Massimiliano Allegri claims Sunday's Serie A clash between Juventus and Milan is more important for the Rossoneri despite him overseeing a miserable start to 2021-22.

Allegri is three league matches into his second spell in Turin but there has been no sign of a honeymoon period, with Juve yet to win any of those matches.

They relieved a hint of pressure with a 3-0 Champions League win on Tuesday, though the good will from that victory will only last so long given it was against Malmo.

Failure to get off the mark on Sunday will leave Juve winless across their first four Serie A matches in a single season for only the fourth time, the most recent occasion being in 1961-62.

By contrast, Milan – who this season are in the Champions League for the first time since 2013-14 – have won all three of their Serie A games in 2021-22, with Stefano Pioli's men second only to Roma on goal difference.

Despite their differing starts to the season, Allegri insists Sunday's encounter is a bigger deal for Milan than Juve, and he also wanted to stress there is no reason to panic for their title hopes if Pioli's side do leave with a positive result.

"Tomorrow's game is more important for them than for us," Allegri told reporters, though he would not openly elaborate on why he felt this way. "That's what you have to say, otherwise I will help you too much."

On the title race, he added: "I believe there is no team that can crush the championship. Maybe I'm wrong.

"You can lose points, but you can also quickly recover them. We must not think that if we lose then we will be 11 points behind, we have to work thinking about making up for the ground that we lost at the beginning.

"I have always said that, the championships are won against the smaller teams. We don't know what tomorrow's result will be because the devil invented football: you can play well and still maybe you lose or draw.

 

"It's not that before Malmo we had become poor drunks and now we are phenomenal again. We need balance. You have to work and have the ambition to win.

"I have to be a coach, because the team goes out on the pitch, but I also have to hammer on the psychological aspect because Juve is a team that has to play not to win games, but to win championships.

"Everyone wins matches, all teams, but the championship will only be won by one. In the end, the team that was the best will win the championship."

Allegri's return after two years away understandably conjured up memories of Juventus' remarkable streak of nine successive Scudetti, with the 54-year-old in charge for five of them.

But he feels comparisons between the two distinctly different teams and eras are unhelpful.

"I have found a Juventus with different players," he continued. "We must not think of comparing Juve today with what it was in the past.

"This team has its own identity as well as individual characteristics of the players. You need to become a team by improving many things, in terms of personality, technique and patience in playing. But it's just a different Juve."

In a potential blow for Juve, Allegri confirmed Federico Chiesa is a doubt for Sunday's game.

The Italy international has been involved in six goals against Milan in Serie A, a haul he has bettered against no other team.

He also scored his only brace with Juventus in the Italian top-flight against the Rossoneri in January.

For so long, Juventus dominated Serie A and Milan. 

Juve won nine successive Scudetti before being dethroned by Inter last season. Gianluigi Buffon was involved in eight of them. 

But it's a period of change in Turin, where Wojciech Szczesny is well and truly under the microscope after an error-riddled start to the 2021-22 season. 

As Juve struggle defensively, form could hardly be more contrasting heading into Sunday's blockbuster showdown in the northwest of Italy. 

Milan have continued to be a solid defensive outfit, winning their opening three league fixtures, and the resurgent Rossoneri could strike an early dagger to the heart of the Old Lady.

 

Woeful Woj as Allegri tries to avoid unwanted record 

"I think Juventus will regret not signing Donnarumma for a long time." 

That was Mino Raiola – the agent of Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma – speaking to Rai Sport on Friday. Based on what has transpired so far, he is right. 

The star Italy goalkeeper had been tipped to swap Milan for Juve in the off-season before moving to the French capital on a free transfer. Juve must be shaking their heads after watching Szczesny's torrid start to the season under Massimiliano Allegri. 

Allegri has had his hands full since returning to Allianz Stadium after two seasons away, replacing Andrea Pirlo. The title-winning boss is trying to navigate the exit of superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. If the departure of the almost-irreplaceable Ronaldo was not hard enough, Szczesny has made life even more difficult. 

The former Arsenal keeper has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, his two howlers against Udinese and Napoli the catalyst for Juve's winless start to the campaign. 

The Bianconeri could go without a victory in their first four Serie A seasonal matches for the fourth time in their history, after 1961-62, 1955-56 and 1942-43. In those campaigns, Juve did not go on to win the title. They have never lost three of the first four Serie A games in a season. 

They have conceded five goals in three matches and are yet to keep a clean sheet domestically, shipping goals in each of their past 17 league games – only twice have Juve conceded in more consecutive Serie A fixtures (19 in 2010 and 21 in 1955). That 17-game run is the worst of its kind across the top-five European leagues since March. 

 

Szczesny's numbers do not make for pretty reading.

