Andrea Pirlo expects to stay on as Juventus coach next season after guiding them to a top-four finish.

Juve beat Bologna 4-1 on Sunday, a victory that confirmed they will finish fourth in Serie A, a point ahead of Napoli after they could only draw 1-1 at home to Hellas Verona.

A win for Napoli would have left Juve out of the top four regardless of the Bianconeri's result, though Gennaro Gattuso's men were only ahead for a short while.

It was plain sailing throughout for Juve at Bologna, with Federico Chiesa opening the scoring early on to ensure he finished the season as the second youngest player after Marcus Rashford to record at least nine goals and assists across the top five European leagues this term.

Adrien Rabiot and Alvaro Morata, who got a brace, did the rest of the damage, with the Spaniard reaching the 20-goals mark across all competitions for the first time since 2016-17 as he deputised effectively for Cristiano Ronaldo.

It was Juve's 342nd and final game as reigning Serie A champions, a record, and although Pirlo was unable to continue their domination of Italy's top flight, he expects to be in charge again next term.

"I've always put in the maximum commitment, and this is the end result. Those who must decide [about my future] will do so," he told DAZN.

"I see myself in the Juve dugout next season. I would confirm it myself, but now we have to just enjoy what we have achieved.

"For me, it was important to finish the job: winning the Coppa Italia and qualifying for the Champions League. It was a very important goal."

There were conflicting rumours about the reasoning behind Ronaldo's absence, which was seen as curious given the importance of the game for Juve.

While some reports suggested Ronaldo made himself unavailable due to fatigue following the Coppa Italia final, others said it was Pirlo's decision, but the coach insisted they had agreed he would start on the bench.

"It was a joint decision," Pirlo said. "Ronaldo was tired after the match on Wednesday, so I opted to start Morata, who is another great player.

"Ronaldo was available. I've got a strong squad and I can pick many different players."

Nevertheless, Ronaldo finished the season as Serie A's most-prolific player with 29 goals, becoming the first player to achieve that feat in Italy's top flight, LaLiga and the Premier League.

Juventus have qualified for the Champions League on the final day of the Serie A season thanks to beating Bologna 4-1 and rivals Napoli only managing a draw at home to Hellas Verona.

Andrea Pirlo's men went into the weekend in danger of missing out on the Champions League for the first time since finishing seventh in 2010-11, but Verona did them a favour as they held on to a 1-1 draw in Naples, meaning Juve take fourth a point ahead of Napoli.

Juve certainly held up their end of the bargain, dismantling Bologna with consummate ease despite the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, with Adrien Rabiot and Federico Chiesa adding to Alvaro Morata's brace to have them 4-0 up by the 47th minute.

Riccardo Orsolini's late consolation had little bearing – the Bianconeri just had to see what happened elsewhere with Milan also in the hunt with Juve and Napoli, the latter of whom eventually became the team to miss out on the top four.

Juve looked like a team on a mission and were in front within six minutes as Chiesa converted somewhat scrappily after Dejan Kulusevski had caused havoc down the right flank.

It took them a little while to double their advantage but the second goal did arrive with half an hour played, Paulo Dybala doing brilliantly as he left the Bologna defence in knots before a chipped cross found Morata to nod home.

Rabiot then made it 3-0 on the stroke of half-time, the Frenchman slotting past Lukasz Skorupski from Kulusevski's lay-off at the end of a lovely flowing move.

Juve quickly picked up where they left off in the second period, Morata producing an exquisite first touch on the spin to bring Wojciech Szczesny's long ball under his spell, then holding off a defender before squeezing a powerful shot under the hands of Skorupski.

Morata nearly got his hat-trick just before the hour when hitting into the side-netting from a Juan Cuadrado cross, though former Juve talent Orsolini did score at the other end with a well-taken finish late on.

Not that it had any major impact on Juve, who never looked like dropping points and that did the job as they ensured they will be at Europe's top table next term.

Andrea Pirlo still hopes to stay on as Juventus coach and keep Cristiano Ronaldo at the club as he prepares for Sunday's decisive Serie A clash with Bologna.

