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Pirlo: Juventus knew tonight was like a final

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Coach’s comments after Juve pull off big comeback win

Juventus v SS Lazio - Serie A Photo by Chris Ricco/Getty Images

Juventus got off to a slow start against Lazio and were duly punished by going a goal down, but then staged a remarkable comeback to keep the pressure on the Milan duo ahead of them in the Scudetto race.

Speaking after the 3-1 victory, coach Andrea Pirlo was proud of his charges and their fightback.

“We started badly and conceded with our poor backpass, but then there was a strong reaction from the whole team, despite missing so many players.

“We didn’t let our heads drop, we started to step up the tempo and that was the most important thing.”

Pirlo had spoken about wanting to give Cristiano Ronaldo a break, and pulled off a surprise by lining up Federico Bernandeschi at left-back and Danilo in the middle of the pitch in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Alvaro Morata starting upfront.

“We thought about Tuesday’s game, we have some players who have barely trained, like Juan Cuadrado and Arthur. We knew tonight was like a final, some had to play in new positions and showed great professionalism and spirit of sacrifice.

“The most important thing was the three points. Danilo was ready to work in central midfield, while Bernardeschi deserves all the compliments for playing as a left-back.

“What I liked the most was the reaction of the team, as we didn’t accept being behind in such a delicate and important game, so it was that spirit I appreciated.”

The Bianconeri once again saved their best for the second of a game, something that is becoming a bit of a trend for Pirlo’s side.

“We started the game 20 minutes late tonight… It can happen, because some players were returning, others were in new positions, and it’s tough to get back into it after going behind to a Lazio side who have been together for years and had all week to prepare.”

Morata once again showed how valuable he can be to the team when he plays, grabbing a brace to put Juve ahead.

“Unfortunately, we haven’t had Morata with us lately due to physical and other issues. He has characteristics that are different to all the other strikers in the squad and we can’t wait to have him at 100 per cent.”

Youngster Dejan Kulusevski has struggled in the 4-4-2 and wasn’t at his best as the wide forward in the 4-2-3-1 either.

“He is reacting as a champion. It’s natural when coming to Juventus aged 20 that there’s more pressure and every pass seems important. He is proving himself to be a champion in his mentality even quicker than he proves it on the field, so I expect great things.”

All the attention now shifts to the Champions League, with Juventus hosting Porto who boast a 2-1 lead from the first leg.

“I feel more tired than the players, so I need a rest too! We need to find the right approach for this game, as the Champions League is such an important target, we cannot get it wrong on Tuesday.”

In a separate interview, Federico Chiesa talked about his role in the side and reiterated what Pirlo had said about the team’s mentality.

“I do what the coach asks of me. Winning the ball back comes above all from the team pressing and not just individuals. The assist was mine, but I was able to get the ball because we all worked so hard to win it back.

“After tonight, I think we’re all in great shape, something sparked within us and from now on, every game is a Final, whether it’s in Serie A, the Champions League or Coppa Italia.”