Since 2018-19, the Poland international has conceded 90 goals in 90 Serie A appearances with expected goals against (xGA) of 99.88, suggesting he should have let in nearly 10 goals more. For some comparison, Buffon's xGA-goals conceded difference – goals he prevented, in other words –was 2.62 from 17 matches, so Szczesny holds his own there.

The numbers do not get much better, though. A maligned figure from his days at Arsenal, Szczesny has shipped 99 goals in 107 Serie A games for Juve. Since 1994-95, his average of 0.93 goals conceded is worse than ex-Juve goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar (0.70 from 46 goals conceded in 66 games), Buffon (0.76 from 373 conceded in 489 matches), Michelangelo Rampulla (0.85 from 33 conceded in 39 fixtures) and Angelo Peruzzi (0.85 from 120 conceded in 141 appearances).

Szczesny – with a save percentage of 72 and an average of 2.49 stops per 90 minutes – has committed three errors leading to goals during his time with Juve in Serie A. Since 2004-05, only Buffon managed more (13), albeit in 391 games.

This season, Szczesny's expected goals against is 5.86 through three matches. Milan counterpart Mike Maignan's figure stands at 2.33.

When Milan refused to meet Donnarumma's demands, they wasted little time turning to Maignan, who had just led Lille to a shock Ligue 1 title after upstaging PSG.

Maignan has been a steady presence in Milan with a joint-league-high two clean sheets, while the France international tops the list in save percentage (90), well ahead of Szczesny (66.67).

 

Kjaer spearheading Milan back to summit

While Juve duo Leonardo Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt lick their wounds, Simon Kjaer and Fikayo Tomori continue to flex their muscles at San Siro.

In the era of three points per win, Milan have won each of their first four Serie A seasonal games only twice: in 1995-96 under Fabio Capello and last season with Stefano Pioli at the helm. The Rossoneri won the title in 1996, while they finished second to Inter in 2020-21.

High-flying Milan are on the cusp of matching that feat thanks to the help of Kjaer and Tomori and perhaps even more than that as the resurgent powerhouse dream of a first Scudetto since 2011.

Kjaer and Tomori have formed an unlikely but rock-solid partnership at the heart of Milan's defence. Pioli's side have only conceded one goal to start the Serie A season. Since last May, Milan have the most clean sheets in the big five European leagues (seven in eight matches).

The pair's form has left captain Alessio Romagnoli sidelined and considering his future – not something you would have anticipated when Kjaer arrived following a brief spell at Atalanta, initially on loan in 2020.

Kjaer has come into his own in Milan, establishing himself as a key member on and off the pitch under Pioli, tallying 178 clearances in the league since January 2020 – a number only behind Torino's Bremer (219), Omar Colley of Sampdoria (214), Fiorentina star Nikola Milenkovic (205), ex-Viola centre-back German Pezzella (191) and Lazio's Francesco Acerbi (190) among defenders.

 

The 32-year-old Denmark international has also provided security in the air, with his 93 headed clearances the fourth most among defenders since January 2020, after Milenkovic (122), Bremer (119) and Colley (103).

"It happens a lot with defenders that they kind of find their own style later on. That has happened with Simon," former Denmark international Jesper Olsen told Stats Perform.

"You're playing at a top team and expected to do really well. We know your last game played doesn't count anymore, it's the next one. He just seems very settled."

Tomori, who completed a permanent switch from Champions League holders Chelsea in July after impressing on loan, scored the last time these two teams met – a 3-0 victory in Turin in May.

Milan have won two of their most recent three Serie A matches against Juventus, as many as in their previous 17 (D1 L14).

Massimiliano Allegri has full faith in his Juventus squad turning around their campaign and challenging for the Serie A title after falling to a 2-1 loss at Napoli.

Juve's slow start to Allegri's second spell in charge continued on Saturday as second-half goals from Matteo Politano and Kalidou Koulibaly earned Napoli a comeback win.

The Bianconeri, who led through Alvaro Morata's 10th-minute strike, have now failed to win any of their first three league games for just the second time in 52 Serie A seasons.

Saturday's late loss also means Allegri has failed to win any of his past eight league games in charge of Juve either side of a two-year sabbatical.

After collecting just one point from their first three matches of the 2021-22 campaign, six-time Scudetto winner Allegri is adamant that his side will grow stronger.

"I have ample trust in this group. I know they will make up the lost ground," he said. "This group is destined to grow thanks to the blows taken.

"This evening's defeat was different and we must quickly put it behind us."

After profiting from a Kostas Manolas error to take the lead in Naples, Juve themselves gifted their opponents – who now have three wins from three – a couple of goals.

Wojciech Szczesny parried Lorenzo Insigne's shot into the path of Politano for Napoli's leveller and could only push a poor Moise Kean header straight to Koulibaly for the late winner.

