Andrea Pirlo is not overly concerned by Juventus' poor run of form, although he knows his team must return to winning ways when they face Crotone on Monday.

Juve have not won in three matches in all competitions, following up a 0-0 Coppa Italia draw with Inter – which nevertheless secured their place in the final – with defeats to Napoli in Serie A and Porto in the Champions League.

Their performance against Porto was particularly lacklustre, but Pirlo believes the fixture congestion since the turn of the year is a major factor.

The Bianconeri played nine times in January and have been in action on a further five occasions in February, with two games every week in 2021 until now.

"I speak with the president after every game. We spoke after the game at Porto and he didn't intervene this week," Pirlo told a news conference on Sunday.

"We knew we had played a bad game, there was no reason for him to reproach the team. I raised my voice during half-time in Porto, I didn't like how we played and I didn't like the reaction.

"We switched off at the beginning of the second half and we've been analysing the mistakes this week. There's no reason to raise your voice when you know you didn't do well.

"The players must transform their disappointment into energy for tomorrow's game.

"I am not worried, we had won 11 games out of 13. It was normal to have a drop; unfortunately, we had it in a decisive moment after many games.

"It's normal not to be always focused when you play 15 games in 40 days – it's like we played half of a season in one month and a half.

"We knew it would be an intense season, we are here and we must fight for our targets."

Next opponents Crotone sit rock bottom of Serie A, with just three wins from their 22 games so far, although they are unbeaten in their past two league matches against Juve.

While the strugglers have only once avoided defeat in three successive games against a single top-flight opponent, the Bianconeri have failed to win four of their past seven league meetings with promoted sides.

"It's an important game to continue our path in the title race. It's going to be a tough game because Crotone are not going through a good moment, but they play well," Pirlo added.

"They've kept their philosophy and they are trying to impose themselves in every game."

Cristiano Ronaldo has not scored since February 6 but will look to make Crotone the 78th different side he has netted against in Europe's 'top five' league; only Zlatan Ibrahimovic (79) has scored against more such individual opponents since 2000.

Ronaldo has netted against each of the 17 current Serie A teams he has faced in so far, yet Pirlo said the former Real Madrid superstar is still working hard to improve his free-kick taking.

Since his arrival at Juve in 2018, Ronaldo has attempted 44 shots directly from free-kicks in the league but scored only once.

"Free-kick goals are important, they can decide games, especially against teams that sit deep," Pirlo said.

"Ronaldo is training well and is improving. He is calm and he is convinced he is soon going to score from a free-kick."

Cristiano Ronaldo is "selfish" and is struggling to adjust to Andrea Pirlo's style of play at Juventus, according to former Italy international Antonio Cassano.

Juventus suffered a surprise 2-1 loss away at Porto in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday, with Federico Chiesa scoring in the 82nd minute after Mehdi Taremi and Moussa Marega put Sergio Conceicao's side in control.

Ronaldo supplied two key passes and only had one shot on target in the match, with the Bianconeri facing possible elimination in the first knockout round for the second straight season. It was the first time Ronaldo had registered one shot or fewer in a Champions League match since November 2019 against Atletico Madrid.

Juve spent €112million to bring five-time Champions League winner Ronaldo to Turin in 2018 with the aim of boosting their chances of lifting the trophy for the first time since 1996.

Cassano thinks Ronaldo has struggled to adapt to the philosophy of rookie head coach Pirlo and is too focused on himself to help the team.

"I have always said, even though he is a phenomenon and has scored a billion goals, that with Andrea Pirlo's idea of football he could run into difficulties," Cassano said on Christian Vieri's Twitch channel BoboTV.

"He scores a goal per game, it's true, but he struggles with Andrea's idea. He's always been a bit selfish, he doesn't give a damn about others scoring goals.

"He's the kind of player that lives to score, not for the game, for the great match. He lives to score and in this moment the situation is getting worse. The years pass for everyone and he is having difficulties.

"The paradox is that Juventus have bought a player who has won five Champions Leagues but has so many difficulties in the Champions League.

"This is because, since Sarri, Juventus are trying to show a style that is different to its history. It's clear that Pirlo must be judged in four or five years, but Juventus want everything immediately."

Ronaldo has scored 88 goals in 116 games in all competitions for Juve and has supplied 19 assists. Juan Cuadrado (21) is the only Juventus player to have laid on more goals since the Portugal captain's arrival ahead of the 2018-19 season.

