Juventus head coach Maurizio Sarri said it is "really annoying" that someone has won more Ballons d'Or than superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.

Barcelona captain Lionel Messi moved one ahead of Ronaldo for the Ballon d'Or record, claiming his sixth individual honour in December.

The result came despite Ronaldo helping Juve to an eighth consecutive Serie A title and Portugal win the inaugural Nations League crown.

Sari is determined for Ronaldo – who sat out Wednesday's 4-0 Coppa Italia last-16 victory over Udinese through illness – to add to his Ballon d'Or collection and match Messi.

"I would like to help Cristiano win the sixth Ballon d'Or first," Sarri told reporters post-game in Turin.

"It's really annoying thinking that someone won more [Ballons d'Or] than him. I think about him and I think helping him it is my goal and the goal of the team. It is right for him.

"[Paulo] Dybala is going to be one of the contenders in the next years. I think so."

While Ronaldo sat out, Juve forward Paulo Dybala dazzled with a brace and an assist against Udinese.

Dybala teed up Gonzalo Higuain for the 16th-minute opener following a stunning piece of combination play before curling a memorable strike past Nicolas approaching the hour mark, having converted a first-half penalty.

It took his season tally to 11 goals across all competitions and Sarri added: "Dybala is a top player. As every top player when they are becoming confident and having the right age, they are playing like a top player.

"I don't think a manager can teach something to a top player. Dybala is going to leave a mark in world and European football in the next years. He has got the right age to leave a mark and he's still got many years of his career. He is really confident in this moment after a few difficulties in the past."

Maurizio Sarri described Gonzalo Higuain's opener that set Juventus on course for a 4-0 win over Udinese as a goal of "rare beauty".

Juventus marched through to the Coppa Italia quarter-finals with their emphatic victory, which was achieved without the unwell Cristiano Ronaldo.

While Ronaldo contended with a bout of sinusitis, his Juventus team-mates ensured there would be no slip-ups at the Allianz Stadium.

And it was a glorious effort that set them on their way, Higuain ending a quickfire five-pass interaction with fellow Argentinian Paulo Dybala by burying the ball past Brazilian keeper Nicolas.

"The knockout fixtures are always an unknown factor, but the feeling in training was that the team was brilliant, so I expected a great performance, and, in fact, we had a good match," Sarri said.

"The first goal is of rare beauty, with trade [of passes] at full speed."

Sarri added, quoted on the Juventus website: "Our team has great potential, sometimes it gives the feeling of being able to do more, but we are growing.

"Ronaldo was not present because for a couple of days he had a bit of sinusitis and today he felt some shivers, so we prefer to keep him rested given the cold evening.

"Is it Sarri's Juve? No, it's Cristiano's, Dybala's, Higuain's Juve... I'm trying to put something of my own in it, but you have to respect the characteristics of the players."

Dybala added two goals, including a penalty, while Douglas Costa also slotted away a spot-kick as Juventus dominated and might have won by a greater margin.

"It was an important game," Higuain said. "We wanted to pass the round because we want to win the Coppa Italia."

Juventus made light of the absence of a sick Cristiano Ronaldo as their Argentinian connection dazzled in a 4-0 Coppa Italia win over Udinese.

The onset of sinusitis on Wednesday afternoon meant Ronaldo sat out this last-16 tie, but Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala put the game beyond Udinese before the hour mark.

And an outstading five-pass exchange between the Juve strike pair set the tone for the one-sided cup tie, with Higuain netting the 16th-minute opener.

Dybala slotted a penalty 10 minutes later, then struck a sublime third goal in the early stages of the second half.

The former Palermo man would have been on for a hat-trick had he taken the second penalty awarded to Juventus just after the hour. Instead, Douglas Costa took responsibility, safely finding the right corner.

If it had come as a blow to coach Maurizio Sarri to lose Ronaldo so close to kick-off, the former Chelsea boss would have been delighted by the response of his healthy players.

Lazio last year ended Juventus' run of four consecutive Coppa Italia triumphs, when a surprising 3-0 thumping by Atalanta in the quarter-finals concluded Juve's quest.

This time Juve will tackle Parma or Roma in the last eight.

Higuain gave Juventus the lead in style, trading a succession of passes with Dybala on the edge of the Udinese penalty area before being played through by his fellow Argentinian to fire into the left corner.

