Allegri explains Juventus improvement and rules Bonucci out of the derby

By Sports Desk February 17, 2022

Massimiliano Allegri believes Juventus' improvement in recent weeks is simply down to greater familiarity and understanding between himself and the players.

Allegri returned to Juve last May after two years away, with Maurizio Sarri and Andrea Pirlo each spending a season at the helm during the intervening campaigns.

The experiment with Pirlo proved particularly ill-judged, while Sarri was shown the door despite guiding Juve to the title – his successor presided over a fourth-placed finish as the Bianconeri's Scudetto streak ended at nine.

Allegri's return did not usher in an immediate change in fortunes, with Juve taking just two points from their first four Serie A matches. That was their worst start to a season in 60 years and left them in the bottom three.

But their form did soon pick up, and in the past three months they have embarked on a promising run. The Bianconeri head into Friday's Derby della Mole against Torino unbeaten in 11 league games – their best such sequence since a stretch of 12 without defeat from September to December 2020 – and sitting fourth.

That run was almost ended by Atalanta last weekend, but Danilo's stoppage-time goal salvaged a 1-1 draw. Allegri is adamant he knows why Juve have climbed the table.

"Personal goals have been set aside to make yourself available to the team," Allegri told reporters of his players.

"We have been together for six or seven months now, we know each other better. Now they know my language better, too. We are more of a team, there is enthusiasm and desire to win."

On the Atalanta draw, Allegri added: "The team was doing well, then we conceded a goal when in a favourable situation.

"We look at the glass half full: it was a good point, we were left in front of them. We must continue our journey to try to finish in the top four.

"We must not be happy regardless. The draw with Atalanta [only] becomes excellent if we win the derby.

"A point is also important. You can win or lose the Scudetto by a point, enter the Champions League or not by a point, you save yourself or not by a point."

Nevertheless, Juve certainly have issues to contend with ahead of Friday's clash, particularly in the injury department.

Leonardo Bonucci will be absent, meaning only Matthijs de Ligt is set to be available from their first-choice defensive trio – Giorgio Chiellini is not expected to return from a "low-grade lesion" in his calf until next month.

"Tomorrow is complicated, I don't know if I'll line up with the three up front," he continued. "There will also be no Bonucci, he has calf fatigue. Let's see if he will be available on Tuesday [against Villarreal in the Champions League].

"Who plays centre-back? It depends. Denis Zakaria could."

Victory at the Allianz Stadium on Friday would move Juve to within four points of third-placed Napoli and six of pacesetters Milan, though the top three will all have at least one game in hand.

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    Top seed and world number one Swiatek had not lost since February, when she was beaten by Jelena Ostapenko in Dubai, reeling off six successive tournament wins, including her second French Open title. It was the longest winning streak in women's singles in the 21st century, and now it is over.

    The 21-year-old Polish player had not looked comfortable on grass in her opening two rounds at Wimbledon, and she was outsmarted on Saturday by the experienced Cornet, losing 6-4 6-2 in an hour and 32 minutes.

    At the age of 32, Cornet is playing a record-tying 62nd consecutive grand slam, matching Ai Sugiyama's record. She is also enjoying her best year at the majors, reaching a slam quarter-final for the first time in Australia before getting to the third round at Roland Garros.

    Crucially, Cornet already had a famous Wimbledon scalp behind her coming into this match. Eight years ago, on the equivalent first Saturday of the championships and on the same court, Cornet defeated Serena Williams.

    On this occasion, Cornet swept to a swift double break against the former Wimbledon girls' champion, opening a 3-0 lead. Swiatek got back into the opening set by recovering one break, but she could not draw level.

    Swiatek then had a chance to break in the second game of the second set, and a 2-0 lead was hers when Cornet went long with a forehand. Yet the lead was immediately squandered, a dazzling stop volley from Cornet saving game point before a looping backhand winner brought the set back onto serve.

    From there, Cornet pulled away, Swiatek's belief fading as the match raced away from her. At her 15th Wimbledon, Cornet was able to celebrate another show-stopping moment.

    Data slam: Alize in wonderland

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    Cornet – 16/7
    Swiatek – 21/33

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
    Cornet – 1/2
    Swiatek – 3/1

    BREAK POINTS WON
    Cornet – 5/6
    Swiatek – 2/6

  • Tour de France: Jakobsen enjoys 'amazing day' as Van Aert takes yellow jersey Tour de France: Jakobsen enjoys 'amazing day' as Van Aert takes yellow jersey

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  • Jones: Swain red card worked against England Jones: Swain red card worked against England

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    England initially took advantage of their opponents being down to 14 men thanks to Ellis Genge's try early in the second half, only to then collapse in remarkable style.

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    The second match in the three-Test series takes place in Brisbane next Saturday, before concluding in Sydney the following weekend.

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