After 37 minutes at the Allianz Stadium, Brescia could at least be grateful Maurizio Sarri had spared them the torment of trying to contain Cristiano Ronaldo.

Serie A's second-bottom side had just been reduced to 10 men, forward Florian Aye bounding untidily into Aaron Ramsey with the enthusiasm and poise of a Labrador puppy to earn a second booking in the space of three and a half minutes.

The visitors were already operating with their third-choice goalkeeper between the posts, an early head injury having accounted for Jesse Joronen's understudy Enrico Alfonso and thrusting Lorenzo Andrenacci into an unexpected top-flight debut.

It meant opportunity knocked for Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala, the Argentina duo who were leading the Juve attack as Ronaldo, who has scored in every appearance in 2020, enjoyed a well-earned rest.

Higuain and Dybala have had to tailor their games this term under Sarri, operating within a significantly different tactical setup and very much at Ronaldo's service.

Nevertheless, the gulf in Serie A goal returns from the trio heading into the weekend was stark: Ronaldo boasting a haul of 20 in 2019-20 set against five apiece for his two attacking colleagues.

As Juve resume their pursuit of that elusive Champions League crown and contend with Inter's unflinching challenge domestically, it would be preferable to see the burden shared more equitably – irrespective of Ronaldo's superpowers showing little sign of fading.

Higuain offered a demonstration of his underrated selflessness just after the half hour, stealing in front of Ales Mateju and cutting an inviting ball back across goal. It laid on the sort of chance Ronaldo has gleefully gobbled up time and again over recent weeks, but Dybala failed to adjust to the bounce and skewed woefully wide from eight yards.

Aye's indiscretion allowed him to make amends in style, lifting a delicate free-kick beyond Andrenacci.

Higuain and Dybala each went close with fine angled strikes before the break but, not for the first time over recent weeks, a presumed formality for Sarri's men became a bit of a slog.

Brescia's defending was often of the last-ditch variety – Stefano Sabelli showing great poise to clear off the line and deny Higuain before Birkir Bjarnason bravely denied Dybala at the end of a slaloming run – although their Iceland midfielder fired a presentable half-chance over from 20 yards in the 72nd minute.

It required the more unheralded member of Sarri's Ronaldo-less trident, Juan Cuadrado, to make the points safe. Cuadrado found a cute finish after a clever one-two with substitute Blaise Matuidi.

Like Dybala's, this was another goal wonderfully easy on the eye. The concern for Juventus and their coach is they are increasingly reliant on such moments of magic or Ronaldo's enduring brilliance. Sarrismo is yet to fully take hold in Turin, with the collective frequently underwhelming.

Higuain had a header ruled out for offside and Dybala crashed against the crossbar late on, meaning Inter's goal difference remains five better than Juve's ahead of Sunday's blockbuster clash with third-placed Lazio in Rome.

For the fine-margins battle ahead, it is hard to escape the feeling Juventus need more than the sporadic flashes of brilliance that are just about sustaining them at present.

Maurizio Sarri described Gonzalo Higuain's opener that set Juventus on course for a 4-0 win over Udinese as a goal of "rare beauty".

Juventus marched through to the Coppa Italia quarter-finals with their emphatic victory, which was achieved without the unwell Cristiano Ronaldo.

While Ronaldo contended with a bout of sinusitis, his Juventus team-mates ensured there would be no slip-ups at the Allianz Stadium.

And it was a glorious effort that set them on their way, Higuain ending a quickfire five-pass interaction with fellow Argentinian Paulo Dybala by burying the ball past Brazilian keeper Nicolas.

"The knockout fixtures are always an unknown factor, but the feeling in training was that the team was brilliant, so I expected a great performance, and, in fact, we had a good match," Sarri said.

"The first goal is of rare beauty, with trade [of passes] at full speed."

Sarri added, quoted on the Juventus website: "Our team has great potential, sometimes it gives the feeling of being able to do more, but we are growing.

"Ronaldo was not present because for a couple of days he had a bit of sinusitis and today he felt some shivers, so we prefer to keep him rested given the cold evening.

"Is it Sarri's Juve? No, it's Cristiano's, Dybala's, Higuain's Juve... I'm trying to put something of my own in it, but you have to respect the characteristics of the players."

Dybala added two goals, including a penalty, while Douglas Costa also slotted away a spot-kick as Juventus dominated and might have won by a greater margin.

"It was an important game," Higuain said. "We wanted to pass the round because we want to win the Coppa Italia."

Juventus made light of the absence of a sick Cristiano Ronaldo as their Argentinian connection dazzled in a 4-0 Coppa Italia win over Udinese.

