Juventus head coach Maurizio Sarri lamented his team's "total blackout" after the Serie A leaders capitulated in their shock 4-2 defeat to rivals Milan.

Juve appeared on track for a routine win at San Siro, where two goals in the space of six minutes from Adrien Rabiot and Cristiano Ronaldo gave the defending champions a 2-0 lead through 53 minutes.

However, Milan turned Tuesday's match on its head, scoring three goals in five minutes to take a 3-2 lead before Ante Rebic sealed the incredible comeback with 10 minutes remaining.

"I think our first 60 minutes were world class. We were in total control and had this blackout," Sarri told DAZN as he discussed Juve's collapse.

"There's not even much use thinking too much about it, because we have another game in three days.

"We had a total blackout for 15 minutes. It has happened to other teams in this period. We have to take the positives from the game, which are that we were in total control for an hour.

"It's usually not even possible to find the reasons for these inexplicable blackouts."

Sarri, who was without suspended pair Paulo Dybala and Matthijs de Ligt, added: "We had some bad performances and quite rightly lost them, but this is not the case now. We played well this evening.

"I've seen many other teams have similar blackouts lately, because it's an unusual situation to be playing and training in these temperatures, with so many games close together.

"Sitting here trying to over-analyse it or put ourselves on trial could be counter-productive and make us lose all the good work we’ve done so far.

"It's completely different to the defeats against Verona and Napoli, so we have to focus on the next match. This is a team that has excellent football in its capabilities and that is what we need to build on."

Despite the loss – which saw Juve concede four goals to Milan for the first time since 1989 – the Scudetto holders remain seven points clear atop the table with seven matches left to play.

Challengers Lazio failed to make any inroads following their surprise 2-1 loss to lowly Lecce earlier on Tuesday.

Asked if Lazio's result had made Juve complacent, Sarri replied: "I don't think it made a difference, otherwise the initial approach would've been poor.

"Instead, we were focused for most of the match. I don't even think we relaxed after going 2-0 up, it was the penalty that sparked the blackout."

Maurizio Sarri is determined to get the best out of Gonzalo Higuain, even if it means showing the Juventus forward some tough love.

Higuain, 32, has scored six goals in 26 Serie A appearances for Juve this term, most recently netting in a 4-0 win over Lecce in June.

The former Real Madrid striker, who has also worked under Sarri at Napoli and Chelsea, came off the bench against Torino and Genoa, having last started a game in March prior to the coronavirus-enforced shutdown.

Ahead of Tuesday's clash with Milan, another of Higuain's former clubs, Sarri has admitted he sometimes has to take an aggressive approach to get the best out of Higuain. 

"I always read that I fight with everyone, when actually the only person I fight with is Higuain," said Sarri.

"I don't know why that is, but it's always been the case. Maybe it's because he needs a rather aggressive counterpoint to bring out the best in him.

"Mentally he's fine but physically I don't know how much he can take because he's been on and off lately.

"He needs pampering one day and beating against a wall the next! When he's feeling down, he needs caring for. 

"When he's on a high, he must be brought down a peg because he can get too carried away."

Milan handed Juve a huge boost in their title bid by beating Lazio last time out, opening up a seven-point gap at the top of Serie A, but Sarri is not expecting any more favours from the Rossoneri. 

"Tomorrow's a difficult game for us," Sarri said. "Milan are in great physical and mental condition and are playing at high levels.

"At a time like this, the mental aspect is very delicate and mistakes are only around the corner. The lads know it's going to be a tough month, so they can't lose focus.

"Our lead at the top shouldn't make us relax. We're at a time when games are all difficult and messing one up is extremely easy."

Maurizio Sarri said the only suitable way to hail Gianluigi Buffon is with applause after the veteran goalkeeper set a new Serie A record on Saturday.

Buffon made his 648th appearance in Italy's top flight as Juve cruised to a 4-1 victory over Torino in the Turin derby, breaking the record previously set by his former Italy team-mate Paolo Maldini.

