mancini was speaking ahead of Italy's World Cup qualifying campaign, which kicks off at home to Northern Ireland on Thursday before visits to Bulgaria and Lithuania in Group C. 

Federico Chiesa is expected to play an important role for the Azzurri after his impressive season for Juventus. 

The 23-year-old has scored six league goals for the club since arriving on loan from Fiorentina in October, while only Alvaro Morata has made more assists (eight) than his six. 

He has also created three more chances (38) for his team-mates than any other Juve player in the top-flight this season. 

"I am happy because in the last two months he has improved a lot, but he can still improve more," Mancini said. 

"He still has room to improve and become a player capable of scoring plenty of goals and providing plenty of assists."

Mancini will be joined in the dugout by Daniele De Rossi, who recently joined Italy as a technical coach. 

De Rossi, who earned 117 caps for the Azzurri and won the 2006 World Cup, retired from playing in January last year after a brief stint with Boca Juniors in Argentina.

The 37-year-old made 616 appearances in a distinguished career with Roma and Mancini expects his experience to be invaluable.

"We talked about it some time ago, when he stopped and then decided to go to Boca," Mancini said. 

"We needed a person who could help us on the pitch, given the many commitments, and we made this decision. 

"He was an important player for the national team, a world champion. He needs to gain experience because he wants to be a coach. I think it was the right choice."

Massimiliano Allegri did not rule out a Juventus return as the Italian head coach revealed his interest in working in the Premier League and LaLiga.

Doubts have emerged regarding rookie head coach Andrea Pirlo following Juve's shock 1-0 loss at home to Benevento in Serie A on Sunday.

Having already crashed out of the Champions League in the last 16, Juve's season hit a new low after they were upstaged by the lowly visitors.

The latest defeat left nine-time reigning Serie A champions Juve fourth in the standings and 10 points adrift of leaders Inter.

Allegri departed Juve at the end of the triumphant 2018-19 season, which saw him secure a fifth successive Scudetto in Turin.

Asked if he could potentially return to Juve in the future, Allegri – who has been linked with Premier League side Leeds United – told Sky Sport Italia: "It's impossible to tell, besides, Andrea Pirlo is there now and in my view he's doing well.

"I don't know what Juve are missing. They are in the Coppa Italia Final, won the Supercoppa, are fighting for the top four. The Champions League is a bit of a lottery, it can turn on a sixpence."

Allegri, who revealed he turned down LaLiga giants Real Madrid three years ago, added: "Right now I don't really know anything. 

"The charm of England and Spain are there, but I would also be happy to stay in Italy."

Roma and Napoli have also emerged as possible destinations for Allegri amid pressure on Paulo Fonseca and Gennaro Gattuso.

"Naples or Rome? I don't know anything yet," the 53-year-old said. "I haven't talked in a while, when I'm not coaching I don't watch many games because I'm bored."

Allegri coached Cristiano Ronaldo during his time at Juventus and he was asked about the five-time Ballon d'Or.

Ronaldo – linked with former clubs Madrid and Manchester United – surpassed Pele's record after scoring 770 career goals courtesy of his hat-trick against Cagliari on March 14.

The 36-year-old tops the Serie A's goalscoring charts with 23, ahead of Inter star Romelu Lukaku (19).

"Ronaldo too is human and can make mistakes, but there are few who can shake off a defender and run at the goal like him," Allegri added.

"Cristiano's strength is that he has this mind that is programmed to win. He won five Ballon d'Or trophies, the Champions League, so many titles, yet he is there giving himself new motivation every single day.

"It's also natural that those who play alongside him must understand the space that he leaves has to be filled by the other guy.

"Poor Mario Mandzukic, playing with Cristiano Ronaldo, he ran more in that year than his entire career… I love Mandzukic, he's a fantastic player."

Asked to compare Ronaldo and Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi, Allegri said: "They are two very different players. I'd say one is greater, the other is better."

Andrea Pirlo said Juventus had the wrong attitude and must show more respect to the shirt after a 1-0 home defeat to Benevento left their Serie A title hopes on the rocks.

The rookie head coach saw his team waste a chance to reduce Inter's advantage over them to seven points, with Adolfo Gaich preying on a calamitous pass from midfielder Arthur in the 69th minute.