It is the first time since March 2010 that Napoli have recovered from a losing position to beat Juventus in the league and Allegri accepts his side were not good enough.

"I liked the attitude of the team in the first half, but in the second half Napoli got the upper hand. Sometimes you are made to pay for individual mistakes," he said.

"Szczesny does not lack calmness. He made a mistake with his handling today, but he will be in the team on Tuesday.

"As for Kean, these things happen in football sometimes. We also conceded similar goals to Udinese and Empoli

"From a technical point of view, we could have done better. We haven't won yet, but now we start thinking about our next match in the Champions League."

That European tie with Malmo on Tuesday is followed five days later by a huge clash with Allegri's former side Milan at the Allianz Stadium.

"We know that we need to be more lucid near the area, though the team did what I asked of them today from a tactical point of view against a good Napoli side," Allegri added.

"In football there is no room for mistakes. We have an important test ahead of us that we must overcome in order for it not to become a mental thing."

Juve, who were missing some key players on Saturday, managed just eight shots in total against Napoli and none at all on target in the second half.

That makes it back-to-back blanks for the Bianconeri since Cristiano Ronaldo left the club to rejoin Manchester United, but Allegri reiterated he is eager to move on from that high-profile exit.

"Ronaldo is part of the past, he made a choice," Allegri said. "Now he's gone. Juve let him go because you can't keep a player against your will."

Miralem Pjanic revealed his desire to re-join Juventus last transfer window and encouraged Paulo Dybala to renew his contract in Turin.

Pjanic, 31, made 108 Serie A starts for Juve before departing to Barcelona in 2020, where he clashed with head coach Ronald Koeman and subsequently joined Besiktas on loan in September.

However, with former boss Massimiliano Allegri back in charge in Turin, the midfielder expressed his love for the Bianconeri and admitted he wanted to re-join.

"With Juve there have been contacts and appointments with my agent, but the transfer market is never easy," Pjanic told Tuttosport.

"I would have liked to come back and I would have done everything to find [Massimiliano] Allegri, a guarantee.

"No one is better than him in these situations. Max makes all the players feel important and he doesn't deny anyone a chance. I consider him number one, he's a coach who talks to you for better or for worse."

Allegri's second spell has not started well, picking up just one point in his opening two games – Juve having only failed to win any of their first three Serie A games once in 51 seasons, under the same coach in 2015-16.

Dybala, who has been involved in four goals in his last four league games, will be absent for the trip to Napoli but Pjanic implored his former team-mate to commit his future to the club.

"[Paulo] Dybala is top, but Iike with everyone, he needs the team," the Bosnia-Herzegovina midfielder continued. "I would advise him to stay at Juventus, where they love him.

"But these are personal choices, difficult to judge from the outside, because sometimes one feels the need for new challenges."

Massimiliano Allegri revealed Juventus will be without their South American contingent, including Paulo Dybala, and the injured Federico Chiesa as they prepare to face Napoli on Saturday.

Dybala, who has been involved in four goals in his last four league games, heads the absentee list, which also includes Rodrigo Bentancur, Danilo, Juan Cuadrado and Alex Sandro.

Juve have managed just one point from their opening two Serie A games, only once in their history - Allegri's first spell in 2015-16 – have they failed to win any of their opening three matches.

And matters have worsened for the Old Lady as Allegri confirmed on Friday that the visitors will be without their South American players after their late returns from international duty.

"I decided to leave the South Americans at home because they will return too late," Allegri told Friday's pre-match news conference.

"[Juan] Cuadrado was the only one who could have joined the team, but he suffered stomach flu. He hasn't even returned to Italy. He is in still Colombia to undergo some medical examinations.

"This is the situation, I've never complained about the fixture list. Some players finished their international games at 3am last night and would return to Turin at 11am tomorrow morning.

"We don't want to run the risk they pick up injuries, so they will remain in Turin to work, it makes more sense."

Allegri confirmed Chiesa, too, will not be available for selection after the forward suffered a muscular issue with Italy during the international break.

The 54-year-old is without a win in his last seven league games with his new side, with only three Juve managers ever suffering longer winless streaks in Serie A, but asked for patience as his team look to kick-start their season after two poor showings against Udinese and Empoli.

"Napoli are among the candidates to win the title along with another seven or eight clubs, the season is still long and we need to remain balanced," he continued.

"There are many games, the first two matches didn't go as we expected, but this is football, we must keep things simple and start the season because we haven't started yet."

Massimiliano Allegri said Juventus cannot keep thinking about Cristiano Ronaldo after the struggling Serie A giants crashed to a shock loss against Empoli without the Manchester United-bound superstar.