Udinese appealed for offside, but Higuain had timed his run perfectly and the striker's finish was emphatic.

Dybala stayed cool from the spot after Federico Bernardeschi was tripped by goalkeeper Nicolas, and it was looking like a long night for Udinese.

A VAR offside ruling denied Higuain, after he tucked home when Matthijs de Ligt's shot was parried out, but there was no doubt Juventus had a third when the ball next hit the back of the net.

Higuain fed his compatriot on the right corner of the penalty area, and although Nicolas got a touch to Dybala's shot, it arced in such a way that he had little hope of keeping it out.

Juventus were awarded their second penalty when Bram Nuytinck blocked Daniele Rugani's shot with his hands, and they were home and dry when Douglas Costa put the ball beyond Nicolas.

Maurizio Sarri urged his Juventus side to be more ruthless after they won 2-1 at Roma to go top of the Serie A table.

The Bianconeri were two up inside 10 minutes at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday, with Merih Demiral and Cristiano Ronaldo on target.

But Roma got a goal back through Diego Perotti's penalty in the second half, setting up a nervy finish as Juve failed to add a third, seeing a Gonzalo Higuain strike ruled out for offside.

Sarri felt they should have put the game to bed long before full-time.

"We did well for an hour, and a little suffering playing against Roma here in Rome is inevitable given their characteristics," he told Sky Sport after seeing his side move two points ahead of Inter.

"But what I did not like was the management of the result.

"We are happy for the three points at a very difficult place, making a good performance for large stretches, but we have to improve our game management when we are ahead.

"We kept the ball in our half when we had to look for the third goal."

Paulo Dybala appeared unhappy when he was substituted for Higuain with just over 20 minutes remaining, having had a hand in both Juventus goals.

But Sarri was delighted with the Argentina international's performance and is not concerned by an "angry" reaction to being brought off if he continues to play well.

"I couldn't care less. He's doing well," Sarri added. "If he gets angry and responds on the pitch, it's fine. These are things that are normal."

Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri would not confirm whether he will continue to use Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain as a front three against Cagliari, but he warned of the threat of the opposition midfield.

Sarri bowed to pressure by using Ronaldo, Dybala and Higuain together in attack ahead of the mid-season break.

Although the star trio initially impressed in wins over Udinese and Sampdoria, they then started the 3-1 Supercoppa Italiana defeat to Lazio.

Sarri insisted at the time that loss was not due to his front line, yet speaking ahead of a return to Serie A action against Cagliari, he would not commit to sticking with the system.

A talented Cagliari side boasting the likes of Radja Nainggolan, Nahitan Nandez and Marko Rog could see Sarri select Aaron Ramsey instead.

"We'll see tomorrow," he told a Sunday news conference of his line-up. "Ramsey also seems to be growing, so we will have to decide.

"We will need to take a lot of care. The Cagliari midfielders can start strong attacks, so we will need great balance on our part, especially in midfield.

"When you concede a lot of goals [before Christmas], you often place the blame on the defenders. But that's not always the case.

"In my opinion, the right protection has not been given to the defence. That's why we have been working on the movements of the midfielders."

Douglas Costa is still regaining fitness, but centre-back Matthijs de Ligt could be handed a recall, having not started since a league defeat to Lazio on December 7.

"He had a complicated period, with shoulder and adductor problems," Sarri added of the Dutchman. "He is very young, he rested because he had small problems, and [Merih] Demiral has grown a lot.

"He seems to be recovering, so we'll see for tomorrow."

Juventus this week completed the signing of Dejan Kulusevski from Atalanta for an initial €35million, although he remains on loan at Parma.

Sarri said: "[Kulusevski] is a great prospect and it is important that the club is attentive to these young players and gets there first.

"There were no conditions [possible] where he could be available now."

Maurizio Sarri conceded Juventus lacked energy in their 3-1 Supercoppa Italiana defeat to Lazio, but the coach insisted the selection of Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain in attack was not to blame.

The Bianconeri were beaten by Lazio for the second time this month, failing to defend their Supercoppa title as Senad Lulic scored one goal and had a hand in another.

The loss in Saudi Arabia came despite Ronaldo, Dybala and Higuain starting together again, as they had in wins over Udinese and Sampdoria.