Juve's victory and Lazio's subsequent defeat to Milan means Sarri's side are now seven points clear at the top of Serie A with eight matches remaining.

But when asked to describe Buffon, who signed a one-year extension with Juve in June, Sarri said the 42-year-old can only be applauded, with his legendary status already assured.

"Everyone can just congratulate with Buffon for what he did during his career," Sarri said in a news conference.

"He's a legend. No words needed, just applause. That's how we welcomed him in the changing room today, no words needed. Look at his numbers, he is a legend."

One player who will be leaving Juve at the end of the season is Miralem Pjanic, the midfielder heading to Barcelona with Artur coming the other way.

Pjanic was taken off shortly after half-time in the derby, but Sarri insisted it was not to do with his performance, but instead related to a booking the playmaker had received towards the end of the first half, with Torino then pulling one back to make it 2-1 in stoppage time.

"Pjanic received the yellow card and he was one I was the most nervous on the pitch because the penalty given to Torino," Sarri added.

"That's why I decided to change him, I didn't want to risk [a sending off]."

Cristiano Ronaldo admitted to feeling a sense of relief after scoring from a free-kick in Juventus' 4-1 win over Torino on Saturday. 

Juve were comfortable winners in the derby and Ronaldo played a major role in their triumph, setting up Juan Cuadrado's goal before then making it 3-1, with Paulo Dybala having initially opened the scoring early on. 

Koffi Djidji's late own goal summed up the visitors' haplessness as he turned Douglas Costa's cross past Salvatore Sirigu, with Juve opening up a seven-point lead over Lazio at the summit. 

Ronaldo's stunning strike was his first direct free-kick goal in 43 attempts at Juve, and he acknowledged that his profligacy from such situations had been weighing on his mind. 

"I really needed that free-kick so I could get a bit of confidence [from free-kicks] back," he told Sky Sport Italia.

"[But] the important thing is to win regardless of who scores, be it Cristiano or Dybala. It is very important to win, but the truth is that we are doing well, Dybala and me, but the team is also doing very well, we are improving our confidence and against Milan we will try to win. "

It had not dawned on Maurizio Sarri how much such a goal mattered to Ronaldo either.

He added: "I didn't think he was suffering from the lack of a free-kick goal, but then he said 'finally' and then I understood he was."

Juve are next in action on Tuesday as they go to Milan in Serie A.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala have been forming an effective partnership in training for Juventus, prompting their improvement on the pitch, Maurizio Sarri has revealed. 

Ronaldo and Dybala have both hit form at a key time in the season as Juventus look to hold off Lazio in pursuit of another Serie A title. 

With Ronaldo now stationed on the left and Dybala playing through the middle, the duo have each scored in all three league matches since the league campaign resumed last month. 

Sarri has been encouraged by the burgeoning collaboration which the Bianconeri have worked hard on in training. 

"Cristiano Ronaldo and Dybala often look for each other," Sarri told a news conference ahead of the derby against Torino. 

"They play at speed and have moved closer together. It's a job they also do in training." 

Juve's front three has been completed by Federico Bernardeschi, though Douglas Costa arrived from the bench at Genoa in midweek to add a third goal.

"Bernardeschi is doing well, mentally and physically," Sarri said. "Douglas Costa deserves to play from the start and he could do it.

"But for us, right now, he is a vital weapon coming on when the game is in progress."

Sarri is happy to rely on the quality within the squad to pick up points, albeit he recognises the unique nature of a derby could make life tough against Torino.

"We have a team capable of playing good football and also individuals who can decide the game at any time," the coach said. "It is right to rely on both characteristics.

"However, the derby is a very particular game which escapes logic. They [Torino] will be highly motivated."

Maurizio Sarri lauded the "phenomenal skills" of Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Douglas Costa after Serie A leaders Juventus defeated Genoa.

Stunning goals from Ronaldo, Dybala and Costa ensured titleholders Juve stayed four points clear of scudetto challengers Lazio thanks to Tuesday's 3-1 victory at struggling Genoa.

Dybala broke the deadlock with a fine individual effort in the 50th minute before Ronaldo made it 2-0 six minutes later via a thunderous long-range strike.

