Champions League holders Chelsea get their knockout campaign started on Tuesday as the defence of their crown enters an altogether more challenging stage.

Thomas Tuchel's men may feel they have dodged a bullet or two by getting this draw, with their next opponents Lille struggling to match the highs of their Ligue 1 title victory from last season in 2021-22.

Tuesday's other encounter sees Juventus travel to Villarreal, with Massimiliano Allegri looking to improve on the knockout exploits of Maurizio Sarri and Andrea Pirlo before him.

Here, Stats Perform delves into the Opta data to pick out the key statistical narratives and subplots ahead of Tuesday's games.

Chelsea v Lille

Much of the attention at Stamford Bridge will be on Romelu Lukaku, whether the Belgian plays or not.

The big-money signing's struggles this season have been well-publicised, but he hit a new low on Saturday as he touched the ball just seven times in the win over Crystal Palace – that is the fewest by any player to feature for 90 minutes in a single Premier League game since at least 2003-04.

On the other side of the contest is a striker aiming to emulate Lionel Messi. Jonathan David may not have scored a Ligue 1 goal since December but the talented Canadian impressed in the second half of the group stage.

He scored one goal in each of his last three appearances in the competitions, meaning if he scores on Tuesday he will be the second-youngest (22 years, 39 days) non-European to score in four successive Champions League games after Messi (21y, 155d in November 2008).

That is not to say Lille are a high-scoring side. Many will be wondering who let Les Dogues out of Group G, given their haul of seven makes them the lowest-scoring group winners since Leicester City and Atletico Madrid (seven each) in 2016-17. In fact, no team from that section scored more than eight.

The omens are, perhaps unsurprisingly, overwhelmingly in Chelsea's favour here. Only Manchester City (15) and Bayern Munich (14) have won more Champions League games than the holders since the start of last season, while Lille are appearing at this stage for just the second time ever.

Further to that, Tuchel boasts a fine record in Champions League knockout ties, having progressed from/won (including finals) eight of his previous 11 (73 per cent), a success rate bettered by only three managers (minimum 10 knockout ties): Vicente del Bosque (80 per cent - 8/10), Jupp Heynckes (86 per cent - 12/14) and Zinedine Zidane (88 per cent - 14/16).

Villarreal v Juventus

Sarri and then Pirlo were both tasked with establishing a new era at Juventus, but when Allegri returned after a two-year break in pre-season, he picked up the pieces of a side that had regressed significantly.

There remain plenty who feel Allegri never should have been re-hired, but this tie at least gives him an opportunity to point to a degree of progress – at least in the context of the Champions League.

After all, neither Sarri nor Pirlo got beyond the last 16. Allegri, on the other hand, was only eliminated at this stage once in five seasons, and that was to Pep Guardiola's excellent Bayern side.

His counterpart on Tuesday, Unai Emery, has something of a point to prove as well, but his has more to do with his own personal record.

While something of a specialist at Europa League level, having won the competition four times including last season, he has won only one of six knockout games in the Champions League.

Much of Emery's hope will be pinned on Arnaut Danjuma.

The Dutchman – who recently returned from two months out and scored a hat-trick at the weekend – had a hand in five goals in the group stage, which is already a joint-club record for the club in the competition.

By no means are the Yellow Submarine a one-man team, however. Young winger Yeremi Pino caught the eye in the group and is plotting to become only the fourth Spanish teenager to score in the knockout stages of the Champions League after Bojan, Cesc Fabregas and Raul.

Ronald Koeman has been sacked as head coach of Barcelona following a poor start to the club's first season without Lionel Messi in 17 years. 

Financial difficulties saw the six-time Ballon d'Or winner leave for Paris Saint-Germain and, in his absence, Koeman's side have struggled. 

The Dutchman replaced Quique Setien at Camp Nou in August 2020 and led Barca to Copa del Rey success in his first season, although they finished third in LaLiga and suffered a Champions League last-16 exit, as well as losing the Supercopa de Espana final to Athletic Bilbao. 

A shock 1-0 loss at Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday was the final straw and with the club in turmoil, it is imperative that Koeman's successor is chosen with great care. Stats Perform takes a look at the leading contenders who have been linked with the position. 

Xavi

With Koeman dismissed, Barcelona could turn to another club legend in Xavi, hoping the La Masia graduate can succeed where his predecessor failed with an unbalanced squad of ageing regulars and young talent. The former Spain international has presided over Qatari side Al Sadd since his retirement in 2019, leading them to a league title and six domestic cups.

Turning to a young coach who does not have any experience in Europe amid a time of upheaval could be viewed as a huge risk, however. Plus, will Xavi see this as the right time to return? The opportunity to manage Barca is likely to come around again at some stage.