Juve sit fifth in the table after 37 matches, a point behind Napoli in fourth and Milan in third, and they know they must win to have any chance of finishing in a Champions League spot.

Pirlo's first season in charge has been difficult. The Bianconeri lost their title to Inter and crashed out of the Champions League to Porto at the last-16 stage.

However, they have still claimed two trophies in 2021, winning the Supercoppa Italiana match against Napoli in January before lifting the Coppa Italia this week after defeating Atalanta 2-1 in the final.

Speculation persists that Juve will look to replace Pirlo before next season, while it has also been rumoured they could sanction the sale of Ronaldo, who has scored 36 goals in all competitions this term.

Pirlo, however, appears eager to keep working with Ronaldo at the Allianz Stadium and improve on his first campaign in the dugout.

"We do this job for the adrenaline that it brings," he said on Saturday. "I want to continue working with this team and this club, but I think that's normal.

"The greatest satisfaction of this season has been the relationship with the boys, who have given me a lot, whilst I haven't liked the results and we didn't reach the set goals.

"I was a winner as a player, I want to be a manager, so I think of this year as an opportunity to improve. I don't think that the club will decide my future on the basis of tomorrow. We'll see what happens.  

"After the Milan game [a 3-0 defeat on May 9], we were 'dead'; now, we are still alive. Let's think about ourselves first, and then see what happens elsewhere. We mustn't have any regrets. There is always pressure, but we are calm and there is enthusiasm."

He added on Ronaldo: "I see Cristiano at Juventus and extremely focused, just as I saw him in the Coppa Italia final on Wednesday."

One figure who is set to leave Juve after this season is Gianluigi Buffon, with the 43-year-old having announced he will not commit to the club for 2021-22.

Pirlo said of his old team-mate: "With Buffon, Juve is losing a monument of football, both on and off the pitch. It's a sad feeling as we have come a long way together. I admire him very much."

Antonio Conte said Inter are ready to claim silverware this season after moving further clear atop the Serie A summit.

Romelu Lukaku scored the only goal of the game as high-flying Inter edged Bologna 1-0 on Saturday to open up an eight-point lead.

Inter, who last won the Scudetto in 2010, have claimed nine consecutive league victories for the first time since 2007 to be clear of city rivals Milan with a match in hand.

Conte's Inter came close to hoisting a trophy aloft last season, beaten by Sevilla in the Europa League final, but the former Italy boss feels the Nerazzurri are better equipped for glory in 2020-21.

"Inevitably, as we get closer to the finish line, every victory weighs more and more," Conte told Sky Sport Italia.

"Winning in Bologna against a team that plays good football and presses you hard, that was certainly a big step forward. Bologna did very well, they have an excellent coach in Sinisa Mihajlovic and it wasn't easy.

"This was also a very long day for us, as we were in the hotel watching Milan's game at lunch, then I watched Sassuolo against Roma. Juventus played just before us, so I didn't see that one.

"It wasn't easy playing after everyone else, especially after international duty, but the lads kept their focus and the right spirit. It was not to be taken for granted.

"I told the lads, this is a victory that we must follow up with Sassuolo on Wednesday."

Inter are in the box seat with 10 matches remaining, but Conte added: "It cannot be a Scudetto celebration, because we have to earn that on the pitch and it needs to be mathematically certain. There are 10 games to go for us, nine for some others, and 27-30 points up for grabs.

"We know full well that Serie A is very difficult and every match is a battle to get the victory. The closer to we get to the finish line, the clearer we can see the prize at the end.

"Everyone is looking at that direction and we see it from a different angle to the others right now, but we still have it all to do. We've achieved nothing yet."

"I was called to Inter in order to change the narrative of the last few years," said Conte, who was appointed in 2019, having previously led Juventus to three consecutive titles. "The objective was in three years to either win or at least build something credible and make the Inter fans proud.

"Inevitably, a few things have changed since the start of this journey, but we must continue to focus only on our work. As I said, we must concentrate only on what we have the power to change. What happens off the field is of interest, obviously, but we cannot affect that."