The onset of sinusitis on Wednesday afternoon meant Ronaldo sat out this last-16 tie, but Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala put the game beyond Udinese before the hour mark.

And an outstading five-pass exchange between the Juve strike pair set the tone for the one-sided cup tie, with Higuain netting the 16th-minute opener.

Dybala slotted a penalty 10 minutes later, then struck a sublime third goal in the early stages of the second half.

The former Palermo man would have been on for a hat-trick had he taken the second penalty awarded to Juventus just after the hour. Instead, Douglas Costa took responsibility, safely finding the right corner.

If it had come as a blow to coach Maurizio Sarri to lose Ronaldo so close to kick-off, the former Chelsea boss would have been delighted by the response of his healthy players.

Lazio last year ended Juventus' run of four consecutive Coppa Italia triumphs, when a surprising 3-0 thumping by Atalanta in the quarter-finals concluded Juve's quest.

This time Juve will tackle Parma or Roma in the last eight.

Higuain gave Juventus the lead in style, trading a succession of passes with Dybala on the edge of the Udinese penalty area before being played through by his fellow Argentinian to fire into the left corner.

Udinese appealed for offside, but Higuain had timed his run perfectly and the striker's finish was emphatic.

Dybala stayed cool from the spot after Federico Bernardeschi was tripped by goalkeeper Nicolas, and it was looking like a long night for Udinese.

A VAR offside ruling denied Higuain, after he tucked home when Matthijs de Ligt's shot was parried out, but there was no doubt Juventus had a third when the ball next hit the back of the net.

Higuain fed his compatriot on the right corner of the penalty area, and although Nicolas got a touch to Dybala's shot, it arced in such a way that he had little hope of keeping it out.

Juventus were awarded their second penalty when Bram Nuytinck blocked Daniele Rugani's shot with his hands, and they were home and dry when Douglas Costa put the ball beyond Nicolas.

Cristiano Ronaldo got his 2020 up and running with a hat-trick as Ragnar Klavan's error helped gift Juventus a 4-0 win over Cagliari, sending the champions back above Inter at the Serie A summit.

Despite a dominant first-half display, Juve - who were defeated by Lazio in the Supercoppa Italiana in their final match of 2019 - were unable to find a way through before Klavan's calamity.

But once presented with a clear chance, Ronaldo made no mistake, keeping his composure to beat Robin Olsen, who was beaten again by the former Real Madrid star from the spot in the 67th minute.

Ronaldo's penalty came after Giovanni Simeone almost snatched an equaliser against the run of play, but a strike from substitute Gonzalo Higuain and a composed third from Ronaldo comfortably ensured Juve made it 30 consecutive home league matches without defeat.

 

Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri would not confirm whether he will continue to use Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain as a front three against Cagliari, but he warned of the threat of the opposition midfield.

Sarri bowed to pressure by using Ronaldo, Dybala and Higuain together in attack ahead of the mid-season break.

Although the star trio initially impressed in wins over Udinese and Sampdoria, they then started the 3-1 Supercoppa Italiana defeat to Lazio.

Sarri insisted at the time that loss was not due to his front line, yet speaking ahead of a return to Serie A action against Cagliari, he would not commit to sticking with the system.

A talented Cagliari side boasting the likes of Radja Nainggolan, Nahitan Nandez and Marko Rog could see Sarri select Aaron Ramsey instead.

"We'll see tomorrow," he told a Sunday news conference of his line-up. "Ramsey also seems to be growing, so we will have to decide.

"We will need to take a lot of care. The Cagliari midfielders can start strong attacks, so we will need great balance on our part, especially in midfield.

"When you concede a lot of goals [before Christmas], you often place the blame on the defenders. But that's not always the case.

"In my opinion, the right protection has not been given to the defence. That's why we have been working on the movements of the midfielders."

Douglas Costa is still regaining fitness, but centre-back Matthijs de Ligt could be handed a recall, having not started since a league defeat to Lazio on December 7.

"He had a complicated period, with shoulder and adductor problems," Sarri added of the Dutchman. "He is very young, he rested because he had small problems, and [Merih] Demiral has grown a lot.

"He seems to be recovering, so we'll see for tomorrow."

Juventus this week completed the signing of Dejan Kulusevski from Atalanta for an initial €35million, although he remains on loan at Parma.

Sarri said: "[Kulusevski] is a great prospect and it is important that the club is attentive to these young players and gets there first.

"There were no conditions [possible] where he could be available now."

Maurizio Sarri conceded Juventus lacked energy in their 3-1 Supercoppa Italiana defeat to Lazio, but the coach insisted the selection of Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain in attack was not to blame.