Without Ronaldo as he edges closer to returning to Premier League contenders United, Allegri's Juve were upstaged 1-0 by visitors and newly promoted Empoli in Turin on Saturday.

Mancuso's strike lifted Empoli to a surprise victory and condemned Juve to a winless start to the season following last week's draw at Udinese.

Juve have failed to win either of their opening two in the competition for the third time in the last 52 Serie A seasons – having done so in 2010-11 and 2015-16, and head coach Allegri was asked about five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo's exit post game.

"Cristiano spent three years at Juventus, he scored goals, which he is very good at, he's an extraordinary player, but we cannot think about Ronaldo from now on," Allegri told DAZN.

"I have a fine squad, we simply must realise that we can't just dominate every match.

"We need to come together and this will help us for the future.

"I am optimistic, always."

Ronaldo joined Juve from Real Madrid in 2018 and he remained an ultra-reliable frontman for the Italian giants, scoring 81 goals in 98 Serie A games.

The 36-year-old 29 league goals last season and 36 across all competitions. In 2020-21, only four players across Europe's top five leagues scored more goals than his 36-goal haul.

Ronaldo is also contributing far less in other areas of the pitch than during his prime years. He won just six tackles last season, and only three in the league. Only five strikers with five goals or more in Serie A last season won fewer. In his 60-goal third season at Madrid, Ronaldo won 33 tackles.

The Portugal captain made 73 crosses in open play across all competitions, and 64 came in the league, the fifth-highest total of any five-goal-plus Serie A striker, but that number is far from what the former Sporting CP was producing at his career's peak. In his final season at United (2008-09) he put in 197 open-play crosses, and he topped 100 in each of his first three seasons at Madrid (2009-10 to 2011-12).

He continues to produce excellent figures, but he no longer vastly exceeds his expected goals (xG) totals and has instead almost exactly matched them in each season while at Juventus (2018-19: 28 goals from 28.3 xG; 2019-20: 37 goals from 35.84 xG; 2020-21: 36 goals from 35.34 xG).

Meanwhile, Juve have lost two successive Serie A home matches against promoted sides for the first time in their top-flight history.

Juve have also lost two consecutive league fixtures against promoted teams (Benevento in March and Empoli on Saturday) for the first time since 1999.

The Bianconeri have conceded in each of their last 16 league games – only twice in their Serie A history they have been on a longer streak without a clean sheet: 19 in April 2010 and 21 in October 1955

Massimiliano Allegri insisted Juventus will improve after a 1-0 home defeat to Empoli on Saturday left them winless in Serie A after two matches.

Leonardo Mancuso scored what proved to be the winner in Turin as Juve looked toothless up top without Cristiano Ronaldo, who edges closer to joining Manchester United.

Mancuso's first-half effort means Juve remain winless after their opening two games – the third time they have done so in 52 Serie A campaigns – following a 2-2 draw against Udinese last weekend. It capped a night to remember for Empoli, who secured a first away Serie A win at Juve after 11 defeats and one draw. 

And despite a slow start to the 2021-22 campaign, Allegri is remaining upbeat.

"Tonight the team started well, after the goal we disunited and we put ourselves in the hands of the team," Allegri told DAZN.

"[Against] Empoli, it was necessary to have more patience, to play as a team and not individually.

"It's not easy, we have a point after two games, but we have all the time to improve.

"It's a difficult moment, we need to grow. There have been too many players who have done things wrong that are not usually wrong."

Massimiliano Allegri has confirmed Cristiano Ronaldo is leaving Juventus, as a remarkable transfer to Manchester City edges closer to completion.

Ronaldo joined Juve from Real Madrid in 2018 but reports emerged last week that he wished to leave the Serie A giants.

Premier League champions City – having missed out on Harry Kane – are front-runners for the 36-year-old's signature in what would be a sensational return to English football.

On Friday, Ronaldo was pictured leaving Juventus training having reportedly said his goodbyes to team-mates.

In Allegri's subsequent news conference to preview Saturday's clash with Empoli, the head coach confirmed Ronaldo was leaving the club.

"Yesterday, Cristiano told me that he no longer has any intention to play for Juventus. For this reason he will not be called up for tomorrow's game," Allegri said.

"Things change, it's a law of life. Juventus remains, which is the most important thing. Cristiano gave his contribution, he made himself available, now he leaves and life goes on.

"Cristiano is to be thanked for what he has done, also as an example to the youngsters. But as I said, we must go on."

The seemingly imminent transfer to City is a move that will greatly anger Manchester United fans, as Ronaldo spent six years with the Red Devils after Alex Ferguson signed him from boyhood club Sporting CP in 2003.

Ronaldo won three Premier League titles and the Champions League with United, while also helping them to an FA Cup, two EFL Cups and the FIFA Club World Cup, before joining Madrid in 2009.