Andrea Pirlo felt a nightmare start left Juventus "a little bit scared" but Federico Chiesa's away goal at Porto got them "back on track" in the Champions League last-16 tie. 

Porto will travel to Turin for the second leg with a 2-1 lead after catching the Serie A champions cold twice at Estadio do Dragao on Wednesday. 

Rodrigo Bentancur gifted Mehdi Taremi a Champions League goal with a terrible pass to goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny after just over a minute, while Moussa Marega doubled Porto's advantage just after the break. 

Juve rarely posed a threat in a flat display before Chiesa gave them hope when he struck eight minutes from time, with Cristiano Ronaldo denied a penalty right at the death in a miserable return to his homeland. 

Pirlo thought Juve, who lost captain Giorgio Chiellini to a calf injury in the first half, struggled to recover after such an early setback in proceedings. 

"The approach became wrong after the first minute. When you have conceded a goal like this it is normal to be a little scared, you lack the certainties that should never be lacking [at this stage of the competition]," the former Italy international told Sky Sport Italia. 

"The boys are a little down, we conceded a strange goal, then the match they wanted to play was set up and it became much more difficult." 

Pirlo added: "The tiredness after so many challenging matches is there, it is not easy to keep the same pace, but it shouldn't have happened. Fortunately, we got back on track, now we will focus on the return [leg]."

Alvaro Morata has been struggling with illness and although he came on midway through the second half, Pirlo revealed the striker still felt unwell after the game. 

He said: "Morata was not well, he has not been at his best for a few days. He came on when he needed to, but after the game he felt faint, he was a bit on the edge." 

Danilo will be suspended for the second leg next month after the full-back was shown a yellow card.

Five-time Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo will play in his native Portugal for Juventus for the first time on Wednesday and coach Andrea Pirlo is expecting something special from his talisman.

Juventus meet Porto in the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday, with the Old Lady determined to improve upon last year's continental exit at this stage to Lyon.

Madeira-born Ronaldo, 36, has not played club football in Portugal since November 2016 when Real Madrid defeated his former club Sporting CP 2-1 in the Champions League.

Pirlo said Ronaldo's return home had provided added motivation for Portugal's all-time top scorer and current international captain.

"[Cristiano Ronaldo] is back home in Portugal," Pirlo said on Tuesday. "He is keen to score even more.

"He proved in the Coppa Italia and with his history in the Champions League, that he lives on the adrenaline of the knockout stages. He is proud to be back home and wants to show them who Cristiano Ronaldo still is."

Ronaldo netted a double in Juve's Coppa Italia semi-final victory over Inter earlier this month, while he is a five-time Champions League winner (four times with Real Madrid and once with Manchester United).

However, continental success has eluded Ronaldo since his move to Juventus in 2018, having lost in the 2018-19 quarters to Ajax and the 2019-20 last 16 to Lyon.

Remarkably since his move from Madrid to Turin, Ronaldo has scored all seven of Juventus' goals in the Champions League knockout stages, which was not lost on skipper Giorgio Chiellini.

"Cristiano is special, but I am not the one who discovered that," Chiellini said.

"He has been added value for us. We have been lucky to train with him to see every day the little secrets helping him become the true champion he is.

"Tomorrow we will play in Portugal, his home, I hope he will have even more motivation to perform well and score."

Juventus will be without Leonardo Bonucci for Wednesday's Champions League last-16 match at Porto.

Centre-back Bonucci sustained a minor muscular problem during training and joins Juan Cuadrado (hamstring) and Paulo Dybala (knee) on the sidelines.

However, Juve head coach Andrea Pirlo is boosted by the return of Aaron Ramsey from a muscular complaint of his own - the Wales midfielder having been absent from the Serie A champions' four games so far across all competitions this month.

"Leo is not available, he had a little problem in training. We will evaluate but he is not available for tomorrow," Pirlo explained at his pre-match news conference.

"Ramsey can play while Dybala is not ready yet, but everyone wants to be with the team."

Porto followed their opening 3-1 defeat to Group C winners Manchester City with five consecutive clean sheets in this season's competition.

Pirlo knows Sergio Conceicao's men will prove a tough nut to crack and likened them to Diego Simeone's famously robust Atletico Madrid.

"I expect a very complicated match, they defend very well," he said.

"They are a team with a bit of the Atletico Madrid style: tight, compact lines.