Conte continued: "It would be marvellous to end a season that has not been easy for anyone by crowning it with a trophy. We went close last season with the Europa League Final, but this time I'm convinced we are more ready."

Inter are the third team in Serie A history to win each of the first nine games in the second half of the season, after Milan in 1989-90 (10) and Juventus in 2017-18 (nine). 

Romelu Lukaku reflected on a "great moment" after reaching 20 Serie A goals for a second successive season, further vindicating his decision to join Inter.

Having initially seen his header turned onto the crossbar by goalkeeper Federico Ravaglia, Lukaku was able to tap home the rebound while stood on the line to secure Inter a 1-0 win at Bologna on Saturday.

The result – coupled with city rivals Milan only managing a draw at home to Sampdoria earlier in the day – means the Nerazzurri have moved eight points clear at the Serie A summit.

Lukaku's scoring feats have played a crucial role in helping Inter seize control of the title race, with the Belgian becoming only the seventh player to make it to 20 goals in back-to-back league campaigns in the club's history.

"I'm really happy with the win today; it was a complicated game. We took a big step and need to continue down this road," Lukaku – who was signed from Manchester United in 2019 – told Inter TV.

"It's a great moment for me - I made the right decision coming here.

"I'll do everything I can to help the team because I'm nobody without my team-mates. The group is the most important thing. We have our aim and need to keep this up."

Inter have a game in hand on their nearest rivals and having missed out on the Scudetto last season to Juventus, look primed to be crowned champions for the first time since 2010.

Antonio Conte's Inter were made to work hard for the victory by Bologna, who had more possession (55.9 per cent) and 12 attempts, albeit only two of those were on target.

For Lukaku, the result was a further demonstration of the strength within the team to cope in difficult situations, though insisted the job was still far from complete.

"We've all grown a lot. We deal with pressure better and turn it into positive energy," he said.

"This helps us on the pitch and we need to continue in this manner."

Inter have won nine league games in a row for the first time since 2007, when they set the all-time Serie A record by winning 17 on the spin.

They are next in action on Wednesday when Sassuolo visit San Siro.

Leaders Inter extended their advantage at the Serie A summit to eight points on Saturday, Romelu Lukaku scoring the only goal in a hard-fought 1-0 triumph away at Bologna. 

With second-placed Milan only able to draw at home to Sampdoria upon the resumption of the season following the international break, Antonio Conte's side were gifted the chance to tighten their grip on top spot.

They duly seized on the opportunity with a ninth successive league win, producing a solid display on the road to move a step closer to a first league title since the 2009-10 season.

Both teams had strong penalty claims prior to Lukaku's goal in the 31st minute, the striker on hand to tap in the rebound having seen his initial header kept out by a combination of goalkeeper and crossbar.

Federico Ravaglia reacted superbly to parry the attempt up into the air, only to see it loop onto the bar and then drop kindly for Lukaku to prod across the line for his 20th league goal of the season.

Andrea Ranocchia and Lautaro Martinez went close to adding to the advantage prior to the interval, while the latter hit the foot of Ravaglia's left-hand post with a curling effort from just outside the penalty area in the early stages of the second half.

Bologna made sure Inter never felt too comfortable so long as the lead remained at one, though too often the hosts failed to work Samir Handanovic when well positioned to do so.

The Inter captain had been fortunate to see an attempt from Jerdy Schouten go over the top after slipping from his grasp in the opening half, but he was only called on to make two saves throughout the contest.

While the visitors were wasteful themselves at times, managing to get just three of their 14 attempts on target, Lukaku could hardly have missed when presented with the opportunity from which he secured three more vital points for his side.

What does it mean? Inter on course to go the distance

Inter have impressively moved clear of the pack in the title race, aided by their rivals slipping off the pace. As well as Milan dropping points, reigning champions Juventus also faltered when returning to domestic duties, drawing 2-2 in an eventful Turin derby.

This current winning streak is the best for the Nerazzurri since setting a new competition record with 17 in a row in 2007. They still did not finish top at the end of that season, but all the signs this term suggest it is a matter of when, rather than if, Conte's squad are crowned champions.