At Madrid, Ronaldo won LaLiga twice and the Champions League four times.

He has remained an ultra-reliable frontman for Juventus, scoring 81 times in 98 Serie A matches since the start of 2018-19, but the Bianconeri have continued to fall short in the Champions League.

Another player linked with a departure from Juve has been United States midfielder Weston McKennie, but Allegri insisted the former Schalke man would be staying put.

Allegri said: "Weston McKennie has to stay here at Juventus, he's not for sale. He's part of the project and he can improve."

Meanwhile, Moise Kean – who left Juve in 2019 to join Everton – seems to be on the verge of returning to Turin, with both a permanent deal or a loan with an obligation to buy having been discussed, according to various reports.

Allegri, however, would not be drawn on commenting on the Italy forward, who impressed on loan last season at Paris Saint-Germain.

"I'm not going to talk about Moise Kean, he's an Everton player," Allegri said.

Massimiliano Allegri has confirmed Cristiano Ronaldo is leaving Juventus, as a remarkable transfer to Manchester City edges closer to completion.

Ronaldo joined Juve from Real Madrid in 2018 but reports emerged last week that he wished to leave the Serie A giants.

Premier League champions City – having missed out on Harry Kane – are front-runners for the 36-year-old's signature in what would be a sensational return to English football.

On Friday, Ronaldo was pictured leaving Juventus training having reportedly said his goodbyes to team-mates.

In Allegri's subsequent news conference to preview Saturday's clash with Empoli, the head coach confirmed Ronaldo was leaving the club.

"Yesterday, Cristiano told me that he no longer has any intention to play for Juventus. For this reason he will not be called up for tomorrow's game," Allegri said.

"Things change, it's a law of life. Juventus remains, which is the most important thing. Cristiano gave his contribution, he made himself available, now he leaves and life goes on.

"Cristiano is to be thanked for what he has done, also as an example to the youngsters. But as I said, we must go on."

Cristiano Ronaldo was at the centre of transfer rumours after failing to make the Juventus starting XI at Udinese – but Massimiliano Allegri insisted there was an innocent explanation.

Ronaldo and drama go hand in hand and the superstar forward came off the bench to snatch what looked to be a stoppage-time winner in his team's opening game of the Serie A season.

A VAR ruling meant the clinical header was ruled out, however, and Juventus had to settle for a 2-2 draw, with two glaring errors from goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny costing them.

Szczesny might have been grateful for the spotlight to be shone on Ronaldo, because it took some of the attention away from his regrettable performance.

The team announcement from Allegri, embarking on his second spell as Juve head coach after last term's failed Andrea Pirlo experiment, sent shudders through football when it emerged Ronaldo was only a substitute.

It was swiftly reported by major Italian news outlets that Ronaldo had requested to be benched and was hoping to secure a move from Juventus before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.

Allegri said after the game that it had been a decision taken purely with the player's interests, and those of the team, in mind.

"Cristiano is fine, I had talked to him with a view to everyone's conditions at the beginning of the season, also thinking about the game especially at the beginning, and I said to him, 'Come to the bench, in the second half we will need you to come on'," Allegri said.

"He made himself available, he also did well: he also scored a goal, then unfortunately he wasn't good by a centimetre."

Allegri led Juventus to five Serie A titles in his first spell at the club, from 2014 to 2019, and had two years out of the game before accepting an offer to return.

The Scudetto is again the target for Juventus, whose nine-in-a-row title sequence ended last season as rookie coach Pirlo struggled to coax the best out of the team.

Allegri had a win percentage of 70.48 across 271 games in his first spell at Juve, but may find success this time around is harder to come by, judging by how his team started impressively but allowed Udinese to control much of the second half.

Early goals from Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado had put Juve in charge, but Szczesny carelessly gave away a penalty after letting a shot squirm from his grasp and then committed a worse error in the 83rd minute that allowed Gerard Deulofeu to fire into an empty net.

Juventus have now conceded eight penalties in Serie A since the beginning of 2021: only Udinese (13) have conceded more in this calendar year in the competition.

"Unexpected things happen: this is football too," Allegri said, quoted on the Juventus official website.

"In the first half we were in control, and we had to control the ball better. Then we didn't know how to manage the unexpected, and this is a lesson that we must take home with us.

"The performance was good, but in football the only thing that counts is winning and knowing how to read the match moments. In the second half, we lost two or three too many balls in midfield, perhaps also due to the heat and the conditions at the beginning of the season."

For the first time since he joined Juventus, Ronaldo has now started two games in a row on the bench: against Udinese and in May against Bologna.