"We must not force plays. The Champions League is a particular competition, different from the [Italian] championship.

"There are many teams fighting to win, everyone wants to do it and it depends a lot on [your form] when you face the teams. It is important to be mentally ready."

A 1-0 weekend defeat at Napoli due to Lorenzo Insigne's first-half penalty left Juve fourth in Serie A - eight points shy of leaders Inter, albeit with a game in hand.

It means the Bianconeri could relinquish possession of the Scudetto for the first time in a decade, but Pirlo insists his maiden season at the helm remains broadly on track.

"We won the Supercoppa Italiana, we are in the final of the Coppa Italia, we are in the running for the Champions League," he said.

"We are still well placed in the league. We are in the running on all goals and this is the most important thing."

Ending Juve's 25-year wait for a third success in Europe's premier competition would certainly represent a job well done. 

"The Champions League is a goal," Pirlo added. "The important thing is to believe in it, to know that we are a team that can reach the end. 

"This is the most important thing."

Juventus head coach Andrea Pirlo questioned the "dubious" penalty awarded to Napoli and claimed his side are treated differently to other Serie A clubs.

Lorenzo Insigne scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot after Giorgio Chiellini caught Amir Rrahmani in the face with a flailing arm.

That was one of only two shots on target Napoli managed in Saturday's 1-0 win at Estadio Diego Armando Maradona, compared to six for Juve - five of those in the second half.

And Pirlo, who saw Juve lose for the second time in five league matches to drop more points in the Scudetto race, felt his side were hard done by.

"They barely had a shot on goal and we lost through a dubious decision," he told Sky Sport Italia. "We played a good game but did not get the result we deserved.

"We played the ball around but not quickly enough, allowing Napoli to get back. We created more chances in the second half but did not find the goal."

Asked to elaborate on why he considered the 31st-minute penalty to be dubious, Pirlo said: "If you give a penalty for that then any contact in the box is punishable.

"If that had been given for us there would have been a lot of controversy and complaints, though I don't know if we would have been given a penalty in a situation like this."

Juventus have had five penalties in Serie A this season, putting them level with Roma and Sassuolo and behind only Milan, who have had an incredible 14.

Alex Meret, a late addition to Napoli's starting line-up after David Ospina sustained an injury in the warm-up, made six saves to frustrate Juve in front of goal.

Cristiano Ronaldo had four on-target shots kept out, while Alvaro Morata had a goal disallowed for an infringement by Chiellini - making his 400th Serie A outing - in the build-up.

But rather than blame his attackers for firing a blank, Pirlo instead credited Meret for standing firm between the sticks.

"My players played the game they had to," he said. "It is normal that playing so many games close together means a loss of sharpness.

"But both those who started and came on from the bench had an excellent game. The only thing lacking in the end was a goal.

"There's no guarantee the team that scores the most goals then wins the Scudetto. 

"We create plenty of chances and the Napoli goalkeeper was man of the match, so I can't complain about my strikers today."

Napoli's victory was their first in four matches and eases the pressure on boss Gennaro Gattuso, who was reportedly set to be sacked had his side lost again on Saturday.

However, Gattuso - a former team-mate of Pirlo's for club and country - insisted he never doubted the backing of his players and staff.

"We showed great heart and determination," he said. "Juve deserved something more, but my team was under pressure and fought hard to keep the clean sheet.

"I never had doubts on this squad, otherwise I would've packed up my things and gone home. 

"You can't get anywhere without the faith of the players. I always felt they were ready to do what I asked and that’s what matters."

Andrea Pirlo feels sorry for friend and former team-mate Gennaro Gattuso, whose job is hanging by a thread ahead of Napoli hosting Juventus.

Sixth-placed Napoli welcome the Serie A champions on Saturday with reports suggesting Gattuso's spell as head coach could be over if they suffer an eighth top-flight defeat.

Gattuso came out in bullish fashion when asked about his future after his team were defeated 3-1 by Atalanta in their Coppa Italia semi-final on Wednesday.

He insisted it was the club's hierarchy who must answer any questions over his future.

Juve, meanwhile, reached the final by beating Inter 2-1 on aggregate, with Pirlo joking he was now 'Allegriano' after deploying a defensive style in the 0-0 second-leg draw and their last league victory over Roma.

"It's part of our job, but we are always minded to do our best," Pirlo said about Gattuso.

"The games are important, then it can happen that there may be some difficult moments.