Lukaku in illustrious company

With the closest of close-range finishes, Lukaku reached 20 league goals for Inter for a second successive season since his arrival from Manchester United.

The Belgium international is just the seventh player to hit that number in back-to-back campaigns for the club, joining a list that includes the legendary Giuseppe Meazza, as well as more recent Inter strikers in Christian Vieri and Mauro Icardi.

Hosts lack style to go with substance

Bologna were looking to win three on the spin in the league for a third time under Sinisa Mihajlovic, yet lacked a cutting edge when it mattered as they failed to score in a home game for only the second time in Serie A this term.

Key Opta Facts

- Inter are the third team in Serie A history to win each of the first nine games in the second half of the season, after Milan in 1989-90 (10) and Juventus in 2017-18 (9). 

- Inter have won five games in a row on the road in Serie A for the first time since November 2019, when they won their first seven away league games under Conte. 

- Inter have won 72 games against Bologna in Serie A, against no side they have won more matches in the competition. 

- Bologna failed to score in a home game for the second time in Serie A this term, also doing so against Napoli last November. 

What's next? 

Inter play their game in hand in midweek, hosting Sassuolo at San Siro on Wednesday. As for Bologna, they are not back in action again until next Sunday, Mihajlovic's side travelling to Roma.

Antonio Conte has told his players to do their talking on the pitch by holding off Milan and winning a first Scudetto in 11 years.

Inter edged out Torino 2-1 late on in their most recent match and boast a six-point lead on Milan with a game in hand on their closest challengers.

That made it eight Serie A victories in a row for the Nerazzurri and they will be looking to make it nine on the spin for the first time since 2017 when they travel to Bologna.

Milan boss Stefano Pioli and midfielder Ismael Bennacer have both warned Inter that the title race is not yet over, but Conte does not want to engage in mind games.

Asked at his pre-match news conference on Friday what mistakes have to be avoided, Conte said: "Speaking inappropriately. We need to shut up and pedal.

"The best advice I can give the players is to pick up from where we left off, even if it is never easy after returning from international breaks. There aren't many more games to go."

Inter have twice finished as runners-up since last winning the Scudetto in 2009-10, including last season in Conte's first at the San Siro helm.

Conte won three Serie A titles during his time as Juventus boss and wants his squad to embrace the pressure that comes with leading the way late in the season.

"Inter is a team that, throughout the course of its history, is used to always managing pressure in the right way," he said.

"Many of them are in this situation for the first time, but we can only think about ourselves and do our best until the season finishes."

Inter's sole focus is on Serie A over the remainder of the season, with the trip to Stadio Renato Dall'Ara the first of 11 remaining fixtures.

Bologna have won their last two league matches to move up to 11th and are seeking three wins in succession for the first time since February 2020.

The Rossoblu have lost 11 and drawn three of their last 14 home league meetings with Inter, but Conte is anticipating a difficult match against Sinisa Mihajlovic's side.

"It's always important to start well when you return to action, but we have to pay a lot of attention against an excellent Bologna side," Conte added.

"They are led by a very good coach who likes attacking football. We need to prepare for the match in the best possible way if we are going to win."

Inter's clash with Sassuolo prior to the international break was postponed after four of their players tested positive for coronavirus.

Samir Handanovic, Matias Vecino and Stefan de Vrij have all since returned to training, however, while Danilo D'Ambrosio is due back soon.

Providing a fitness update, Conte said: "Samir has been back for a while now and has had time to work. Matias has had three days of training and is in a good condition.

"Stefan only returned yesterday and will inevitably not be fully fit, and Danilo will be back as soon as possible. We need to get them all back in top condition."

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.

Sinisa Mihajlovic has hinted he could be tempted by a Premier League job when he leaves Bologna.

The former Milan head coach recovered from being diagnosed in 2019 with acute leukaemia and has returned to work in Serie A, with his ambitions not limited to Italian football.

Former Yugoslavia international Mihajlovic has a contract until 2023 with Bologna and is in no hurry to move on.

