After consecutive losses to Napoli and Porto, Juventus return to Serie A action hosting bottom side Crotone on Monday night.
Speaking ahead of the match, coach Andrea Pirlo wants to make sure his side do not underestimate Crotone.
“It’s an important game to continue our path in the title race. It’s going to be a tough game because Crotone are not going through a good moment, but they play well.
“They’ve kept their philosophy and they are trying to impose themselves in every game, they are showing interesting things.”
The injury situation shows no signs of abating, with Paulo Dybala still not fit to play. Pirlo’s squad update did not make for happier reading either.
“Dybala is not available yet. He still feels pain at his knee, unfortunately he is not improving. He still has problems, so we have to wait a little bit more. Ramsey is available and it’s good news.
“Bentancur is feeling better, he had a slight physical problem this week, but I think he will be available tomorrow.
“Arthur must be assessed day by day. He feels pain and for now he can’t play, there isn’t a recovery time settled, he can’t play until he feels pain.
“Weston McKennie is also not 100% fit, he has a hip problem, but he is a rock and he grits his teeth because we haven’t got many players available.
“Alvaro Morata is feeling a little bit better, he had a stomach flu, so he wasn’t 100% fit. He is feeling a little bit better now, we hope he will be available tomorrow.”
Rodrigo Bentancur came in for severe criticism after playing a big part in Juve going behind early on in the Champions League game at Porto, with the midfield continuing to prove a weakness for Pirlo, a former midfielder himself.
“Of course he was disappointed for what happened in Porto. We must look ahead, I told him that it happens to make mistakes, but a game doesn’t end because of an error, we had a whole game to play.
“We miss Arthur, he is the only midfielder with different characteristics, but we have many options to replace him: Aaron Ramsey, Bentancur and Nicolo Fagioli. They can adapt to our system, but they don’t have the same characteristics of Arthur. We’ll try to find the best solution tomorrow.”
What is Pirlo doing to rectify this latest slump before it derails the rest of the season?
“I speak with the President after every game. We spoke after the game at Porto and he didn’t intervene this week. We knew we had played a bad game, there was no reason for him to reproach the lads.
“I raised my voice during the half time break in Porto, I didn’t like how we played and I didn’t like the reaction.
“We switched off at the beginning of the second half and we’ve been analysing the mistakes this week. There’s no reason to raise your voice when you know you didn’t do well. The players must transform their disappointment in energy for tomorrow’s game.
“I am not worried, we had won 11 games out of 13. It was normal to have a drop, unfortunately we had it in a decisive moment after many games.
“It’s normal not to be always focused when you play 15 games in 40 days, it’s like we played half season in one month and a half. We knew it would have been an intense season, we are here and we must fight for our targets.”
While Cristiano Ronaldo continues to contribute much-needed goals, his free kick taking continues to be abysmal, something Pirlo himself was very good at. Has the coach attempted to work with him?
“Free-kick goals are important, they can decide games, especially against teams that sit deep.
“Ronaldo is training well and is improving. He is more serene and he is convinced he is soon going to score from a free kick.”
Inter Milan are now four points clear of AC Milan in second place, and Antonio Conte’s side lead Juve by eleven points, though the Bianconeri could narrow that to five if they win their two games in hand. While Pirlo doesn’t think they have the best squad in the league, he does believe that being eliminated from every other competition puts them in good stead for the Scudetto.
“What can be an advantage for them is that they only have the Serie A left, so they can play one game a week.”