"I'm sorry for Rino's situation, but I have to think about my problems. We want to do well and are trying to win games."

Napoli will have their work cut out against Juve, who have not conceded a goal in three consecutive Serie A games, their longest streak since reaching six in a row under Massimiliano Allegri in December 2018.

Of returning to a style previously deployed by Allegri at Juve, Pirlo added: "We faced Roma and Inter in a different way by our choice, but it doesn't mean that we will always play like this.

"These are my choices based on the opponent, but the approach remains the same - to command the game and press high. 

"It's not always possible to press high up the pitch, sometimes it is better to sit deep and let the opponents keep possession."

Juve sit seven points behind leaders Milan with a game in hand and Pirlo acknowledged it may not take as many points as normal to claim the Scudetto.

He added: "More than 80 points will certainly be needed, but compared to other years, I think it has dropped a bit due to the many competitions and the general level of the league. 

"It is difficult for a team to stay at the top all year."

Having won 2-1 in January 2020, Napoli are looking to win two consecutive games against Juve in Serie A for the first time since 2011, when they were playing under Walter Mazzarri.

Napoli have been up and down under Gattuso, drawing only one of their last 25 Serie A matches, with 15 wins and nine defeats.

Andrea Pirlo was happy to go back to the future to seal a place in the Coppa Italia final for Juventus at Inter's expense.

Juventus played out a 0-0 draw in Tuesday's semi-final second leg, meaning Cristiano Ronaldo's double in the 2-1 win at San Siro last week proved decisive.

Pirlo has tried to bring in an expansive passing style at Juve this season with mixed results, but the sight of black and white shirts soaking up pressure with ease in front of Gianluigi Buffon evoked memories of the years under former bosses Massimiliano Allegri and Antonio Conte - the latter now cutting  a frustrated figure in the Inter dugout.

"It's very nice," Juve head coach Pirlo told Rai Sports of the comparison.
"If I have to win what he won, you can also call me 'Allegriano'.

"We were very good, they almost never shot on goal."

Pirlo hailed Samir Handanovic as the best player on the field and the Inter goalkeeper made a couple of stunning second-half saves to thwart Ronaldo.

A final awaits against Atalanta or Napoli, who Juve beat in the Supercoppa Italiana to claim the first piece of silverware of Pirlo's embryonic coaching career.

"It was in my plans to win the Supercoppa and get to the Coppa final, but there is work to be done," he added.

"As a coach it is completely different. We are satisfied so far but we have not done anything yet."

Juve have reached the Coppa Italia final in six of the last seven seasons, failing to do so only in 2018-19.

Pirlo's Juve are unbeaten in 11 of their 12 games since the start of 2021 in all competitions, having won 10 of those matches (D1). 

Meanwhile, Juventus are unbeaten in nine of their last 10 matches against Inter in all competitions, winning six games (D3). 

Andrea Pirlo will work to make sure Juventus do not think the job is already done ahead of their Coppa Italia semi-final second leg against Inter, a tie he says they must negotiate "at all costs".

The Bianconeri returned to Turin with a 2-1 lead after Cristiano Ronaldo's brace at San Siro last week turned the first leg on its head following Lautaro Martinez's opener.

Juve are going for a 10th successive Serie A title this season, but the Coppa has not treated Italy's dominant club quite so well of late.

They lost last season's final under Maurizio Sarri and have won the competition just four times in 26 years, those triumphs coming in four straight campaigns from 2014-15.

Pirlo is making no secret of his desire to deliver success and wants Juve to maintain their recent form, a run of six wins in which they have conceded only once and won the Supercoppa Italiana.

"The team will have to play for Juventus as we have been doing in the last few games," Pirlo told Juventus TV.

"It is the second leg of a great challenge that will give us the opportunity to go to the final, a goal that we must achieve at all costs.

"It will be a tough and difficult match, a battle; however, we are ready to face it in the best possible way.

"We have to start with the attitude of being equal, we start from 0-0. We cannot remain stuck on the result of the first leg, because everything has been reset.

"It is as if it were a final, so we must have the attitude of an aggressive team who know what they want. We have to be pretty focused because this is too important to let it get away."

Juve lost 2-0 at Inter in the league immediately before this winning run and have also suffered humbling defeats to Barcelona and Fiorentina this season.

But Pirlo feels those setbacks have only made his team stronger, explaining: "The mental aspect [is better].