If the substitute trend continues in next Saturday's clash with Empoli, familiar rumours will return. His steadying influence over the closing half-hour of Sunday's game, as a replacement for the misfiring Alvaro Morata (three goal attempts, zero on target), suggests Juventus should do all in their powers to retain him.

Surprise substitute Cristiano Ronaldo was denied a winner by VAR deep into stoppage time as Juventus drew 2-2 at Udinese following a pair of Wojciech Szczesny blunders.

Impressive early strikes from Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado looked to have paved the way for a season-opening Serie A success, and a first win of head coach Massimiliano Allegri's second spell in charge of Juventus.

But a mistake by goalkeeper Szczesny was punished from the penalty spot early in the second half, and a desperate clanger in the 83rd minute allowed Gerard Deulofeu to net a dramatic leveller.

In a ripsnorting finish, Udinese almost sneaked a winner, Mato Jajalo firing over in the 90th minute, before Ronaldo headed in a Federico Chiesa cross in the fourth minute of stoppage time. The celebrations were wild, and a euphoric Ronaldo was booked for removing his shirt, before he was left stunned to see the goal disallowed for offside.

Ronaldo and Dybala have contracts that run to the end of this season, and there seems scant prospect of both staying in Turin. Dybala is seemingly keen to remain, Ronaldo less so, and his omission from the starting XI here sparked fresh speculation about his future. 

Juventus took just two minutes and three seconds to surge ahead, their earliest goal in a season opener during the three-points-for-a-win era, which began in 1994-95. 

Giorgio Chiellini was on the bench so Dybala captained the team, and it was the Argentine forward who produced a special finish to catch the hosts cold. Rodrigo Bentancur slid in a low ball from the right and Dybala cleverly flicked the ball across goal into the left corner. 

Dybala then played a key role in the second Juventus goal, which came in the 23rd minute, looping a long pass to Cuadrado, who took his first touch just a couple of strides outside the Udinese penalty area. The Colombian shuffled skilfully past flummoxed Udinese captain Bram Nuytinck and lashed a low shot into the same corner that Dybala had earlier found. 

Juventus looked practically home and hosed at the break, but conceded a penalty in the 50th minute when Szczesny made a poor parry of Tolgay Arslan's shot before bringing down the Udinese man as he chased down the rebound. 

Former Juve man Roberto Pereyra fired the spot-kick into the right corner, before Alvaro Morata headed against the left post at the other end a couple of minutes later, from a chance he would expect to tuck away. 

Allegri saw the game potentially slipping away and sent on Ronaldo, Chiellini and Dejan Kulusevski on the hour mark, Morata among those to make way. Ronaldo soon teed up Bentancur to smash a shot against the right post, and then came the late drama, Juventus left smarting on day one of the new campaign.

Cristiano Ronaldo will stay at Juventus and his selection as a substitute for Sunday's season opener at Udinese was a mutual decision, according to Pavel Nedved.

Former Juve midfielder Nedved is now a vice-president at the club and was asked about Ronaldo being surprisingly left out of the starting XI in Udine.

Nedved said, according to Sky Sport Italia: "We must not look for sensations where there are none. It was a choice shared with the player.

"At the beginning of the season it is normal that the conditions are not top and the coach tries to field the most competitive team tonight."

Asked whether Ronaldo would remain a Juventus player this season, the last on his contract, Nedved said: "Absolutely yes."

There was nevertheless speculation that Ronaldo had requested to be selected on the bench, with Sky Sport Italia claiming the forward was looking to leave the club before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.

Head coach Massimiliano Allegri insisted this week that last season's Serie A 29-goal top scorer had told him he wanted to stay in Turin, and the Portuguese superstar has condemned what he described as "frivolous" rumours around his future.

 

Ronaldo has been linked with a return to Real Madrid or Manchester United, while Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City have also been credited with interest.

However, any of those clubs would likely have to generate funds before mounting a move for the 36-year-old five-time Ballon d'Or winner, and City are expected to move for Harry Kane rather than Ronaldo.

With Ronaldo watching on from the sidelines, Juventus snatched a third-minute lead at Udinese through Paulo Dybala.

Cristiano Ronaldo was named only as a substitute for Juventus' opening Serie A match against Udinese amid renewed speculation he wants to leave the club.

Speaking ahead of his side's opening league game of 2021-22, head coach Massimiliano Allegri insisted Ronaldo had told him he wanted to stay in Turin.

Those comments came after the Portugal star posted to social media to hit out at what he described as "frivolous" rumours around his future.

However, on Sunday, Allegri selected Paulo Dybala and Alvaro Morata as a strike partnership, with Ronaldo on the bench.

Sky Sport Italia then reported that Ronaldo had requested to be left out of the first XI as he is attempting to secure a transfer before the window closes.