Yet while acknowledging flaws in Juve's display, Sarri was keen to point out Higuain was substituted and replaced by Aaron Ramsey - a midfielder - with the game still level at 1-1.

"We arrived at this game short of energy, physically and mentally," Sarri told a news conference. "This happens. Meanwhile, Lazio are experiencing a moment of incredible form.

"We are sorry we lost a title, but we still have many competitions to play for in the next five months. There is anger, but crying over it does not solve the problems.

"We did not lose because of the front three, since we conceded the [second and third] goals after I added a midfielder."

After two reverses at the hands of Lazio, Juventus may now find themselves going up against the Rome outfit again in pursuit of the Scudetto.

Lazio are six points behind second-placed Juve in third but with a game in hand.

Sarri said: "I have a positive record against Lazio, and I don't think that the players will be influenced by these two games.

"As I said before the game, I don't think this final can affect the next five months of the league championship."

Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri was stunned by Paulo Dybala and Cristiano Ronaldo's goals against Sampdoria, saying "wow does not describe" either strike.

Dybala scored a tremendous volley and Ronaldo an incredible header in a 2-1 victory that sent Juve back to the top of Serie A on Wednesday.

Sarri lauded both goals as he hailed his forwards, Ronaldo's 45th-minute header proving the match-winner after Gianluca Caprari – later sent off – had cancelled out Dybala's effort.

"When Ronaldo scored I thought the same as the Dybala one – 'f***, wow," he told a news conference.

"'But wow does not describe it all. They both scored two outstanding goals.

"[Dybala] chose a left-footed volley in a situation where 99 players out of 100 would stop the ball and then shoot.

"The [Ronaldo] one, I think the amount of time he spent in the air before the header was incredibly long – a wonderful, physical and technical action."

One forward not on the scoresheet was Gonzalo Higuain, who was replaced by Aaron Ramsey in the 69th minute.

But asked about Higuain being upset following the substitution, Sarri was unfazed.

"I don't care. Players always complain if substituted. Better to stay away, but I don't care," he said.

"Higuain is playing a lot lately and he seemed very tired in the second half and I changed him.

"Angry? There will be a time when someone will start from the bench because of physical issues and the strikers will be different than today. Everything is normal."

Cristiano Ronaldo added to his highlight reel with a leap out of the NBA playbook and a stunning header that helped Juventus sink Sampdoria.

Maurizio Sarri's side were 2-1 winners at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa on Wednesday, with Ronaldo grabbing what proved to be the winner just before half-time.

He produced a phenomenally athletic jump - described as like the leap of an NBA player by Sampdoria boss Claudio Ranieri - to meet a left-wing cross from Alex Sandro and power a back-post header past Emil Audero.

It was a second stunning goal from the visitors in the first half, after Paulo Dybala volleyed in another Alex Sandro cross.

Gianluca Caprari briefly brought Sampdoria level, but his night ended in a late red card for two bookable offences while Juventus closed out victory.

Ronaldo told Sky Sport Italia: "I'm very happy with the result. It's been a very difficult match against a Sampdoria team who played well. We managed to do even better and deservedly got this victory.

"The team played with a great attitude. The goal was great, especially because it was decisive for winning the three points. I didn't know I was up [in the air] so long."

Ronaldo and Juventus now turn their focus to taking on Lazio in the Supercoppa Italiana on Sunday in Saudi Arabia.

"A final always starts at 50-50," Ronaldo said. "Lazio have an excellent team, but I'm convinced that Juve can win the match."

Ranieri's Sampdoria side lack firepower and sit 16th in a table that is topped by Juventus.

Despite their troubles in front of goal, Samp were competitive for long stretches, but rarely looked capable of finding a second equaliser.

Speaking to Sky Sport Italia, Ranieri said: "I'm very satisfied with the performance of the boys.

"When they [Juventus] scored goals like this, we just have to admire them as two masterpieces.

"Ronaldo scored in NBA style - he was up there for an hour and a half."

Ranieri acknowledged the lack of a clinical touch in attack, saying the team's next challenge was "finding the goal, because currently that's our worry".

"I hope we get to score more often," he added. "Little by little there is more serenity."

It was a night where Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon matched Paolo Maldini's record of 647 Serie A appearances, and Ranieri, a former Juve boss, praised the achievement.