"We are very positive and we believe in what we do, and this is a good starting point. We have very specific goals in mind that we want to achieve and we work on this.

"The defeats have convinced us that we can do many things. We have great quality within the whole group. We have 23 starters who can play any game and we are working on this."

Juventus head coach Andrea Pirlo lauded Cristiano Ronaldo's adaptability as the defending Serie A champions beat Roma 2-0 on Saturday.

Ronaldo and an Ibanez own goal saw Juve to victory at Allianz Stadium, where the Italian giants claimed their third successive league victory.

A day after his 36th birthday, Ronaldo opened the scoring when his deflected strike clattered down off the underside of the crossbar in the 22nd minute before Ibanez's 69th-minute own goal put the result beyond doubt.

Ronaldo has been directly involved in 84 goals since his Serie A debut in 2018, scoring 68 goals and providing 16 assists, more than any other player in the competition, while the five-time Ballon d'Or winner has now scored 16 times across 17 league appearances this season.

Pirlo praised Ronaldo's willingness to adapt after Juve beat Roma, telling reporters: "Since the beginning of the season, Cristiano's made himself adaptable to our needs on the pitch.

"In some games he's played more like a proper number nine when we asked our other striker to close down the opposition's playmaker.

"In these games, he can play closer to the penalty area and be more effective in terms of goal scoring.

"He's always adapted to what I've asked him to do this season and therefore I'm very calm about this part of how we play."

Juve are now third in the Serie A standings in pursuit of their 10th consecutive Scudetto.

Pirlo's men are four points behind second-placed Milan – who are due to face Crotone on Sunday – and five adrift of leaders Inter, though Juve have played a game less.

Juve have won six successive games across all competitions, and Pirlo added: "I don't know if it was our best performance this season. For sure we played a great match.

"Especially because after the match we played on Tuesday at San Siro [semi-final first leg against Inter in Coppa Italia]. We had to recover energy even if we rotated many players. The team had spent a lot of mental energy in that match.

"We faced a strong opponent [Roma] that force you to run a lot on the defensive side and I think that especially under this aspect we played a brilliant match tonight."

Andrea Pirlo explained Juventus' defensive approach against Roma was a tactical plan, after his side claimed a 2-0 win in Saturday's Serie A clash.

Cristiano Ronaldo – a day after his 36th birthday – opened the scoring 13 minutes in at Allianz Stadium, with Ibanez's own goal then securing the points for Juve, who moved above Roma into third place.

Ronaldo's goal was one of just three attempts Juve managed, with all of them coming from the Portugal star, as he hit the woodwork and saw a powerful effort saved by Pau Lopez.

Juve had just 43.3 per cent possession in total, with Roma having 14 efforts on goal – though they had to wait until the 61st minute to test Wojciech Szczesny, who made three comfortable saves against his former club.

"We had prepared this type of match. We knew Roma play very good football, so we were prepared to sit back, defend and then go on the counter," Pirlo explained to Sky Sport Italia.

"Our preventative marking was good, this was the approach we wanted, because it wasn't easy to go forward and be aggressive with Roma.

"Instead, we waited for them at times and attacked them at others. We basically did a reverse of the way Roma played against us earlier this season, because you need that in your locker and can't always be aggressive with a high press.

"We have found the enthusiasm, are more solid and our defensive approach is more determined now, because we learned from mistakes made in the past."

Juve have kept three successive clean sheets in Serie A, the first time they have managed that under Pirlo, while their tally of attempts was the lowest they have managed in a game since the rookie coach took charge.

Of the six clean sheets Juve have kept in the league this term, Giorgio Chiellini has featured in four of them, and Pirlo emphasised the importance of his former team-mate.

"Giorgio Chiellini is in good shape and we hope he can continue like this," he added. 

"The group has always been humble, known when it’s the time to run without the ball and when everyone needs to help out. Even the biggest champions do that and it’s a crucial element.

"I've learned that not every game is the same, especially in a very tactical league like in Italy, so you need to have different variations and alternatives, because otherwise the opponents can read you too easily."

Cristiano Ronaldo "proved his worth" in Juventus' 2-1 win over Inter on Tuesday, according to head coach Andrea Pirlo.

Ronaldo was rested for Juve's previous Coppa Italia win – against SPAL last month – but netted a brace in the first leg of the semi-final victory over Inter at San Siro.

The Portuguese star has scored the most braces of players in Europe's top five leagues with eight in all competitions this season.