The Bianconeri were beaten by Lazio for the second time this month, failing to defend their Supercoppa title as Senad Lulic scored one goal and had a hand in another.

The loss in Saudi Arabia came despite Ronaldo, Dybala and Higuain starting together again, as they had in wins over Udinese and Sampdoria.

Yet while acknowledging flaws in Juve's display, Sarri was keen to point out Higuain was substituted and replaced by Aaron Ramsey - a midfielder - with the game still level at 1-1.

"We arrived at this game short of energy, physically and mentally," Sarri told a news conference. "This happens. Meanwhile, Lazio are experiencing a moment of incredible form.

"We are sorry we lost a title, but we still have many competitions to play for in the next five months. There is anger, but crying over it does not solve the problems.

"We did not lose because of the front three, since we conceded the [second and third] goals after I added a midfielder."

After two reverses at the hands of Lazio, Juventus may now find themselves going up against the Rome outfit again in pursuit of the Scudetto.

Lazio are six points behind second-placed Juve in third but with a game in hand.

Sarri said: "I have a positive record against Lazio, and I don't think that the players will be influenced by these two games.

"As I said before the game, I don't think this final can affect the next five months of the league championship."

Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri was stunned by Paulo Dybala and Cristiano Ronaldo's goals against Sampdoria, saying "wow does not describe" either strike.

Dybala scored a tremendous volley and Ronaldo an incredible header in a 2-1 victory that sent Juve back to the top of Serie A on Wednesday.

Sarri lauded both goals as he hailed his forwards, Ronaldo's 45th-minute header proving the match-winner after Gianluca Caprari – later sent off – had cancelled out Dybala's effort.

"When Ronaldo scored I thought the same as the Dybala one – 'f***, wow," he told a news conference.

"'But wow does not describe it all. They both scored two outstanding goals.

"[Dybala] chose a left-footed volley in a situation where 99 players out of 100 would stop the ball and then shoot.

"The [Ronaldo] one, I think the amount of time he spent in the air before the header was incredibly long – a wonderful, physical and technical action."

One forward not on the scoresheet was Gonzalo Higuain, who was replaced by Aaron Ramsey in the 69th minute.

But asked about Higuain being upset following the substitution, Sarri was unfazed.

"I don't care. Players always complain if substituted. Better to stay away, but I don't care," he said.

"Higuain is playing a lot lately and he seemed very tired in the second half and I changed him.

"Angry? There will be a time when someone will start from the bench because of physical issues and the strikers will be different than today. Everything is normal."

Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri reaped the benefits of Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain playing together - then warned it may not happen often.

The front three, who also impressed against Bayer Leverkusen in midweek when Dybala came off the bench, were finally fielded as a starting combination for the first time in Serie A.

The selection paid off, Ronaldo scoring twice in a 3-1 victory over Udinese with one of his goals being set up by Higuain. Temporarily at least, the result moved Juve back to the top of the league standings.

However, Sarri suggested it was only due to Udinese's conservative style of play that he decided to start the three forwards together, with the frontline just one possible option for the former Napoli and Chelsea coach.

"It's the first time that we've managed to really attack the game after a Champions League fixture. We played at a high level for a good 60 minutes," Sarri told Sky Sport Italia.

"At this moment, those three are in good shape and we were facing an Udinese side that doesn't really keep possession, they like to try long balls.

"I therefore thought this was a situation where we could afford to have them. As soon as Udinese started passing it around more, we struggled, so it is a valuable option for us, but one we cannot use all the time.

"Our forwards also worked hard to help the defence and press the opposition for the first 60 minutes. In attack, they did what I asked, which was quick exchanges and passing.

"If we are in a game where the opposition will have 50-50 possession, then it becomes more complicated. They were very organised and focused today.

"Against Leverkusen, I saw they were getting tired and struggling to keep up the intensity, so I introduced the trident for that reason. Udinese play in a different way, they are not so focused on passing."

Ronaldo, meanwhile, believes Juventus have found a good way of incorporating all three forwards into the line-up.

"The most important thing was to win, although we could've had more goals," Ronaldo told Sky Sport Italia.

"I think this is a good way of playing and it's important we must play with confidence. It's not about individual performances, but how we work as a collective."

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as Juventus returned to winning ways in Serie A, easing to a 3-1 triumph over struggling Udinese on Sunday.

Maurizio Sarri finally fielded Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain together from the start – and the trio were influential in helping the reigning champions record a first victory in three league outings.