"We spent two years working together," Ranieri said. "I congratulated him on the Serie A record and wished him happy holidays."

Juventus vice president Pavel Nedved is backing Cristiano Ronaldo to spearhead their Champions League challenge now the forward has regained full fitness.

Ronaldo scored twice in Sunday's 3-1 win over Udinese as the Serie A champions ended the weekend level on points with Inter at the top of the table.

The 34-year-old had failed to net in four Juve games in November amid injury problems and a rumoured unhappiness with coach Maurizio Sarri, who substituted him against Lokomotiv Moscow and Milan.

Nedved now thinks the former Real Madrid star is back to full form and fitness, as evidenced by his performance against Udinese, in which he combined with Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain to impressive effect.

And Nedved hopes Ronaldo can make the difference when Juve face Lyon in the last 16 of the Champions League in 2020.

"He is a champion and when he's needed, he's always there," Nedved said of Ronaldo after Monday's draw. "He had some physical problems and is now back in good form.

"It's nice to see Cristiano, Dybala and Higuain all playing together, and they can all be on the pitch at once if all three run and sacrifice themselves like they did yesterday against Udinese.

"The coach naturally evaluates the state of form of each one when he makes his choices and, at the moment, they are all in form and you can see it."

Nedved believes the draw was a positive one for Juve, although he acknowledges Sarri's side must not allow their form to drop in the run-up to the Lyon tie, with the first leg taking place in France on February 26.

"We can't complain, considering that last year we drew Atletico [Madrid], but if you're not in form when the Champions League comes back around between February and March, there is little that you can do," he said.

"The precedents are favourable to us, but they do not count for anything - only the form in the moment counts.

"The Champions League must not be an obsession but a concrete goal. We, like other teams, want to win the final, but in the Champions League, one mistake can send you out."

Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri reaped the benefits of Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain playing together - then warned it may not happen often.

The front three, who also impressed against Bayer Leverkusen in midweek when Dybala came off the bench, were finally fielded as a starting combination for the first time in Serie A.

The selection paid off, Ronaldo scoring twice in a 3-1 victory over Udinese with one of his goals being set up by Higuain. Temporarily at least, the result moved Juve back to the top of the league standings.

However, Sarri suggested it was only due to Udinese's conservative style of play that he decided to start the three forwards together, with the frontline just one possible option for the former Napoli and Chelsea coach.

"It's the first time that we've managed to really attack the game after a Champions League fixture. We played at a high level for a good 60 minutes," Sarri told Sky Sport Italia.

"At this moment, those three are in good shape and we were facing an Udinese side that doesn't really keep possession, they like to try long balls.

"I therefore thought this was a situation where we could afford to have them. As soon as Udinese started passing it around more, we struggled, so it is a valuable option for us, but one we cannot use all the time.

"Our forwards also worked hard to help the defence and press the opposition for the first 60 minutes. In attack, they did what I asked, which was quick exchanges and passing.

"If we are in a game where the opposition will have 50-50 possession, then it becomes more complicated. They were very organised and focused today.

"Against Leverkusen, I saw they were getting tired and struggling to keep up the intensity, so I introduced the trident for that reason. Udinese play in a different way, they are not so focused on passing."

Ronaldo, meanwhile, believes Juventus have found a good way of incorporating all three forwards into the line-up.

"The most important thing was to win, although we could've had more goals," Ronaldo told Sky Sport Italia.

"I think this is a good way of playing and it's important we must play with confidence. It's not about individual performances, but how we work as a collective."

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as Juventus returned to winning ways in Serie A, easing to a 3-1 triumph over struggling Udinese on Sunday.

Maurizio Sarri finally fielded Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain together from the start – and the trio were influential in helping the reigning champions record a first victory in three league outings.

The result was a formality by half-time at Allianz Stadium, Ronaldo getting a brace as Udinese struggled to cope with a pumped-up home team eager to bounce back from a 3-1 loss away to Lazio the previous weekend.

The Portugal international opened the scoring in the ninth minute, firing home a loose ball with an instinctive first-time effort, while it was Higuain's well-weighted throughball that set up for a second, finished with his left foot.

Leonardo Bonucci added a third before the interval, flicking in a header at a corner from centre-back partner Merih Demiral via a deflection off the underside of the crossbar, allowing Juve to ease up in the second half.

