Paulo Dybala scored his sixth Serie A goal of the season and Juan Cuadrado was also on target as Juventus earned a 2-0 victory over 10-man Brescia that moved the Bianconeri top of Serie A ahead of Inter's evening kick-off at Lazio.

With in-form Cristiano Ronaldo rested by head coach Maurizio Sarri, Argentina international Dybala provided the firepower the champions needed from a first-half free-kick after Brescia forward Florian Aye was sent off.

Sarri's men were guilty of wasteful finishing against their 19th-placed visitors, who might have ground out a point towards their battle against relegation had they kept 11 men on the field, but Cuadrado kept his cool to double their lead after 75 minutes.

It was far from a vintage performance, but two goals proved enough to earn Juve a first win in three matches and relieve some of the pressure mounting around Sarri's position.

Giorgio Chiellini's appearance as a second-half substitute following a long injury lay-off also boosted the home crowd.

An early clash with Gonzalo Higuain left Brescia goalkeeper Enrico Alfonso unable to continue and he was replaced by the club's third-choice stopper Lorenzo Andrenacci after nine minutes.

But Brescia's impressive first half fell apart 10 minutes before the interval.

Aye brought down Aaron Ramsey on the edge of the box and received his second yellow card in four minutes, before Dybala curled a sublime free-kick into the left corner of the net with Andrenacci rooted to the spot.

Andrenacci kept the deficit to one goal at the break with a superb one-handed save, turning a Daniele Rugani header onto the crossbar when the Juve defender looked certain to score.

Leonardo Bonucci was denied early in the second half, Andrenacci parrying the Italy international's powerful header away from danger.

Dybala danced through the Brescia box after 66 minutes only to have his shot from 12 yards blocked by Birkir Bjarnason.

Bjarnason blazed over the crossbar when the ball fell to him unmarked on the edge of the box moments before Cuadrado made sure of the victory, playing a neat one-two with Blaise Matuidi and applying a cool, dinked finish past Andrenacci from six yards out.

Higuain saw a header disallowed for offside late on and Dybala hit the bar right at the death, with Juventus comfortable in the end.

What does it mean? Sarri keeps Pep talk on hold

A run of two defeats in three Serie A games handed the title race initiative to Inter and led to speculation that Pep Guardiola could replace Sarri at the end of the season.

While unspectacular, this win steadied the ship and reassured Juve supporters that their side are not reliant on Ronaldo to keep them winning.

Dybala does the business

It was an all-action performance from Dybala, who linked up with Cuadrado and Higuain to great effect throughout, took his goal superbly and rattled the crossbar with his rising drive on the stroke of full-time.

Clumsy Aye costs Brescia

Just four minutes after being booked for a needless foul on Danilo, Aye got his legs tangled up with Ramsey in a dangerous position, got himself sent off and conceded the free-kick from which Dybala scored.

What's next?

Ronaldo is in line to play his 1,000th career match as Juventus travel to Ferrara to face SPAL on Saturday, with Brescia hosting Napoli on Friday.

Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici confirmed the Serie A giants had started contract talks with attacker Paulo Dybala.

Dybala, 26, is enjoying a good season for Juve despite being linked with a move away from Turin, scoring 11 goals in 29 games in all competitions.

The Argentina international is contracted until 2022, and Paratici said Juve had already started talks regarding a new deal for Dybala.

"He's the Juventus number 10. He is fundamental. We know what value he has and what he represents," Paratici told DAZN before Juve's 2-1 loss to Hellas Verona in Serie A on Saturday.

"In the coming months, we will talk to him.

"We have already had some initial discussions before January and agreed to talk nearer to the end of the season."

Juventus are top of the table and three points clear of Inter, who face Milan in a derby clash on Sunday.

A return to Barcelona could be on the cards for Adama Traore.

Wolves star Traore has taken the Premier League and Europe by storm with his performances this season.

Barcelona's LaLiga rivals Real Madrid are also reportedly interested.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA AND MADRID EYE TRAORE

Barcelona are plotting a move to bring Wolves star Adama Traore back to Camp Nou, according to the Daily Mail.

LaLiga rivals Real Madrid are also interested in Spanish winger Traore, who left Barca in 2015.