Pirlo praised Ronaldo, who was replaced by Alvaro Morata with 13 minutes remaining.

"He played an excellent match and proved his worth," Pirlo said.

On substituting Ronaldo, Pirlo added: "He is playing a lot and we have many matches very close to each other.

"Saturday we will have a very important one against Roma, so I thought it would be good for him to rest and recover some energies."

Ronaldo's double came after Lautaro Martinez had opened the scoring for Inter, who beat Juve in Serie A action last month.

Pirlo, whose team won the Supercoppa Italiana against Napoli in January, said his side learned from the league outing against Inter.

"We weren't in the championship match, but it served us as a lesson, because we gathered together and the victory in the Supercoppa made us realise we can compete for every objective. We haven't done anything yet, we just won the first leg," he said.

"We have prepared the game well and if we are focused and have the right attitude it becomes hard for everyone, even though we know that it is not easy to maintain this pace by playing every three days.

"However, the squad is large and there is no problem in alternating players. In the second half we lowered ourselves a bit, also thanks to Inter, but it's normal in the 90 minutes."

Before next week's semi-final second leg, Juve host Roma in Serie A on Saturday.

Andrea Pirlo exudes composure and shows little emotion on the sidelines but that is only half the story according to Christian Vieri, who believes the "fun" first-year head coach can lead Juventus to a clean sweep of silverware in Turin.

Eyebrows were raised when nine-time reigning Serie A champions Juve turned to club great but unproven coach Pirlo following the dismissal of Maurizio Sarri at the end of the 2019-20 season.

Pirlo had only re-joined Juve as Under-23s head coach a week earlier before the Bianconeri gave the 41-year-old his first senior coaching role at the Italian powerhouse, where he won four Scudetto titles among other honours during an illustrious playing career.

While there have been teething issues and a stuttering start, World Cup winner Pirlo has already tasted success for the first time as a coach in the Supercoppa Italiana, while Juve are seven points off the pace in Serie A, through to the Champions League last 16 and preparing for Tuesday's mouth-watering Coppa Italia semi-final against Inter.

Vieri spent time with Pirlo at Inter and within the Italy national team and he talked up the playful side of his former team-mate – who remains in the hunt for a Serie A, Champions League and Coppa Italia treble in his maiden season at the helm.

"Listen, Juventus can win anything every year. They have a fantastic side," Vieri, who won the 1997 Scudetto with Juve before later joining Inter for a then-world record fee in 1999, told Stats Perform News. "When you have Cristiano Ronaldo with you, you always start 1-0.

"Pirlo is a fun guy. He is the opposite of what everyone sees. He is a fun dude, he takes the p*** out of you the whole day.

"Of course, everyone is different on TV, right? He is calmer. You never see him go crazy. He is the opposite of [Antonio] Conte. You see Conte, it's like he is playing.

"It's his first experience. He is having a good time. He won a trophy already. You win games and lose games, it's part of coaching. Maybe lose more games than win, some coaches do that. But he is happy coaching, that's what he wanted to do.

"He has an amazing team. He can everything this season. Let's see what happens. Nine years in a row winning the Scudetto, of course, sooner or later you will lose it because motivation-wise, you can't have that motivation every year."

Inter will host Juventus in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final at San Siro on Tuesday.

It will be a chance for Juve to avenge their previous Derby d'Italia loss to Inter, who outclassed Pirlo's men 2-0 in Serie A action on January 17.

Inter – boasting the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez, Achraf Hakimi and Nicolo Barella – are widely viewed as the favourites to put an end to Juve's domestic dominance, which dates back to 2011.

The Nerazzurri, where Vieri spent six successful years, are second and only two points behind leaders Milan through 20 Serie A matchdays.

But Italian great Vieri believes Juve remain the "strongest team in Italy" due to their depth.

"They have 23 fantastic players," the 47-year-old added. "They have a big, long bench. [Paulo] Dybala stays on the bench, [Juan] Cuadrado stays on the bench, Arthur stays on the bench… they're fantastic players.

"I don't think the other benches are as strong as Juve's. I think Juve are still the strongest. But motivation wise, you can't win forever.

"Inter have a fantastic team this season. Hakimi, [Arturo] Vidal, [Ashley] Young, [Alessandro] Bastoni, they're all good players. They're solid, more solid defensively than three-four months ago. Up front they're fantastic. Anyone can win.