As the tempo dropped, the hosts relied on the evergreen Gianluigi Buffon - making his 478th Serie A appearance in place of the injured Wojciech Szczesny, drawing him level with Alessandro Del Piero's club record in the competition – to keep Udinese at bay.

The veteran goalkeeper - guilty of a costly error in the 2-2 draw against Sassuolo earlier in December - twice denied the lively Kevin Lasagna, while he also turned away a fierce drive from Seko Fofana.

However, there was little Buffon could do to stop Ignacio Pussetto getting a consolation goal in stoppage time, preventing the former Italy international recording a clean sheet.

Ronaldo had been denied a hat-trick by the post in the closing minutes but Juve coasted to a result that sends them above Inter, although the Nerazzurri can reclaim top spot when they travel to Fiorentina in Sunday's late kick-off.

What does it mean? Sarri sees forwards combine

Having worked so well in the second half of the 2-0 Champions League victory over Bayer Leverkusen in midweek, Dybala, Higuain and Ronaldo had the chance to show they can function from the outset. They did just that, combining impressively on a number of occasions. 

So, was Sarri's starting XI a one-off, or a sign of things to come? This was, admittedly, the ideal game to experiment in; Juventus have won more matches against Udinese than any other Serie A opponent. It will be fascinating to see if they are all selected again for trickier tests in the future.

Ronaldo still going strong

The forward - who turns 35 in February - may not quite have the blistering pace that was once such a trademark, but he remains a ruthless finisher. His goals demonstrated just how dangerous he is when presented with a sight of the target.

Lasagna goes cold on big stage

The Italy international was starved of service in an opening half that was one-way traffic towards the Udinese goal. In the second, however, he failed to capitalise on the opportunities that came his way, including twice allowing recovering defenders to make crucial blocks when seemingly in the clear.

What's next?

Juventus go up against Claudio Ranieri's Sampdoria on Wednesday in their final league outing before the mid-season break in Italy. Udinese, meanwhile, round out 2019 with a home game against Cagliari next Saturday.

Maurizio Sarri reiterated Juventus cannot play with three forwards as he expressed confidence in his side's ability to bounce back from a disappointing draw with Sassuolo.

Sarri has faced consistent questions this season over the possibility of using Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain in a front three.

Dybala was left on the bench last Sunday as Ronaldo and Higuain started up front in a gripping 2-2 game that saw Juventus surrender top spot in Serie A to Inter.

Third-placed Lazio, who are seven points off the top, are the opposition on Saturday as Juve make the trip to the Stadio Olimpico.

There is unlikely to be a Juve attacking triumvirate on show in the capital, however, with coach Sarri insisting it is not possible to play all three together at present.

"Right now, playing three forwards is difficult due to the characteristics of the players," he told a media conference.

"You can't prohibit Dybala from dropping deep, and at the same time Cristiano's characteristics are not to play too central. We must take some precautions to fill the penalty area more.

"It's normal that after Champions League games there's a drop in energy, mentality and confidence, but from what I've seen in training I'm confident. As always, we have to respond on the pitch, getting three points is always important regardless of the game.

"It will be an important matchday for the teams high up in the table, I hope that our motivations are high.

"Lazio are a strong team with great quality. They are the best in Italy and among the best in Europe for getting into the last 25 metres. We need to keep them away from our area because they are very dangerous.

"Based on the average amount of points that they are picking up, Lazio have to be in the conversation for the fight for top.

"I expect a strong approach from Lazio, who will be very determined. We will have to resist it, come out and dictate the game how we want to."

Criticism of veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon irritates Juventus, the club's sporting director Fabio Paratici has admitted.

Buffon was at fault for the concession of Francesco Caputo's goal in Juve's 2-2 draw with Sassuolo on Sunday.

The 41-year-old, who was making his fifth Serie A start of the season, let a tame shot squirm through his grasp following Matthijs de Ligt's panicked clearance.

Maurizio Sarri later absolved Buffon of blame and Paratici felt the Italy legend was deserving of more respect than he has received in some quarters.

"The criticism of Buffon bothers us a lot," Paratici told Sky Sport Italia.

