Juventus beat Lazio 2-1 yesterday, taking a big step towards sealing a ninth consecutive Scudetto with four games left to play in the elongated 2019-20 season. A brace from Cristiano Ronaldo had put the Bianconeri in the driver’s seat before a late penalty from Ciro Immobile made for a somewhat tense finish.
Speaking after the game, manager Maurizio Sarri insisted that his side stay grounded with points still left to be picked up before a title could be celebrated.
“As I’ve always said, talking about an opportunity to win is like a chance to score a goal. It means nothing unless the objective is achieved. We need to get another four points, every point is difficult at the moment playing every three days, so we’ve got to keep focused.
“There are ifs and buts, but at the first if, that’s when I stop listening!”
Cristiano Ronaldo is now at 30 Serie A goals for the season, and also broke the record for the player fastest to get to 50 Serie A goals.
“When Cristiano smells blood… He’s extraordinary, as he recovers so quickly between games. It’s not just physical, but psychological. He could be someone who uses up so much energy in each game, but he recovers it every time and he’s world class in the mind as well as the legs.”
His Juve teammate Gonzalo Higuain holds the record of most goals in a season with 36, and Sarri knows he can break that mark too.
“If he puts his mind to something, he’s very difficult to stop. We’ll see if we should rest him over the next few rounds, but if he’s still in this shape, then he might not need it.”
Paulo Dybala had been overlooked from the starting lineup with Higuain set to start, but the striker picked up an injury in warmups and Dybala came back into the XI.
“Dybala had this back pain in training yesterday and that’s why he wasn’t going to start. Gonzalo then had the same problem today during the warm-up and Paulo was feeling better, so we had to risk him. We’ve got a few issues upfront at the moment.
“Sometimes we change depending on whether it’s better to spread the opposition defence or go straight through, but it mainly depends on who is in the best shape or needs a rest.”
Juve set another mark last night, making it 11 straight league games with at least two goals scored. However, they have also shipped more goals than in any other season of the last eight triumphs.
“We have conceded more goals, but many of them were penalties. We conceded many by getting relaxed when we were clearly in charge. I frankly doubt we’ll have that kind of experience in the Champions League, as there’s no way we could lose concentration there.
“It has been such a strange campaign, we’ll see in Europe some who haven’t played for months, others who have played every three days going in. The lockdown was not a relaxing one for anyone, sitting in our homes listening to the sound of ambulances go past constantly.
“We have to focus on the Round of 16 to reach the Final Eight, which is already a very important achievement. Anyway, before that, we have to finish this Serie A season with the points we need to win, then get ready for another difficult situation.”
Sarri is yet to win a top flight league title, but is closer than he has ever been to finally adding that to his repertoire.
“I didn’t stop my job because I thought of becoming a great European coach. I left the bank because I was bored and had this passion, hoping to make a living out of that passion.
“Sometimes in a career, you can be in the right place at the right time, so you do more than you ever intended. The original intention was just to live my life doing something I loved.”