But he is open-minded and, as he prepared to turn 52 on Saturday, the Serbian signalled he was ready to see where fate takes him.

"I live as if I have to stay here 10 years and I work as if I have to leave tomorrow," Mihajlovic said.

"It is not a problem of contracts. I'm fine in Bologna, sometimes I get angry about the results, but I'm fine.

Quoted by Gazzetta dello Sport, he said: "I'd like to see what goals the club has. We have always agreed on everything, I think we will be agreed in the future too, but you never know.

"Do I like the Premier League? I am someone who wherever he goes I want to do my best. Of course, I would like to experience different cultures but I'm not forced to leave. I am used to achieving my dreams when I want."

He added: "There are other things and I would have to live 150 years to accomplish them, and I thought I was dying at 51."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was kept waiting but finally scored his 500th career club goal for Milan against Crotone on Sunday.

The 39-year-old reached 499 on Tuesday with the opening goal against rivals Inter in the Coppa Italia, but he was later sent off in a 2-1 defeat.

Ibrahimovic should have netted the milestone goal in the first half against Bologna last weekend, only to miss a 26th-minute penalty, although Ante Rebic scored the rebound.

But the former Sweden striker's moment came at San Siro when he played a one-two with Rafael Leao.

Ibrahimovic fed Leao on the edge of the box and the young Portuguese slotted a perfect return ball behind the Crotone defence for his veteran strike partner to drive into the far right corner, securing another milestone for one of the greatest goalscorers of the modern era.
 

MILAN'S MAIN MAN

Enjoying a fine second spell with Milan now at the age of 39, Ibrahimovic's goals have fired Stefano Pioli's side back into title contention.

The Rossoneri have not won the Scudetto since 2011 - in Ibrahimovic's first stint at the club - and are without any silverware since the 2016 Supercoppa Italiana.

With Saturday's strike, Ibrahimovic now has 15 goals in all competitions this term, including 13 in the league, swelling his Milan total to 82.

His 122 appearances are his most for any Italian club - having also represented Juventus and Inter - while this goal set Milan on course for a 71st victory with Ibrahimovic in the side.

GLOBAL SUPERSTAR

Ibrahimovic has been one of Italian football's biggest names in the 21st century, but he has proven his worth worldwide between his spells in Serie A.

Indeed, the greatest share of his 500 goals came in the colours of Paris Saint-Germain, 156 in just 180 matches.

Ibrahimovic's Inter tally of 66 is third on the list after his Milan haul, with LA Galaxy next after he netted a remarkable 52 goals in only 58 games.

As well as scoring 26 times for Juve, Ibrahimovic has plundered goals in the Netherlands (48 for Ajax), England (29 for Manchester United), Spain (22 for Barcelona) and his native Sweden (18 for Malmo).

Stefano Pioli was delighted to end a difficult week for Milan with what he felt was a deserved win over Bologna - but opposite number Sinisa Mihajlovic begged to differ.

The Rossoneri went into Saturday's game off the back of two successive defeats. After going down 3-0 at home to Atalanta in Serie A, they were knocked out of the Coppa Italia in midweek by rivals Inter.

Having been sent off against Inter and forced to deny suggestions he made a racist comment towards Romelu Lukaku during the quarter-final tie, Zlatan Ibrahimovic missed a penalty as he failed to reach 500 goals in his club career.

However, Ante Rebic tucked home the rebound to give Milan a half-time lead and Franck Kessie made no mistake from the spot in the second half.

Substitute Andrea Poli halved the deficit in the 81st minute but Bologna were unable to find an equaliser, Milan becoming just the third team to win nine of their first 10 Serie A away matches in a season.

"Without committing the naive error for the Bologna goal, we had an excellent match," Pioli told Milan TV.

"I'm happy with the performance and it's a victory which gives us confidence at the end a difficult week. It's deserved. 

"The last two training sessions we've done this week are the best in a long time. We have seen the return of important players and the team has managed to maintain a balanced attitude.

"We were not happy with the performance against Atalanta, the only team that has put us in difficulty this season. We played it out against all the others."

