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Pirlo: Juve are strong, but Milan & Inter are favourites

Coach’s comments after Juve finish 2020 on a disastrous note at home

Juventus v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A Photo by Giorgio Perottino/Getty Images

It had looked more and more that it would take a global pandemic of unspeakable proportions to finally end Juventus’ reign as Serie A champions. Guess what 2020 brought?

A terrible no good very bad day year came to an end for Juventus with a humbling loss at home to league strugglers Fiorentina, preceded by the news that the governing body CONI had also overturned the 3-0 walkover awarded to Juve over Napoli and that the game would now be rescheduled.

Juve are at the winter break mark of the season and not only did they pick up their first domestic defeat of the campaign, they also find themselves seven points adrift of league leaders AC Milan. The only consolation for Bianconeri worldwide at this point is that they are yet to play the three clubs ahead of them even once, but on current form who knows which Juventus show up?

Juan Cuadrado was sent off early for a dangerous tackle, but coach Andrea Pirlo refused to accept that was the reason for the flat performance from his side.

“That mustn’t be an alibi. We started with the wrong attitude and if you do that, then you end up going into these bad situations.

“It can happen in the last game before Christmas to start thinking about the vacation, but we were sluggish and unfocused, so inevitably we then lost.”

The Napoli decision was announced with the team en route to the stadium, was that preying on their minds?

“We have no problem playing the game. I am more disappointed for those other teams who travelled and played without far more players who had COVID and they showed great fairness by playing anyway.

“I won’t say if the ruling was correct or not, but it didn’t seem fair to the other teams who played in more difficult situations.”

Club vice-president Pavel Nedved walked away from the stands gesticulating angrily after the referee refused to review a challenge on Federico Bernardeschi with VAR.

“The images seem clear, Cuadrado’s red card was very clear. There could’ve been other incidents in our favour, but I don’t feel the need to comment. After all, everyone can see the footage.

“We can’t really talk about tactics or a technical performance when we are down to 10 men after 10 minutes. We did what we could to stay in the game, and would’ve been if we had that penalty in our favour.

“The coach gives his instructions, the team goes onto the field, it can happen to be not 100 per cent. We gave away a goal and a man in the first half, then came out for the second with the right attitude.”

A seven-point margin is not unsurmountable with only a third of the season played, how is he planning to fix the issues with his team?

“Now we go on vacation for a few days to recharge the batteries, then can restart looking at the errors we made, where we can improve and have a project to carry on.

“We feel that we are a strong team, but if Milan and Inter are up there, it means they’ve done better than us so far. Let’s not deny they are the favourites now.”

A number of Juve players had anonymous games, with captain Leonardo Bonucci coming in for particular criticism from all fronts.

“These things happen to everyone. Bonucci had a bad day, but he is our captain and we have great faith in him.”

Youngster Matthijs de Ligt was unable to finish the game, picking up an injury late on.

“It seems to be muscular fatigue, which is normal after so many games in a row, but we’ll see tomorrow what happened.”