Andrea Pirlo

Another candidate who enjoyed a glittering career as a central midfielder in his playing days, Pirlo replaced Maurizio Sarri at Juventus in August 2020 and won the Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa Italiana, but was sacked at the end of his debut season following a fourth-placed Serie A finish and another disappointing European exit, this time against Porto.

While Pirlo has experience of coaching in a top-five league, his stint in Turin hardly demonstrated the Italian has the credentials at this stage of his career to rescue an ailing Barcelona side.

Roberto Martinez

Martinez has a greater coaching pedigree, although the highest level he has managed at has come on the international stage with Belgium — a job he still holds. The 48-year-old guided the Red Devils to a third-place finish at the 2018 World Cup and took them to number one in the FIFA world rankings, though a major trophy continues to elude them.

At club level, however, he has managed Everton and Wigan Athletic in the Premier League, winning the FA Cup but also suffering relegation with the latter, and also Swansea City below the top tier — rather different jobs to the one that faces the newcomer at Barcelona.

Erik ten Hag

Could Barca turn to another Dutchman to try to turn their on-field fortunes around? Ten Hag has built his reputation at Ajax, having previously worked at Utrecht and Go Ahead Eagles, as well as a stint with Bayern Munich's second string. He has twice won the Eredivisie title, while he appeared set to reach the Champions League final in 2019, only for Tottenham to produce a stunning comeback in Amsterdam.

Barcelona, who know what it is like to be on the wrong end of a second-leg turnaround in Europe, have well-documented financial problems at the moment, potentially raising an issue if they want to try to lure away a coach under contract elsewhere.

Antonio Conte

Conte is out of work, at least meaning Barca would not have to pay any compensation to appoint him. However, that does not mean the Italian comes cheaply, considering he has a hugely impressive resume. The former Juve boss made a quick impact at his previous two jobs, having returned to club duties after a spell in charge of the Azzurri.

He won the Premier League title in his first season at Chelsea, during which they produced an impressive 13-game winning streak, then ended Inter's Scudetto wait last term, leading the Nerazzurri to a first championship since 2010. His San Siro departure amid Inter's financial cutbacks does raise questions over whether he would want to go anywhere near Camp Nou right now, particularly with Manchester United also reportedly interested.

Marcelo Gallardo

A name strongly linked with the post, Gallardo started out his coaching career with Nacional in Uruguay. However, he has been in charge of River Plate — a club he had three stints at during his playing career — since 2014, winning the Copa Libertadores twice among an impressive list of honours at Los Millonarios.

The last Argentinian coach to take the top job at Barca did not last too long: Gerardo Martino had just one season at the helm. Gallardo would have to cut short his River journey to do so, a move he suggested was not likely after revealing he plans to see out a contract that runs until the end of 2021.

Paris Saint-Germain continue to plan for Kylian Mbappe's potential departure. 

The Ligue 1 giants have been linked with several possible replacements. 

Robert Lewandowski is the latest rumoured target.

 

TOP STORY – PSG EYE LEWANDOWSKI AS MBAPPE REPLACEMENT

With seemingly everyone expecting Kylian Mbappe to depart Paris Saint-Germain after the season, the club have been linked with several potential attacking options. 

Robert Lewandowski is the latest, with Le10Sport reporting the Bayern Munich and Poland striker could make a lucrative move to PSG. 

The 33-year-old is under contract with Bayern through 2023, though, and could end up agreeing to a new deal to remain in the Bundesliga. 

 

ROUND-UP

Real Madrid are set to take another run at Manchester United's Edinson Cavani during the January transfer window, says El Nacional. 

Andrea Pirlo and River Plate's Marcelo Gallardo are candidates to replace Ronald Koeman if he is sacked by Barcelona in the coming days, the Express reports. 

PSG are eyeing midfield help, with Inter's Nicolo Barella a possibility, according to Calciomercato, along with N'Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Franck Kessie.

Liverpool are interested in Bayer Leverkusen winger Moussa Diaby, according to Calciomercato. 

Timo Werner could look to leave Chelsea if he does not receive more playing time the rest of the season, says the Telegraph.

Cristiano Ronaldo has shown his appreciation for ex-Juventus boss Andrea Pirlo, describing it as "an honour" to be coached by the former Italy international.

Pirlo's not-so-surprising departure from Juve was confirmed on Friday, just hours before the Serie A club announced the return of Massimiliano Allegri.

The rookie coach's solitary season in the job saw the Bianconeri fail to claim the league title for the first time since 2011, though they did win both the Supercoppa Italiana and Coppa Italia trophies.