"I always say that Buffon, [Leonardo] Bonucci, [Andrea] Barzagli and [Giorgio] Chiellini are the heroes we have had over the years. They are great people first and then great players. If they have bad days, which happens very rarely, it is proof they are human.

"Buffon is a great goalkeeper, the greatest in the history of football, and above all a great person."

The glaring mistake left Juve trailing early in the second half and a largely poor team performance did not improve until Paulo Dybala's introduction in the 53rd minute.

The Argentina international has been in excellent form in recent weeks and won the penalty from which Cristiano Ronaldo equalised.

Having seemingly been up for sale in the close season, Dybala is now making a case to be granted an improved deal at the Allianz Stadium.

"He is a great player, our number 10 and not by chance," Paratici said. "We are not talking about a renewal, but we will address the matter in due course."

Paratici confirmed outcast attacker Mario Mandzukic could leave the club in January but offered no insights into the futures of Merih Demiral, Daniele Rugani and Emre Can, who have also been linked with moves elsewhere.

Maurizio Sarri hopes Juventus striker Cristiano Ronaldo wins his sixth Ballon d'Or, and he also tipped team-mate Paulo Dybala to be recognised as the world's best player in the future.

Ronaldo is up against fellow five-time winner Lionel Messi and Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk in the running for this year's gong, while Juve defender Matthijs de Ligt is in contention to win the Kopa Trophy awarded to the best performing player under the age of 21.

After watching Ronaldo overcoming a persistent knee injury to play a full 90 minutes in Juve's 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid on Tuesday, Sarri said he was impressed with the 34-year-old's recovery.

"Cristiano did well in the last game, even with some resistance," Sarri told reporters. "Now he just has to grow in terms of brilliance.

"I hope that Cristiano wins the Ballon d'Or, de Ligt the Kopa Trophy and that Dybala will one day be a future Ballon d’Or contender."

Serie A leaders Juventus play 14th-placed Sassuolo on Sunday, and Sarri said his deliberation over selecting two from Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain and Dybala to play in attack is a welcome problem.

But the former Napoli and Chelsea coach warned his players against complacency as they go in search of a fifth consecutive Serie A victory, having beaten Atalanta 3-1 prior to the win over Atletico.

"Tomorrow's game is very dangerous," Sarri said of the Sassuolo clash. "We come into this fixture after two games that took away a lot of our mental energy.

"In addition, Sassuolo is a team that has done well, even on the road, and they have a young and strong coach who I respect a lot.

"Do I get a headache choosing who to play in attack? If anything, the opposition gets the headache.

"Emre Can may be an option for tomorrow. Alex Sandro took part in the full training session with the team yesterday. We need to see if he can play 90 minutes. 

"[Federico] Bernardeschi is doing well, he is a useful player to the team, who has great technical qualities, so we ask him to give more."

"What the f*** are you shooting from over there?" was Maurizio Sarri's reaction to Paulo Dybala's memorable free-kick for Juventus in the Champions League.

Dybala scored a stunning set-piece against Atletico Madrid as Juve secured top spot in Group D with Tuesday's 1-0 victory in Turin.

From an acute angle on the right side of the penalty box, Dybala somehow beat Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak in first-half stoppage time.

Speaking to reporters post-game, Juve head coach Sarri said: "Dybala scored a goal that nobody could have advised him to do.

"The first thing that a coach says in that situation is: 'What the f*** are you shooting from over there?' And therefore what he did was extraordinary.

"The applause was owed to him, for the performance but also for the technical skill which was extraordinary."

While Dybala was the hero again for Juve, it was another frustrating night for superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.

Having missed last week's victory away to Atalanta due to his troublesome knee, Ronaldo returned to the line-up but he appeared to struggle against Atletico.

Asked if Ronaldo is cut off from the game due to the team's style of play, Sarri told reporters: "No, there was no problem with Ronaldo.

"The problem was the way we were occupying spaces. In the first half Paulo was often playing far away from the goal, Cristiano was not playing in the centre and therefore we were never occupying the central spaces. We could have done this more with one of the two alternatively, when Paulo was going for the ball Cristiano could have played more in the centre and when Cristiano was out Dybala could have gone less for the ball.

"Otherwise we could have exploited that space with [Aaron] Ramsey, therefore we had some problem occupying spaces, rather than because we were cutting off players from the game."

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