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Sarri: Juve drop intensity after Champions League games

Manager’s comments ahead of a return to Serie A action this weekend

Bayer Leverkusen v Juventus - UEFA Champions League Photo by Peter Lous/Soccrates/Getty Images

Juventus are back in Serie A action this weekend, this time taking on Udinese and manager Maurizio Sarri appears to have identified something about his side that he wants fixed as soon as possible.

“The risks of dropping the intensity levels and dropping points after Champions League games is visible in the statistics, you can’t argue when it happens two or three times.

“We’ve got to find out why it keeps happening and fix it. There are differences playing in Serie A to the Champions League, but it’s not true to say the European opponents are more open. Bayer Leverkusen focus mainly on possession, while Lokomotiv Moscow tend to clam up.

“Perhaps subconsciously our minds can drift to other targets after so many Scudetto titles in a row, but that is something we must absolutely fight against. If we are to be competitive in the Champions League, we need to be competitive in Italy too.

“It is a good sign that there are three Italian teams in the Round of 16 draw on Monday, but my mind won’t be on that until after tomorrow’s game.”

There is some relief on the injury front for Sarri with Rodrigo Bentancur and Douglas Costa back with the squad, though it might be too soon for an Aaron Ramsey return to the starting lineup.

“The feeling is that Cristiano Ronaldo is recovering faster now than he was a while back. We’ll evaluate his fitness levels over the next few days, but he seems to be improving radically.”

With key players Miralem Pjanic and Juan Cuadrado suspended, Adrien Rabiot looks set for another appearance despite a poor showing midweek at Leverkusen.

“He struggled to settle in to our football, but that is normal. He also came off an injury and struggled more in the first half in Germany, but he came out towards the end. He is also quite introverted, which doesn’t help him to settle.

Emre Can was immensely disappointed (at being left out of the Champions League squad). Tomorrow either Emre Can or Rabiot will certainly play, and both of them may well be on the pitch for a portion of the game.”

Udinese are being managed in the interim by Luca Gotti, who is very familiar to Sarri having been part of his coaching staff at Chelsea last season.

“Gotti is very talented. I’m told he doesn’t want to take on the responsibility of a coach, which means he is also very intelligent. Udinese can transform any long ball into a scoring opportunity, so we’ve got to be wary of that.”

Chelsea Press Conference and Training Session - Cobham Training Ground Photo by Tim Goode/PA Images via Getty Images

Meanwhile another former staff member has had some interesting things to say about the Bianconeri manager. Gianfranco Zola, an assistant of Sarri’s last season at Chelsea, spoke to the media about his previous boss.

“My season with Sarri was difficult, but exceptional in a professional sense. It’s difficult because Sarri has a strong personality, he works very hard and has a high opinion of his own ideas. It wasn’t easy convincing him to use different methods when he had to deal with English football.

“It was exceptional because of the way he planned out his work, the focus on details in preparing for games and careful study of the opposition. All that represented an enormous learning curve for me.

“I tried to help him and his Italian staff to relate to and deal with the English culture, so that was my role. When he left, he didn’t thank anyone in particular, but that’s just what Sarri’s like. He is a very reserved man.

“Sarri can bring Juve into a new dimension and I believe his experience at Chelsea can be extremely helpful too.”