The result was a formality by half-time at Allianz Stadium, Ronaldo getting a brace as Udinese struggled to cope with a pumped-up home team eager to bounce back from a 3-1 loss away to Lazio the previous weekend.

The Portugal international opened the scoring in the ninth minute, firing home a loose ball with an instinctive first-time effort, while it was Higuain's well-weighted throughball that set up for a second, finished with his left foot.

Leonardo Bonucci added a third before the interval, flicking in a header at a corner from centre-back partner Merih Demiral via a deflection off the underside of the crossbar, allowing Juve to ease up in the second half.

As the tempo dropped, the hosts relied on the evergreen Gianluigi Buffon - making his 478th Serie A appearance in place of the injured Wojciech Szczesny, drawing him level with Alessandro Del Piero's club record in the competition – to keep Udinese at bay.

The veteran goalkeeper - guilty of a costly error in the 2-2 draw against Sassuolo earlier in December - twice denied the lively Kevin Lasagna, while he also turned away a fierce drive from Seko Fofana.

However, there was little Buffon could do to stop Ignacio Pussetto getting a consolation goal in stoppage time, preventing the former Italy international recording a clean sheet.

Ronaldo had been denied a hat-trick by the post in the closing minutes but Juve coasted to a result that sends them above Inter, although the Nerazzurri can reclaim top spot when they travel to Fiorentina in Sunday's late kick-off.

What does it mean? Sarri sees forwards combine

Having worked so well in the second half of the 2-0 Champions League victory over Bayer Leverkusen in midweek, Dybala, Higuain and Ronaldo had the chance to show they can function from the outset. They did just that, combining impressively on a number of occasions. 

So, was Sarri's starting XI a one-off, or a sign of things to come? This was, admittedly, the ideal game to experiment in; Juventus have won more matches against Udinese than any other Serie A opponent. It will be fascinating to see if they are all selected again for trickier tests in the future.

Ronaldo still going strong

The forward - who turns 35 in February - may not quite have the blistering pace that was once such a trademark, but he remains a ruthless finisher. His goals demonstrated just how dangerous he is when presented with a sight of the target.

Lasagna goes cold on big stage

The Italy international was starved of service in an opening half that was one-way traffic towards the Udinese goal. In the second, however, he failed to capitalise on the opportunities that came his way, including twice allowing recovering defenders to make crucial blocks when seemingly in the clear.

What's next?

Juventus go up against Claudio Ranieri's Sampdoria on Wednesday in their final league outing before the mid-season break in Italy. Udinese, meanwhile, round out 2019 with a home game against Cagliari next Saturday.

Maurizio Sarri reiterated Juventus cannot play with three forwards as he expressed confidence in his side's ability to bounce back from a disappointing draw with Sassuolo.

Sarri has faced consistent questions this season over the possibility of using Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain in a front three.

Dybala was left on the bench last Sunday as Ronaldo and Higuain started up front in a gripping 2-2 game that saw Juventus surrender top spot in Serie A to Inter.

Third-placed Lazio, who are seven points off the top, are the opposition on Saturday as Juve make the trip to the Stadio Olimpico.

There is unlikely to be a Juve attacking triumvirate on show in the capital, however, with coach Sarri insisting it is not possible to play all three together at present.

"Right now, playing three forwards is difficult due to the characteristics of the players," he told a media conference.

"You can't prohibit Dybala from dropping deep, and at the same time Cristiano's characteristics are not to play too central. We must take some precautions to fill the penalty area more.

"It's normal that after Champions League games there's a drop in energy, mentality and confidence, but from what I've seen in training I'm confident. As always, we have to respond on the pitch, getting three points is always important regardless of the game.

"It will be an important matchday for the teams high up in the table, I hope that our motivations are high.

"Lazio are a strong team with great quality. They are the best in Italy and among the best in Europe for getting into the last 25 metres. We need to keep them away from our area because they are very dangerous.

"Based on the average amount of points that they are picking up, Lazio have to be in the conversation for the fight for top.

"I expect a strong approach from Lazio, who will be very determined. We will have to resist it, come out and dictate the game how we want to."

Gonzalo Higuain scored twice in the second half as Serie A leaders Juventus produced a late fightback to secure a 3-1 win at Atalanta.

Without Cristiano Ronaldo - who was not risked for Saturday's encounter - Maurizio Sarri's side were second best for long periods in Bergamo before Higuain's brace in the space of eight minutes.

Robin Gosens had deservedly put Atalanta ahead before the hour, though Gian Piero Gasperini will rue his team missing a series of chances - including Musa Barrow's penalty - in the first half.