 

Ronaldo has been linked with a return to Real Madrid or Manchester United, while Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City have also been credited with interest.

However, any move would appear problematic. Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti has already said the 36-year-old will not be returning and Los Blancos are said to be trying to build funds for an attempt to sign Kylian Mbappe.

Selling the France star would likely be the only means for PSG to sign Ronaldo given the huge increase to their wage bill following the free transfer of Lionel Messi, while United must sell before buying again after spending upwards of £105million on Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane.

City, meanwhile, broke the Premier League transfer record by signing Jack Grealish for £100m and are expected to make another push to sign Harry Kane from Tottenham in the next week.

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri says Cristiano Ronaldo has told him he wishes to stay at the club for the 2021-22 season.

Speculation has persisted in recent weeks that the Portugal star is pushing to leave Turin three years after his move from Real Madrid in a deal worth €112million.

A return to the Spanish capital was mooted until coach Carlo Ancelotti shot down the rumour, while possible moves to former club Manchester United, Premier League champions Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have also been suggested.

Ronaldo himself hit out at the media frenzy around his future in a social media post, condemning the coverage as "frivolous" and "disrespectful".

Allegri has now stated the 36-year-old wants to see out the remaining year of his contract at the Allianz Stadium.

"Ronaldo told me he's staying at Juve," Allegri said on Saturday ahead of Juve's Serie A opener against Udinese.

"He's always trained well. I read the rumours in the newspapers. He never told us he wanted to leave.

"Ronaldo is a bonus for us because he guarantees a large number of goals. Of course, we have to work as a team to bring the best out of a single player.

"Ronaldo didn't play the [pre-season] game on Thursday because we had been going through a tough week and I gave him half a day off."

 

Allegri returned to Juve to take over from Andrea Pirlo, having stepped down in 2019 following five hugely successful years with the Bianconeri.

He led Juve to five consecutive Serie A titles, four Coppa Italia and two Supercoppa Italiana, while also reaching two Champions League finals.

The 54-year-old said his past achievements will mean little if he cannot mount a serious challenge to reclaim the Scudetto from Inter.

"I don't have to show anything, I have to work to get results. What happened in my five years stays in the museum," he said.

"Ronaldo has won five Ballons d'Or but if this year he doesn't have a good year, they'll remember his last year at Juventus. The same goes for [Federico] Chiesa: what he did at the Euros won't count.

"We have to question ourselves every day, otherwise the conditions to win aren't created."

The 2021-22 Serie A campaign commences on Saturday following a busy close season that saw more than half of the 20 teams change head coach.

Antonio Conte departed Inter after guiding the club to their first Scudetto in more than a decade, with Simone Inzaghi being plucked from Lazio, who in turn turned to Maurizio Sarri.

Sarri's former club Juventus decided to end the Andrea Pirlo experiment after just a year and opted for a familiar face in six-time title winner Massimiliano Allegri as his replacement.

Luciano Spalletti is back in Serie A with Napoli, meanwhile, and Jose Mourinho has returned to Italy with Roma some 11 years on from his hugely successful stint with Inter.

There will be just as much focus on the dugouts as the field when the new season gets up and running this weekend, then, and some coaches are facing a tougher challenge than others.

Stats Perform looks at what the managerial changes could mean for some of Serie A's biggest clubs.


Inter 

In: Simone Inzaghi

Out: Antonio Conte

Conte will go down in Inter folklore as the man who ended the club's 11-year wait to return to the top of Italian football.

In an ideal world, one in which the Nerazzurri were not in a position whereby they had to sell star players to balance the books, Conte would still be in charge at San Siro.

As it is, though, Inzaghi will be at the helm this coming season and is in a rather unenviable position of having to pick up where Conte left off, minus the goals of Romelu Lukaku.

Inzaghi has his own vision but does not differ too much from Conte in terms of tactics, both coaches favouring a 3-5-2 formation of sorts throughout their careers.

Moving the ball forward quickly will be the aim, with Milan (90) the only side in Serie A last term to register more direct attacks than Inzaghi's former side Lazio (89). By comparison, Inter were third on that list with 80.

While the structure will remain largely the same, losing Lukaku and influential wing-back Achraf Hakimi – albeit with Edin Dzeko and Denzel Dumfries arriving – means Inzaghi will need to get more out of others if Inter are to retain their crown.

 

Lazio

In: Maurizio Sarri

Out: Simone Inzaghi

The man tasked with replacing Inzaghi at Lazio is Sarri, who endured mixed fortunes during his most recent two stints in Serie A with Napoli and Juventus.

Having come so close to ending Juve's stranglehold on the title in 2017-18 while at Napoli, the 62-year-old won the Europa League in his solitary season at Chelsea and was then given just 14 months at the Allianz Stadium.

