Juventus relieved some of the pressure on Andrea Pirlo with a solid showing against Napoli, going into a two-goal lead and handling the visitors’ pressure right until the end in a 2-1 win.
Speaking after the game, the coach credited his side’s workrate.
“When you have this spirit, when you sacrifice yourself to cover for your teammate who is out of position, this is the result and it’s perhaps what we were missing in other games.”
Federico Chiesa was excellent again, setting off on a mazy run to create the opener for Cristiano Ronaldo to slot home.
“We had practiced this approach with two wide wingers, creating space for Chiesa and Cuadrado. I am just sorry we didn’t make more of the counter-attacks, because we should’ve scored more goals.
“I tried to drill this style of football into the team from the start of the season, but we played every three days until recently, the players kept changing and we didn’t really have time to work on it.”
There was a visible difference in the players’ attitude today, with Pirlo attributing it to the level of competition they were up against.
“We were often not quite fired up enough against the teams lower down the table and unconsciously were distracted, trying to resolve those games with individual moves rather than as a team.
“We learned that we cannot afford to do that, we need to give our all in every match, as every Serie A fixture is tough against well-organised teams.
“We threw points away against Benevento and in other games. But when you work as we did for the entire game, you reap the rewards of your hard work. Even Cristiano Ronaldo helped the team [defensively], he tracked back and had the right attitude.”
There was talk that Pirlo would likely have been sacked had he lost this game against his friend and teammate Gennaro Gattuso which would have seen Juve fall out of the top four.
“I knew this was the job of a coach before I took over, so I was not unprepared. Having positive COVID cases just before the game and doubts right to the end wasn’t helpful, but we’ve been in this situation all season.”
Just four minutes after coming on as a late substitute Paulo Dybala showed what he still has in the tank, but will he be offered a new deal?
“Missing a player like Dybala for such a long period of time is obviously going to be a problem for any team. The others did well, but the more options to call upon, the better.
“He has a year left on his contract, we’ll see.”
Despite his comment earlier that Wojciech Szczesny would start it was Gigi Buffon who was between the posts today.
“It was something I had already prepared. There has been criticism towards Szczesny after the last game and I told you he would play anyway.
“However, I had already talked to him, he was tired after having played many games, with his national team too. He needed a break to start again. He remains the Juventus starter.”
What are Pirlo’s biggest regrets this season and what would he like a do-over for?
“I made many mistakes, but I’d make them all again. This is my first season, I needed those experiences for the present and the future.
“This was a more complicated campaign not just for me, but for many other coaches too. Everyone makes mistakes, including me, but I can learn from those and not repeat them in future.
“Our objective now is a top four finish, because it’s difficult to get to the top. There are 10 games to go, it’s a mini-season we hope to win, and then prepare for the Coppa Italia.”
Does he rue missing out on the tenth straight Scudetto more than yet another early Champions League exit?
“Both really, as when you are at Juventus, you don’t choose objectives, you have to get them all. We had the opportunity to go forward in the Champions League, as Porto were
on our levelwithin our capabilities, but we didn’t play the right way.
“In the weeks after that, we also lost to Benevento and that took us out of the Scudetto race. Watching last night’s Champions League game really angered us, because we know that we could’ve been one of them.”