"Against Juve, Inter played fantastically [in Serie A]. Technical wise, physically. Let's see what happens in the semi-final."

Andrea Pirlo cited the 2-0 loss to Inter in January as a turning point for in-form Juventus as they prepare to face Antonio Conte's side once again, this time in the Coppa Italia. 

Arturo Vidal and Nicolo Barella scored the goals as Inter deservedly triumphed at San Siro last month, the defeat inflicting further damage on the reigning champions in their bid for a 10th straight Serie A title. 

However, since that setback in Milan, Juve have won four games in a row without conceding. That run includes lifting the Supercoppa Italiana at the expense of Napoli, as well as a Coppa Italia quarter-final success over second-tier SPAL. 

Next up in the competition is a two-legged tie with Inter and, having been second best in the previous meeting, Pirlo is confident his side learned a valuable lesson from that game.

"I want to see a team aware of their strength," Pirlo - who confirmed Gianluigi Buffon will start in goal - told the club's television channel.

"It will be the first round, because it's a 180-minute game, so tomorrow it will be important to manage it well, because it won't be decisive.  

"The match against Inter in the league taught a lot, first of all, when we are not on the right track, we are not ourselves, but from there we started with great performances.” 

As for Conte, he is wary of a repeat of what happened to Inter in the competition in the 2019-20 season, when they lost 1-0 at home to Napoli in the first leg of the semi-final. A 1-1 draw was not enough in the return fixture, meaning they were knocked out by the eventual winners. 

"You always need to be very respectful of very strong teams, and we'll certainly need to put in an excellent performance,” the former Chelsea boss told the media.

"The upcoming 180 minutes will determine who progresses, and the first match will be important. Last year, we lost 1-0 to Napoli at home and didn't manage to turn things around at the San Paolo despite playing very well. We will need to perform and try to do our best."

The Nerazzurri will be without Romelu Lukaku on Tuesday due to suspension after he received a yellow card for his part in a confrontation with Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the previous round. 

Conte, though, is confident he has enough strength in depth at the position to cover for the absence of the influential Belgian. Lukaku scored twice at the weekend against Benevento in Serie A action, taking his tally for the campaign in the league to 14 goals in 16 appearances. 

"It's not the first time that Romelu has been missing," Conte said. "We will have Alexis and Lautaro, who I'm sure will do well.  

"Romelu is feeling good, he responded on the pitch and scored two goals against Benevento. Now, he's being forced to rest due to his suspension and will work hard to be in good shape when he returns in the league."

Andrea Pirlo believes Juventus are starting to see the best of Federico Chiesa after he overcame his initial shyness following a loan move from Fiorentina. 

Italy international Chiesa scored his sixth Serie A goal of the season (one coming for Fiorentina) on Saturday as Juve defeated Sampdoria 2-0 at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris. 

Aaron Ramsey added the second in stoppage time as Juve made it three consecutive wins against Claudio Ranieri's side without conceding a goal. 

Pirlo is impressed with the impact Chiesa is starting to have on the defending champions but has urged the 23-year-old to add to his goal tally.

"Chiesa is a young player who joined a big club, facing international matches for the first time, and it was a big step up for him, so he was a little shy at first," Pirlo told Sky Sport Italia. 

"He's settled now, gained in confidence and has improved a great deal.

"It's good that he is finishing off the moves that we attack, and he ought to do it more often, making the most of his runs from deep."

Cristiano Ronaldo did not enjoy similar success in front of goal, the game marking the first time he has gone three Serie A matches without finding the back of the net since April 2019.

Pirlo, though, was not too critical of his star man and praised him for his contribution to both goals, the Portuguese star teeing up Alvaro Morata and Juan Cuadrado's assists. 

"Ronaldo gave his contribution again today with his passes for both goals, so the important thing is that the team wins," he added.

Juve have won six of their seven matches across all competitions in 2021 and Pirlo believes his players are starting to hit their stride as they bid to eat into Milan's seven-point lead over them at the Serie A summit.

"When the defence keeps a clean sheet, it also means the midfield and attack have started the press," he said. "We're improving, but can do even better.

"We are starting to find our form and making the movements more automatic, because in the first few games they were practically test runs, as we didn't really have a pre-season training camp.

"It took a little longer than usual, but we're finding our feet now and will keep improving."

Juve face Inter in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final on Tuesday before hosting Roma in Serie A on Saturday. 

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