However, Mihajlovic felt Bologna were the better team in open play, insisting that Ibrahimovic's presence in his line-up would have led to a comfortable home victory.

"We created three or four chances and didn't score. It was an undeserved defeat and I think we played better," Mihajlovic told Sky Sport Italia.

"Fine, Milan are a better team, but we created our chances from open play. They scored from penalties and their only chances were from long balls.

"If we had Ibrahimovic on our side, we would have won 3-0. My players should be proud of their performance, they fought to the end, but as usual against bigger teams, we play well and don't win."

As well as the penalty, Ibrahimovic was also denied by a fabulous double save by Bologna goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski in the first half.

The talismanic striker was on target with three of his four attempts in total but will have to wait to reach the personal milestone. He has now missed three of his six penalties taken in Serie A this term, one more than in his previous 17 spot-kick attempts for Milan in the top flight.

Ibrahimovic will hope to make it to 500 goals when the league leaders host struggling Crotone at San Siro next weekend.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic missed out on reaching 500 goals in his club career as Milan returned to winning ways on Saturday, securing a hard-fought 2-1 triumph at Bologna.  

Having taken his tally to 499 before getting sent off in the midweek Coppa Italia exit to Inter, Ibrahimovic failed to convert a first-half penalty awarded for a foul on Rafael Leao.  

However, Ante Rebic scored from the rebound as the Rossoneri bounced back from successive losses - including last weekend’s 3-0 humbling at home to Atalanta - to remain the pacesetters in the Serie A title race.  

Franck Kessie succeeded where Ibrahimovic failed in the second half to double the lead, punishing Adama Soumaoro's handball as he scored from 12 yards.  

Yet Milan did not have it all their own way, Andrea Poli converting fellow substitute Andreas Skov Olsen's cut-back cross to finally beat Gianluigi Donnarumma, who had made fine one-on-one saves from Nicola Sansone and Nicolas Dominguez before the break.  

Lukasz Skorupski was equally impressive in goal for Bologna, including producing a stunning double save to deny Ibrahimovic twice in a hurry in the 23rd minute.  

The Swede was frustrated again by the keeper from the spot, though there was nothing Skorupski could do when Rebic reacted quickly to steer in the rebound for just his second goal of the season. 

Bologna's hopes of a comeback were dealt a blow when Soumaoro's jump to cut out a long pass saw the ball strike him on both arms, Kessie punishing the defender as he took over penalty duties.

Poli's finish – slammed high into the net from close range in the 81st minute - set up a tense finish, yet Milan - who set a new club record by scoring for a 20th successive away league game – held on to claim all three points.

Milan head coach Stefano Pioli insists Zlatan Ibrahimovic is "certainly not a racist" but thinks his clash with Romelu Lukaku could rekindle his best form. 

Ibrahimovic was sent off having scored the opening goal in the Rossoneri's 2-1 Coppa Italia defeat to Inter this week. 

The veteran striker earned his first of two yellow cards after a heated confrontation with former Manchester United team-mate Lukaku, in which he appeared to tell the Belgian forward: "Go do your voodoo s***, you little donkey". 

It was suggested Ibrahimovic was referring to comments made in 2018 by Everton majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri, who said Lukaku had declined a contract extension because a "voodoo message" told him to move to Chelsea - a transfer that never transpired. 

Some accused Ibrahimovic of racially abusing Lukaku, with the Swede responding by stating on Twitter: "In ZLATAN's world there is no place for RACISM." United midfielder Paul Pogba also tweeted to say his old team-mate was "the last person I'd think of as racist". 

Ibrahimovic will serve a one-game ban for his red card but Pioli hopes a line can now be drawn under the incident as Milan focus back on Serie A.

"Ibrahimovic is determined and up for it, as he always is," Pioli said ahead of Saturday's game at Bologna. "Certain things can happen on the pitch; I'm not going to justify that, but you need to draw a line under it and move on. 

"Ibra is certainly not a racist; the club has always been on the front line in the fight against discrimination. Zlatan also needs these situations to get a bit of energy and motivation back." 