Juve substitute Costa then put the visitors out of sight with an equally impressive effort, while Andrea Pinamonti drilled in a 76th-minute consolation for Genoa.

"In the second half we lead thanks to our single players because we scored on three excellent plays by three single men," Juve head coach Sarri said.

"Paulo's [Dybala] great slalom, the outstanding Ronaldo's shoot, incredible for its precision and strength and the sensible touch from [Douglas Costa].

"This is how we solved the match, thanks to our individualities and phenomenal skills. We created the team's assumptions." 

Sarri and Juve were heavily criticised following the coronavirus break, which saw the Italian champions go back-to-back games without scoring, including in their Coppa Italia final defeat to Napoli.

Ronaldo was also scrutinised but Juve have now won three consecutive matches to be top of the table with nine fixtures remaining.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner equalled his tally from last season across all competitions with his 28th goal in 2019-20, while he has scored 14 goals in 2020 – more than any other Serie A player this year.

Sarri added: "After the lockdown I made an assessment: I said that something changed. Then everybody almost made fun of me because we lost the Coppa Italia on penalties.

"The truth is that once we improved our condition we started paying better this kind of football. This due to our condition that's getting better after the lockdown."

Juve are back in action against city rivals Torino on Saturday.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala have learned to work together following their goalscoring displays, according to Juventus head coach Maurizio Sarri.

Ronaldo and Dybala both scored stunning individual goals as defending champions Juve stayed four points clear atop the Serie A table with a 3-1 win at Genoa.

There have been doubts over whether Ronaldo and Dybala are compatible in Juve's starting XI, but the star duo starred on Tuesday.

Sarri hailed the pair post-match, telling Sky Sport Italia: "Something has changed in terms of movements, but they have learned to look for each other more often.

"They have realised that by benefitting from each other, both reap the rewards. It's something I have noticed in training too."

After a dominant first-half display failed to produce the goods, Dybala broke the deadlock in the 50th minute before Ronaldo made it 2-0 six minutes later with a thunderous long-range effort.

Juve substitute Douglas Costa then put the visitors out of sight with an equally impressive strike, while Andrea Pinamonti drilled in a 76th-minute consolation for Genoa.

Ronaldo equalled his tally from last season across all competitions with his 28th goal in 2019-20.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner has scored 14 goals in 2020, more than any other Serie A player this year.

"In the first half he went for the shot five times, so it means he was doing more than he should," Sarri said. "Cristiano often plays to free himself to finish, but when he decides to move the ball quickly, he is the best of them all.

"Honestly, I was going to replace Dybala, then I chose Ronaldo, who has played many minutes. We discussed it over the last days, he knew that he would go off at 3-0 and he did it with serenity."

"I think the team did well, even in the first half. We had clear chances, without conceding any," Sarri said. "It was a good team effort and we scored three beautiful goals.

"The team have recovered well after the disappointment from the Coppa Italia, but it was only a matter of time before we were physically well."

Miralem Pjanic was in Juve's line-up after confirmation of his transfer to Barcelona at the end of the season, with Arthur moving in the opposite direction.

Pjanic played 74 minutes and Sarri added: "I haven't even talked to Miralem these days. I often did it after the suspension, after the lockdown, because he had these 20 to 25 days in poor shape.

"We asked ourselves the reason and we tried to find the solution. It was a drop in the mental condition more than anything else. I'm sure he will do well in this period. I find him happy and calm. I have no worries."

Cristiano Ronaldo is a natural-born winner who has proven he does not like to be in the comfort zone throughout his glittering career, says former Portugal international Abel Xavier.

Since joining Manchester United as a prodigious teenager, Ronaldo has racked up the biggest collective and individual prizes in world football.

In six years with the Red Devils, Ronaldo won three Premier League trophies, two EFL Cups, an FA Cup and the Champions League in 2008.

That tradition of winning continued during nine prolific seasons with Real Madrid, during which time he became Los Blancos' all-time record goalscorer, won two LaLiga titles, two Copas del Rey and the Champions League on four occasions.