His stint in Turin came to an early end despite leading Juve to top spot, his style of play – coined 'Sarriball' – deemed too distant from what Juventus typically expect from a head coach (more on that later!).

At the Stadio Olimpico, Sarri will have more freedom to put his spin on things as he looks to build or improve upon last season's sixth-placed finish. A back four, rather than the three-man defence Inzaghi favoured, can be expected.

Sarri teams are known for their verticality, meaning they like to move the ball forwards. Lazio, as already touched upon, are a good fit in that regard.

They ranked lowest in the top eight last season for build-up attacks (83), which is defined as the number of open play sequences that contain 10 or more passes and either ends in a shot or has at least one touch in the opposition box.

The big question, though, is whether Sarri has the personnel to turn Lazio into top-four regulars in the same way he did at Napoli. With Immobile taking on the Gonzalo Higuain role up top, it might just be a possibility.

Juventus

In: Massimiliano Allegri

Out: Andrea Pirlo

While a lot of clubs mentioned are entering the unknown with their managerial appointments, Juve know exactly what they are getting in Allegri.

The 54-year-old guided Juve to five straight Serie A titles and two Champions League finals between 2014 and 2019, having also previously lifted the Scudetto at Milan.

Only one coach in the Bianconeri's history, Giovanni Trapattoni, has overseen more league games than Allegri's 190, while Juve's two highest-scoring seasons dating back as far as 1930 have both come under the stewardship of the returning favourite.

This Juve side has changed since Allegri's first stint, though, and it may take him time to make this team his own again following the aforementioned reigns of Sarri and Pirlo.

Whereas Sarri and Pirlo were a little complex with their tactics and what they expected from players, Allegri will take a different approach. That is not to say Juve will not be able to chop and change things under Allegri, as they did in his previous spell.

One aspect that will surely differ from last season is the number of goals Juve score. They found the net an underwhelming 56 times from open play last season from an expected goals return (xG) of 54.3.

By comparison, champions Inter scored 65 open play goals from a near identical xG as Juve of 54.6. With the prolific Cristiano Ronaldo set to stay at the club for at least one more season, there is hope of reclaiming the title this time around.

 

Roma

In: Jose Mourinho

Out: Paulo Fonseca

The highest-profile of the incoming coaches in Serie A this season, Mourinho arrives with his 'Special One' status still intact in Italy thanks to his success at Inter a little over a decade ago.

Mourinho won as many league titles in two seasons at San Siro (two) as he has in the 11 years since (one), while also lifting the second of his Champions League crowns, the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana during that trophy-laden stay.

The Portuguese won 62 per cent of his matches at Inter but that win rate has steadily declined and he won just 51.2 per cent of his games with Tottenham, leaving the club in April after just 17 months in charge.

Mourinho's sides were so often hard to beat, but Spurs lost 13 times in 2020-21 under him, making it his worst ever season in that regard and he did not even see it all the way through.

But could his career take a turn in the right direction in Rome? Mourinho's tactics have remained largely consistent throughout his career, no matter the club or country he is coaching in.

The back three largely favoured by Paulo Fonseca will become a back four and there will be particular emphasis on Bryan Cristante, a typical Mourinho player in many ways, to shield the defence and get the ball forward.

The addition of Tammy Abraham from Chelsea is clearly a Mourinho signing, helping the fill the void left by Edin Dzeko, but Mou's pragmatic approach is surely a concern for a Roma side that looked better offensively than defensively last season. 

Finding the correct balance will be key, and that ultimately depends on whether Roma have hired the pre-2015 Mourinho or post.

Napoli

In: Luciano Spalletti

Out: Gennaro Gattuso

With spells at seven different Italian clubs under his belt, including two years at Inter, Spalletti certainly does not lack of experience. After two years out of the game, however, the 62-year-old has to quickly prove he is not yesterday's man.

Spalletti made clear when he took over from Gennaro Gattuso that he will look to operate with a 4-3-3, though on the basis of pre-season it may well be a more familiar 4-2-3-1 come the opening day.

He inherits a talented squad that includes the likes of Piotr Zielinski, Victor Osimhen, Dries Mertens, Hirving Lozano and Lorenzo Insigne – for now – in attack.

Napoli had no problems scoring goals last time out, with no team managing more shots from open play than their 493 and only Atalanta (77) and Inter (65) scoring more from non-set-piece situations than their 64.

Pressing is a big part of Spalletti's game and that makes Napoli a good fit as they ranked joint-second in Serie A last season for goals scored from high turnovers (nine), behind only Atalanta (10).

There are already a few rumblings of discontent behind the scenes with regards to transfer activity, but a kind fixture list ensures that Spalletti can hit the ground running in his quest to guide Napoli back into the Champions League.

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