Their profligacy allowed Juve - who also survived a VAR check for a second potential penalty against them – to claim the points, Paulo Dybala adding a late third for the visitors in stoppage time.

Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain is back in training ahead of Saturday's Derby della Mole showdown with Torino.

Higuain was not part of Juve's squad for Wednesday's dramatic 2-1 victory over Genoa after coming off worse in an aerial collision with Lecce goalkeeper Gabriel last weekend.

The 31-year-old received medical treatment on the field and required stitches to his head after completing the remaining minutes of the match.

However, Juve confirmed on their official website that Higuain trained with his team-mates on Thursday, meaning a possible return to action for the trip to city rivals Torino on Saturday.

Miralem Pjanic, also absent for the win against Genoa, worked separately from the group as he continues his recovery from a minor muscle injury sustained last week.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a 96th-minute penalty to help Juventus overcome Genoa, lifting them a point above Inter at the top of Serie A.

Maurizio Sarri admitted Juventus missed the quality of Miralem Pjanic in their dramatic victory over Genoa.

Juve were without the injured midfielder and striker Gonzalo Higuain for Wednesday's Serie A clash at Allianz Stadium, which they edged 2-1 through a 96th-minute penalty from Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Italian champions were held 1-1 by Lecce last weekend and were heading for another draw after Christian Kouame cancelled out Leonardo Bonucci's opener.

But sluggish Juventus found a last-gasp winner after Ronaldo won and scored a penalty in a game that ended with both sides reduced to 10 men.

Victory lifted Juve a point above Inter at the top of the table and Sarri was pleased that his side found a solution in the absence of some key men.

"We are speaking about players who are unavailable," he said at his post-match news conference. "We need to focus on those who can play. 

"We played with [Paulo] Dybala and Ronaldo and [Federico] Bernardeschi behind them. Then with Douglas Costa and two very offensive midfielders. 

"We missed Pjanic's quality, of course, and his rhythm, because he moves the ball fast and our play gets faster. 

"Gonzalo is a player that in the last 40 minutes of the game is always in the box more than the strikers we had today. But we had solutions."

Pjanic picked up a knock against Lecce but avoided any serious damage, meaning he could be back in contention for Saturday's Derby della Mole against Torino.

Douglas Costa and Aaron Ramsey also returned from lay-offs as second-half substitutes in midweek, but Sarri is being cautious over their fitness.

"Ramsey is not completely fit and Douglas only trained twice," the Italian said. "Both are not ready for the 90 minutes. 

"I was worried about Ramsey today, but he reacted well until the end. Anyway, I don't think we need to think about who is missing."

Cristiano Ronaldo has returned to Juventus' squad for their Serie A clash with Genoa, but Gonzalo Higuain and Miralem Pjanic miss out through injury.

Portugal superstar Ronaldo was rested for Juve's trip to Lecce on Saturday, a decision that backfired as the Italian champions were held to a 1-1 draw.

Head coach Maurizio Sarri defended his decision to overlook Ronaldo for selection but has recalled the 34-year-old for Wednesday's home match against Genoa.

However, there is no place in the 22-man squad for Higuain, who came off worse in an aerial collision with Lecce goalkeeper Gabriel late in the match.

Pjanic has featured in every competitive game for Juve this campaign, meanwhile, but will miss out against Genoa after pulling up last time out, though the club have confirmed he did not suffer any muscular damage.

Aaron Ramsey is back after missing Juve's last three squads with a muscle injury, while Douglas Costa is also in contention following a seven-week absence.

Sarri's side trail Serie A leaders Inter by two points ahead of Wednesday's game in hand at Allianz Stadium.

Juventus have confirmed Miralem Pjanic did not suffer a muscle injury in Saturday's 1-1 draw with Lecce.

Playmaker Pjanic – who has featured in every competitive game for Juve this season – pulled up sharply and left the field gingerly 67 minutes into the clash at Stadio Via del Mare.

Examinations on Monday did not show any muscular damage for the Bosnia-Herzegovina international, with the club confirming the 29-year-old took part in a personalised session in the gym.

Gonzalo Higuain also undertook a gym session after requiring a stretcher at full-time of Saturday's game.

Higuain came off worse in an aerial collision with goalkeeper Gabriel but played on, with Sarri confirming the striker was conscious and lucid despite having to be carried from the pitch after the final whistle.

Douglas Costa – who has not played since the 0-0 draw with Fiorentina on September 14 – took part in full training, while Aaron Ramsey participated in in a section of the session after missing out on the past three matchday squads.

Juventus are back in Serie A action on Wednesday when Genoa travel to the Allianz Stadium.

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