Milan's cup exit followed a 3-0 home league defeat to Atalanta that allowed Inter to close the gap on the leaders to two points. 

Pioli says back-to-back losses have not changed his view of his team's potential as he aims to return them to the Champions League. 

"We're not interested in what people are saying outside of the club," he said. "We just need to focus on ourselves, maintain a good balance, continue to work and improve. We know that opinions can change quickly in football. 

"It's useless to look back; we only need to look forwards. I haven't changed my mind on our quality. We have a good team and the ideas are there. We are able to put in consistently good and competitive performances, which we have shown up to now. 

"We're having a great season; we have 18 more points than we did at this stage last season and have closed the gap to our direct rivals.

"The second half of the season will be more complicated and hard-fought. Qualifying for Champions League football won't be easy, but we have the quality to do it."

Andrea Pirlo revealed he hopes to sign a striker before the transfer window closes if the right opportunity arises after Juventus beat Bologna 2-0 in Serie A on Sunday.

Roma frontman Edin Dzeko and Sassuolo's Gianluca Scamacca – who is on loan at Genoa – have been linked with a move to Juve ahead of the February 1 deadline.

Dzeko was left out of Roma's squad for their 4-3 win over Spezia on Saturday, leading to further speculation he could be on his way out of the club.

Scamacca, Olivier Giroud, Fernando Llorente and Graziano Pelle have also been mentioned as potential signings for the Bianconeri.

Pirlo said he would like to add more firepower to his squad after goals from Arthur and Weston McKennie moved the champions into fourth place in Serie A, seven points behind leaders Milan with a game in hand.

"We are watching what happens, there is not much around," Juve head coach Pirlo told Sky Sport Italia when asked about the possibility of going into the market.

"We do not have the obligation [to do any business], it will be a last-minute thing and if there is an opportunity to take it we will be happy."

Arthur scored his first Juve goal in fortuitous fashion with a long-range strike that took a big deflection in the first half and McKennie sealed all three points with a header 19 minutes from time.

Juve had 23 shots, 11 of which were on target, and Cristiano Ronaldo endured a rare off day, failing to find the back of the net with any of his five attempts.

Pirlo warned the Turin giants must be more clinical as they go in search of more trophies after their Supercoppa Italiana triumph in midweek.

"The important thing was to win after the satisfaction of the victory in the Supercoppa," he said.

"We started well but missed a few too many opportunities to end the game."

He added: "We played a good match against a team that attacks well, we were good at finding the spaces they left us."

Arthur scored his first goal for Juventus as the defending champions beat Bologna 2-0 to go fourth in Serie A.

Juve claimed their first trophy under boss Andrea Pirlo with a Supercoppa Italiana victory over Napoli in midweek and got their title bid back on track at Allianz Stadium on Sunday.

Arthur's deflected first-half strike and a Weston McKennie header moved the Turin giants seven points adrift of leaders Milan with a game in hand.

Juve, beaten by Inter last weekend, were not at their best but although Bologna had their chances, they are now without a win over the Bianconeri in 19 attempts.

Pirlo's side took the lead in fortuitous fashion after 15 minutes, when Arthur's long-range drive struck Jerdy Schouten and gave wrongfooted goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski no chance.

Skorupski produced a fine double save to prevent Juve from increasing their advantage, using his feet to deny Federico Bernardeschi from close range after palming away a strike from Cristiano Ronaldo.

Juan Cuadrado fired wastefully off target before Roberto Soriano went close to equalising late in the first half with a shot from inside the penalty area that flashed wide.

A fine reflex save from Wojciech Szczesny prevented Cuadrado's header from gifting Bologna an own goal early in the second half and the Juve keeper once again had to be alert keep out Riccardo Orsolini's left-footed strike.

Bologna were made to pay for their profligacy when an unmarked McKennie nodded in Cuadrado's corner 19 minutes from time.

Skorupski denied McKennie a quickfire double with a great reaction save before preventing Alvaro Morata from adding a third goal at his near post.

The busy Skorupski beat away Adrien Rabiot's left-footed shot and saved a powerful Ronaldo strike as Juve saw out a comfortable win.

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