Questions over Pirlo's leadership have already been asked and will persist, as the prospect of a 10th successive Scudetto disappears almost over the horizon.

It would take an Inter implosion and for Juventus to suddenly become infallible for Juventus to catch the Nerazzurri. Neither prospect looks likely.

"We needed to turn in a better display but we performed poorly, in every aspect of our game," Pirlo said. "Everything was off today, in our attitude and in technical situations.

"We knew this would be tough, because Benevento are an organised team, who defend effectively with two compact lines. What we needed was to stay calm and make better use of the flanks, but we made a lot of mistakes.

"When the result is hanging in the balance, panic can start to set in and that wasn't the attitude required. We also needed a little extra desire to get the result, because there was a real opportunity for us to close to gap in the league.

"We must continue to believe in the Scudetto, to follow our path and our work and always be there."

Juventus had 73.4 per cent of possession and led the shot count 21-7, with Cristiano Ronaldo having nine attempts as well as a goal disallowed for offside, while a penalty decision was also overturned in the first half.

Benevento's Alessandro Tuia made a game-high 10 clearances as the visitors scrambled to stay level initially and then hold on to their lead.

The fact Benevento, coached by former Juventus striker Filippo Inzaghi, were able to get ahead and stay ahead rankled with Pirlo, with last season's Serie B champions scoring from their one shot on target in the game.

"We have to change our mindset: we wear a jersey of huge importance, which must always be honoured," Pirlo added, quoted on the Juventus website. "Our attitude has to be different in games like this."

After the international break, Juventus will return to Serie A action with a derby against Torino, which should focus minds.

Assessing Arthur's blunder, Pirlo said: "He made a mistake that was not like him. In my opinion, he didn't see the opponent in that area of the field.

"It was a soft mistake, like many others we made. It means that we weren't concentrated and that we didn't give everything to achieve victory."

Andrea Pirlo and Cristiano Ronaldo will stay at Juventus despite hopes of a 10th successive Scudetto lying in tatters, according to club director Fabio Paratici.

A shock 1-0 home defeat to lowly Benevento on Sunday was a result to leave even the most optimistic Juventus supporter fearing the long reign as league champions is coming to an end.

Trailing Inter by 10 points, the Benevento game was a chance to chip away at that lead, but Arthur's dire pass across the Juventus penalty area midway through the second half was seized upon by Adolfo Gaich for the game's only goal.

Ronaldo had nine attempts at goal, hitting the target four times, but Juventus could not find a way past goalkeeper Lorenzo Montipo.

Pirlo, appointed to coach Juventus this season in his first senior post, has seen his side knocked out of the Champions League by Porto and almost certainly hustled out of the Serie A title race inside the past fortnight.

But Paratici, managing director of the club's football department, insists Pirlo remains the man Juventus want as their leader.

He told Sky Sport Italia: "This is not a game that changes our ideas, let's go our own way. This route continues. We are very convinced of what we are doing, let's stay on this path.

"We weren't dissatisfied with the previous coaches. There were different reasons why we changed, that's it. It is not a win or a loss that determines a club's course.

"When you have a clear idea of ​​where you want to go, you have to follow the route. We will see at the end if it is correct."

Asked about Ronaldo, who has been linked with his former clubs Real Madrid and Manchester United, Paratici said: "We have Ronaldo, he is the best in the world and we are holding on to him."

Ronaldo was presented with a shirt marked 'G.O.A.T. 770' by chairman Andrea Agnelli before the game, denoting Juventus' belief they have the 'greatest of all time' at the club, and reflecting his achievement in reaching 770 career goals with his hat-trick against Cagliari last Sunday.

Ronaldo said Pele acknowledged that took him past the Brazil great's career haul in competitive matches for a new world record.

Paratici dismissed talk of this being a season of 'transition', saying: "For Juventus this word does not exist."

Adolfo Gaich inflicted the latest blow on Andrea Pirlo and Juventus as lowly Benevento snatched a stunning 1-0 win in Turin.

A wretched pass from Juventus midfielder Arthur was seized upon by striker Gaich, who drilled a powerful finish beyond Wojciech Szczesny for the 69th-minute winner.