Ronaldo opted to depart Madrid for Juventus ahead of the 2018-19 campaign and lifted the Serie A trophy and Supercoppa Italiana during that debut term.

Another league title with Juve appears on the horizon, with the Bianconeri four points clear of Lazio with 10 games remaining.

Former Liverpool and Roma full-back Xavier says Ronaldo is fuelled by undertaking different challenges and would be successful wherever he plays.

"He's a winner and his mental focus is great," Xavier told Stats Perform News of the five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

"You realise he does not like the comfort zone. He was in Madrid, he won; he was at Man United, he won; he's at Juventus and has also won things.

"Wherever he goes, he is going to win – individually and collectively.

"Of course, there is going to arrive a moment when he is not going to be able to produce the same style of football, but when you're looking to win – concerning the goalscoring positions – he is one of the best.

"Nowadays, the effort [for the team] is to try and put him in the right place to score. His qualities now are more a finisher, being in the right place to finish.

"For me, as a Portuguese, and for all people who love football, we admire him. He's a great player, a great athlete and a great team-mate in football."

Ronaldo is now 35 but Xavier sees no let-up in the hunger for glory and says helping Juve defend their title will be at the forefront of his season aims.

"I think that is his main goal. That is his main objective because he's a winner," Xavier added.

"I know him from my time as a player when he was a young player who started to be integrated into the national team environment.

"I believe he is still intact, he is still a very strong-minded, focused person. And he wants to win titles. He wants to win titles individually, he wants to win them collectively."

Earlier this season, which was disrupted for three months due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ronaldo was reported to have fallen out with Juve boss Maurizio Sarri, rumours exacerbated by the head coach substituting his superstar in two straight games when Juve were not in front.

Xavier believes regardless of the personal relationship between the two they will always be brought together by the desire for success.

"They've been having a few problems recently. A moment arrives for a coach when it becomes hard because you need to manage egos, you need to be able to keep forming the players and putting in the correct identity for your style of play," Xavier said.

"The players need to accept that to be together.

"But, I don't know if the administration will make a decision on that, concerning the coach. But the leadership of the players is very important and they still have the chances and opportunities to win two important titles – Serie A and the Champions League.

"Whatever is happening with the coaching position, they have these two main objectives to be focused on."

Miralem Pjanic has been included in Juventus' squad to face Genoa on Tuesday, a day after his impending move to Barcelona was confirmed.

It was announced Barca had agreed an initial fee of €60million to take Pjanic to Camp Nou at the end of the season, with Arthur heading in the opposite direction in a deal that could eventually cost Juve €82m.

Pjanic is among the party named by Juve for the clash at the Luigi Ferraris, where the Bianconeri will continue their bid for a ninth Serie A title.

Speaking at a news conference on Monday, prior to the confirmation of the deal, Juve coach Maurizio Sarri said he had no doubts Pjanic would give his all to the cause before heading to Barca.

"If the transfer becomes official, [Pjanic] will be happy because he will end his career in a great team," Sarri said.

"The boy can be happy with this solution, I am peaceful because he is serious and intelligent. The possibility that he doesn't give us 101 per cent, I don't see it."

Juve are four points clear of second-place Lazio at the top of Serie A with 10 games remaining.

Maurizio Sarri believes Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala can start against Genoa, but the Juventus coach is keen to avoid a "problem" going forward.

Juventus' busy run of fixtures continues against Genoa on Tuesday, before they host Torino four days later.

Ronaldo has played every minute of their four games since the coronavirus-enforced break, while Dybala has started each match.

Sarri said the pair were likely ready to start again, but he knows the star duo will need a rest at some stage.

"It's likely that they can start again [against Genoa]," he told a news conference.

"It's clear that if they play every game, in two or three matches we may have a problem, but I don't think there is any risk for them to suffer some sort of fatigue right now.

"In the long run though we need to have [Gonzalo] Higuain fit and able to play a large part of the game, this will become essential at some point."