Wolves are set to command a big transfer fee for Traore amid links to Manchester City and Liverpool, having signed the 24-year-old from Middlesbrough two years ago.

 

ROUND-UP

- Gazzetta dello Sport claims Manchester United are interested in trying to prise Lionel Messi from Barcelona. There are doubts over Messi's future following his row with sporting director Eric Abidal. City, Paris Saint-Germain, Inter and Juventus have also been mentioned as possible destinations for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

United have given the green light to sell Paul Pogba, says The Sun. Linked to Madrid and Juventus, the Red Devils are ready to part with Pogba for £150million.

Juventus and Paulo Dybala are working on a contract extension, reports Tuttosport. Tied to Juve until 2022, the Serie A champions want to keep the in-form attacker until 2025.

- L'Equipe reports Thiago Silva wants to stay at PSG but the Ligue 1 champions want to offload the 35-year-old defender in an attempt to free up some of the wage budget.

United have been turned off by Lautaro Martinez's £94m (€110.7m) release clause, according to The Times. The Inter striker has been heavily linked to Barca as a long-term replacement for Luis Suarez.

- The Telegraph says Leicester City are leading the race to sign Liverpool's Adam Lallana, who is out of contract at the end of the season. Tottenham, Arsenal and West Ham have also reportedly been tracking the England midfielder.

- According to Fotomac, Galatasaray striker Radamel Falcao is wanted by Saudi Arabian giants Al Hilal. Falcao only moved to Istanbul at the start of the season.

Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri ruled out fielding a front four as he warned it would mean having to rein in Cristiano Ronaldo.

Sarri was speaking after his team beat Fiorentina 3-0 with a pair of Ronaldo penalties to firm up top spot in Serie A.

Matthijs de Ligt headed the third goal in the final moments, on a day when Juventus began with Paulo Dybala as a substitute, Sarri preferring a front three of Douglas Costa with Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain.

Sarri earlier this season played down talk of regularly fielding an attacking three but has since often done so; however, talk of playing four forwards together was dismissed by the former Chelsea boss.

"We have many attacking players at an extraordinary level," Sarri said. "There are many solutions but they are not simple to put together."

Speaking of Costa, Sarri said: "I preferred to go with him to give us more width. When you leave out someone like Dybala you have bitterness, it's a blasphemy. But I have to deal with balance."

Asked about playing all four attackers together, Sarri added, according to Gazzetta dello Sport: "You'd have to sacrifice the characteristics of these players, starting with Ronaldo who would really have to stay out wide. It would be a waste."

Juventus bounced back well from the defeat at Napoli in their previous game, with Ronaldo reaching 50 goals for the club.

De Ligt said on the Juventus website: "It was the answer that we had to give. In the first half, we had some difficulties against a compact team, then we stepped it up."

Paulo Dybala admitted he was close to leaving Juventus in the close season and the star attacker said his future was in the Serie A champions' hands.

Dybala was linked with a move to Manchester United and Tottenham, but ended up staying in Turin.

The Argentina international has impressed this season, scoring 11 goals in 26 games, but admitted he almost left Juventus.

"I was close to leaving. That was in the club's thinking, I knew. Until the last minute, we were waiting," Dybala told The Guardian.

"I have two years left on my contract. That's not a short time but it's not a long one either. We'll see what plans Juventus have, if they think I might leave in the next market or if they want me to stay.

"That's a decision for the club to make. It's hard to know because things change in a second.

"But I'm here, at a club that has treated me well. I'm happy, comfortable. [Maurizio] Sarri's arrival has helped. He wanted me to stay, which gave me strength when we didn't know what would happen. I knew he could teach me, help me bring out the best in myself."

Dybala has been at Juve since 2015, when he arrived after three seasons in Italy with Palermo.

Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini had labelled Dybala the new Sergio Aguero when the attacker signed, but the 26-year-old said he had no interest in comparisons.

"If you believe that, it weighs on you, but I always said I didn't want to be the new anything, I want people to say my goals, my moves, are 'like Dybala', not anyone else," Dybala said.

"[Lionel] Messi, [Omar] Sivori, and Aguero won incredible things. I wanted to win my things, not theirs.

"There was criticism because it was €8million for a 17-year-old, their highest transfer ever. I left for €40m and when I got here, the first thing they asked was about the fee. You think about the prices paid now."

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."

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