Coach Pirlo looked askance on the touchline as his team suffered another defeat, with this one leaving them 10 points behind leaders Inter, their hopes of a 10th successive Serie A title in tatters.

They had chances in this game and a penalty decision overturned after a VAR review, but were left counting the cost of one careless mistake.

Cristiano Ronaldo struck a low shot six inches wide of the left post in the third minute, in an early warning from Juventus.

Alvaro Morata, who scored but was also sent off after the final whistle when these sides draw 1-1 in November, was the next Juve player to have a significant sight of goal. The Spanish striker outsmarted the Benevento defence and ran through the centre before his low shot was blocked by goalkeeper Lorenzo Montipo.

Juventus were awarded a penalty in the 35th minute when referee Rosario Abisso thought defender Daam Foulon handled a cross from Dejan Kulusevski, but the official changed his mind after reviewing on a pitchside monitor.

Matthijs de Ligt had a firm header well saved by Montipo, and moments later Ronaldo skilfully volleyed in a cross from Kulusevski but had strayed a yard offside. Ronaldo then tried his luck with a thumping drive from 25 yards, but again Montipo resisted as the half ended goalless.

A drab start to the second half was almost followed by an own goal, with Benevento's Federico Barba turning the latest cross from the right by Kulusevski towards his own goal, with Montipo making a smart reaction save.

Then came the shock of Benevento going ahead, with a terrible pass across the penalty area from Arthur, in the left-back position, intercepted by Gaich. The Argentine striker fended off a weak challenge from Danilo and rammed the ball into the bottom left corner.

Ronaldo failed to put away a late half-chance and Danilo fired over from close range as Juventus scrambled to get back in the game, but it was not their day.

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."

Cristiano Ronaldo channelled his anger at Juventus' Champions League exit in midweek into a decisive display in the Bianconeri's 3-1 win over Cagliari on Sunday, according to head coach Andrea Pirlo. 

Juve were eliminated from Europe's elite club competition by Porto at the last-16 stage on Tuesday, going out on away goals after the tie finished 4-4 on aggregate after extra time at the Allianz Stadium.

Sergio Oliveira scored the decisive goal late on from a free-kick that went straight through the Juve wall, with Ronaldo turning his back on the effort.

Former Bianconeri boss Fabio Capello singled out Ronaldo, while ex-president Giovanni Cobolli Gigli suggested Juve should never have spent €100million to sign the forward in 2018.

He responded in superb fashion at the Sardegna Arena, though, scoring a hat-trick inside 32 minutes. 

Only once before had Ronaldo scored a quicker hat-trick from kick-off, doing so after 20 minutes against Espanyol for Real Madrid in 2015.

The Portugal international is now four clear of Inter striker Romelu Lukaku at the top of the Serie A scoring charts, with 23 goals from as many appearances. 

In total, Ronaldo has scored 87 times for club and country in March, making it his favourite month of the year in terms of goals, surpassing September (86), while he has now also netted at all 18 stadiums he has played at in Serie A.

Pirlo was pleased with Ronaldo's display and dismissed suggestions he might have received a red card for a high challenge on Cagliari goalkeeper Alessio Cragno. 

"I think it was a classic situation during play, both of them were looking at the ball and didn't realise how close they were," he told Sky Sport Italia.

"He was angry the same way everyone was after the missed qualification, but he did his talking on the pitch with three goals and that's all that matters.

"It was the right approach, which we needed after failing to qualify the other day, and we started on the right foot.

"All we can do is focus on our own results, getting as many points as possible, winning as many games as possible and then at the end seeing where we are."

Juve's win takes them clear of fourth-placed Atalanta and to within one point of Milan, who play in Sunday's late game.

They remain 10 points behind leaders Inter, having played a game less than Antonio Conte's side, and defender Giorgio Chiellini insists the reigning champions are not thinking too much about the Serie A pacesetters. 

"It was a tough test, as Cagliari are a very good team," he said. "We've got Benevento up next and need to find that consistency we've been lacking so far this season.

"With all due respect for Inter, we have to focus only on our own results. Once we reach the end, we'll see where we are, but the only course we can take is to focus one game at a time and keep going.

"We spoke within the dressing room. This isn't the moment to be talking too much, our strength has always been giving our response on the pitch. I think if we maintain that unity, we'll do well."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.