With 10 games remaining in the Serie A season, Juventus hold a four-point lead atop the table.

Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo will improve the more he plays after the coronavirus-enforced break, according to head coach Maurizio Sarri.

Ronaldo converted a penalty as Serie A leaders Juve routed 10-man Lecce 4-0 in Turin on Friday – the defending champions opening a seven-point advantage over scudetto challengers Lazio.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner took his tally to 23 goals in Serie A this season, though Ronaldo has been in the headlines for his lack of form since the 2019-20 campaign restarted earlier this month following the COVID-19 crisis.

Asked about Ronaldo post-match, Sarri told reporters: "Cristiano now can play with a good fit. He needs to improve after the break and he is doing match after match.

"He needs to play a lot. In the future we will find the way to preserve him across matches or for some matches.

"He is great in listening to himself and he will realise when he will need to stop and rest. But now I think he fits quite well."

Juve overran Lecce following a goalless opening 45 minutes which saw Fabio Lucioni sent off, with Paulo Dybala, Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain and Matthijs de Ligt on target in the second half.

Ronaldo teed up Dybala to score a brilliant 53rd-minute opener before doubling the lead from the penalty spot nine minutes later.

Juve forward Ronaldo was again influential for substitute Higuain's strike in the 83rd minute, with De Ligt rounding off the rout five minutes from the end.

Amid doubts and criticism over Higuain, Sarri said: "For us he is very important. He is powerful, one of the strongest centre forward in the world right now. He can be decisive for us at the end of the season."

Juve – top of the table through 28 matches – travel to relegation-threatened Genoa on Tuesday.

Maurizio Sarri revealed Gonzalo Higuain could feature for the first time since the resumption of the Italian season when Juventus host Lecce on Friday.

The Serie A leaders have the chance to extend their advantage over nearest rivals Lazio - who let slip a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 at Atalanta on Wednesday – with a victory over relegation-threatened opponents in Turin.

Juve marked their return to league action with a 2-0 triumph away at Bologna earlier this week having already played twice in the Coppa Italia, though Higuain played no part in any of the fixtures.

Sarri previously said the striker was missing due to a slight injury issue but has now revealed the coronavirus pandemic has also had an impact on the player, although he is now training again with the rest of the squad.

"Higuain is a very sensible person, he's been touched in a particular way from the events of the world and from his personal experiences," Sarri told the media.

"At the time of his return he thought it was not even right to go back to playing, while in addition he had this little injury.

"Now it seems to me that he is finding that desire he had at the beginning. For us, his return is important."

Juve will be glad to have Higuain back as the games come thick and fast following the restart.

Lazio's slip means the reigning champions are four points clear at the summit, though Sarri is taking nothing for granted with 11 games still to play in the league.

"The games are all difficult as physical conditions are not optimal. We'll need to be ready," the former Napoli boss said.

"We should not be looking at the other games but, instead, at our performances, which in the end will bring us the results.

"The league advantage isn't substantial as there are still 33 points up for grabs. We need to have the right mentality, always."

 

Juventus head coach Maurizio Sarri says he has no concerns about Miralem Pjanic's suitability to his plans despite talk of an imminent swap deal involving Barcelona's Arthur.

There is a growing belief that the two clubs have agreed to a deal that would see Juve pay Barca €10million and send Pjanic to Camp Nou in exchange for Brazil international Arthur.

Rumours of such a deal have persisted for many weeks, with both clubs said to see the arrangement as a useful way of balancing the books amid the financial uncertainty brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, but Arthur was reportedly not interested in a move until a change of heart in the past few days.

Speaking ahead of Juve's Serie A clash with Lecce on Friday, which could stretch their lead over Lazio at the top of the table to seven points, Sarri insisted he has not been told by the club that Pjanic is bound for the exit.

He also made it clear he is not pushing for the midfielder to leave despite suggestions Pjanic is not wholly compatible with Sarri's preferred system.

"If he is sold, it'll be for other reasons. He is not under discussion from a technical point of view," he said on Thursday.

"But the club haven't given me any signals in that sense, so I don't take it into consideration.

"The discussions between him and me are on technical and mental aspects. He mustn't worry if he misses a game, but he has to react quickly.

"I'm happy with Miralem and I'm sure, in that role, he can improve further."

When asked specifically about Arthur, Sarri replied: "Arthur is a Barcelona player and I don't want to talk about him."

Sarri had appeared irked by the fact Barca counterpart Quique Setien spoke about the rumours this week, claiming Arthur was affected by the speculation.

"Given how things are, we need all of our players and we'll try and isolate ourselves from this situation and the media who are reporting on and talking about these rumours," Setien said.

"We need him to be focused. It's true it is a difficult situation but we have to overcome it somehow."

Juventus head coach Maurizio Sarri said criticism of the Serie A champions was "excessive" after his team resumed their league campaign in winning fashion.

Juve marked their return to Serie A action following the coronavirus-enforced break with a 2-0 victory over Bologna at Stadio Renato Dall'Ara on Monday.

The spotlight had been on Juve after their penalty shoot-out defeat to Napoli in the Coppa Italia final last week – pressure building on Sarri and the Italian giants.

But first-half goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala ensured Juve bounced back to move four points clear of second-placed Lazio, who have a game in hand against Atalanta on Wednesday.

"In football and in life there are opinions and there are facts," Sarri told Sky Sport Italia following Juve's first top-flight fixture since March 8.

"If you listened to the opinions, you'd think this team was falling to pieces. If you look at the facts, we're top of the table.

"The criticism was excessive and that can act as motivation for us to get back in shape mentally even more than physically, which might take a little longer."

"Having top level individual players means they can resolve the game for you at times," said Sarri, who had substitute full-back Danilo sent off in stoppage time.

"But we need to put the whole team in a situation where they can give their best, but also that we can continue working when the star names are either absent or off form.

"It's inevitable they will have some days when they're not as sharp, we need other options."

Sarri added: "We were sharper physically tonight, as we kept up the tempo and intensity for 70 minutes, whereas in the Coppa we fell away after 20-30 minutes."

Juve welcome lowly Lecce to Turin on Friday.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Maurizio Sarri have held discussions over the Juventus forward's lack of form since Italian football resumed. 

Former Real Madrid superstar Ronaldo has scored 25 goals across all competitions for reigning Serie A champions Juve this season, but he has looked off the pace of late. 

Sarri has every confidence Ronaldo will be back to his world-beating best before too long, and the Juventus head coach revealed he and the five-time Ballon d'Or winner spent time together in private to reflect on the situation. 

"Yesterday I talked to Cristiano, alone and for a long time," Sarri said on Sunday. 

"He must not lose confidence, I hope that tomorrow the all-time fantastic player will return. You just have to go through a physical moment where you can't necessarily be the best." 

Juventus travel to face Bologna in Serie A on Monday, having already suffered disappointment since the resumption that followed the coronavirus suspension of all football in Italy. 

Losing the Coppa Italia final to Napoli on Wednesday, albeit on penalties, came as a major blow to a Juventus side who have become accustomed to success. 

Sarri was asked whether using Ronaldo as a centre forward might help Juventus, but he says it is the Portuguese's preference to play in a different role. 

"We talked about it before the Coppa Italia matches. He has scored 700 goals starting slightly off the centre and clearly his preference is that," Sarri said. 

"In the final it was decided with the lads that we'd play [Paulo] Dybala more centrally." 

Before that goalless Coppa Italia final, Juventus drew 0-0 at home against Milan to reach the showpiece on away goals, with the first match having taken place in February. 

It means they have yet to score in two games since returning to action after a three-month absence from the pitch. 

By their high standards, that represents a goal drought. 

"We will have to improve the quality of the game," Sarri said. "The scoring problem will improve as a natural consequence." 

Juventus appear unlikely to have Gonzalo Higuain available for the Bologna game, with Sarri saying the forward has a minor problem relating to an old issue that "must be healed completely" before he plays again. 

"I don't know if the doctor will make him available, but I don't think so," Sarri said. 

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