They again suffered disappointment in the Champions League, edged out on away goals by Porto at the last-16 stage.

Ronaldo, who scored 29 goals to finish as the leading scorer in Serie A for the 2020-21 campaign, thanked Pirlo via social media.

"Thank you Maestro, it was an honour to be coached by you," he posted on his Instagram stories to accompany a picture of the duo shaking hands.

Pirlo enjoyed a strong finish to the season, a 2-1 final win over Atalanta in the Coppa Italia coming while also securing a top-four finish in Serie A, though an impressive run-in was not enough to keep him in the job.

He departed having won 23 of his 38 league games for a points-per-game average of 2.05, below both the coach he replaced in Maurizio Sarri (2.18) and also Allegri, who managed 2.39 during his first spell in charge.

Still, the only coaches to record more victories than Pirlo in their first season in the competition since 1994-95 are Rudi Garcia (26) and Jose Mourinho (25), with Roma and Inter respectively.

There has been speculation surrounding Ronaldo's future in Turin too, despite another outstanding year on a personal level.

The forward - now preparing for Euro 2020 as part of a Portugal squad looking to retain the trophy - was an unused substitute in the final game under Pirlo, watching on from the bench as his team-mates triumphed 4-1 against Bologna.

Juventus have confirmed Massimiliano Allegri has returned as their new head coach, taking over from Andrea Pirlo.

Rookie coach Pirlo could only manage a fourth-placed finish in Serie A in 2020-21, and a Coppa Italia triumph was not enough for the club legend to keep his job.

It is Allegri – who guided Juve to five straight Serie A titles and two Champions League finals between 2014 and 2019 – who Juve have turned to.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform analyses the key numbers and statistics from Allegri's first, trophy-laden spell in charge of the Old Lady.

RECORD SETTER

Juve's two highest-scoring seasons dating back as far as 1930 have both come under the stewardship of Allegri.

In fact, Allgeri is responsible three of the seven Juventus seasons during which they have netted 100 goals or more – alongside his predecessor Pirlo, Antonio Conte and Jesse Carver.

Allegri guided Juventus to 26 home wins in 2016-17 – the highest total produced by the club in a single campaign dating back to at least 1930 – while his 2017-18 season (which was also the campaign in which Juve netted 112 goals) saw the Bianconeri record 18 away wins, the most in any season since 1930.

 

TOP OF THE CHARTS

Only one coach in Juve's history, Giovanni Trapattoni, has overseen more league games than Allegri's 190.

Juve amassed 142 victories, giving Allegri a win percentage of 74.74, clear of second-placed Conte (72.81), who managed 83 triumphs from 114 matches.

During his five seasons with Juve, Allegri suffered just 20 league defeats, with his team scoring 380 goals and conceding 125 in return, averaging 2.39 points per game.

HEAD-TO-HEAD: ALLEGRI V CONTE

Allegri succeeded Conte at Juve in 2014, with the latter – who has just left Inter having guided the Nerazzurri to their first Serie A title in 11 years – taking over as Italy coach.

Conte spent three seasons with Juve, starting their title streak that Allegri and subsequently Maurizio Sarri would go on to continue.

In total, Allegri was in charge of Juve for 271 games in all competitions, overseeing 191 wins (a 70.48 success rate), 43 draws and 37 defeats.

Conte had 151 matches at the helm, recording 102 victories – 67.55 per cent – and 34 draws. However, his Juve team lost on just 15 occasions, at an average of five per season.

Massimiliano Allegri has returned to Juventus for a second spell as head coach after Andrea Pirlo's departure.

Pirlo on Friday left the Turin giants barely nine months after signing a two-year deal to take over from Maurizio Sarri.

The former playmaker failed to live up to expectations as a coach and Juventus brought an abrupt end to his reign. 

The Bianconeri wasted little time in revealing that Allegri has returned as boss of the Serie A giants, who were dethroned as Italian champions by Inter this month.

Allegri, who was linked with Inter and Real Madrid before agreeing to rejoin his former club, had been out of work since ending his hugely successful tenure with Juventus two years ago.

The 53-year-old masterminded five consecutive Scudetto triumphs in his first spell at the club, and his team lifted the Coppa Italia on four occasions.

Juve were beaten Champions League finalists with Allegri at the helm in 2014-15 and 2016-17.

"Massimiliano Allegri is the Juventus manager once more," the club said in a statement.

"Allegri finds a bench that he knows very well, a club that he loves and that loves him back, as today a new journey begins together, towards new goals.

"What he achieved in his first adventure at Juventus are engraved in the club’s history: five Scudetti, to the four-consecutive doubles, coupled with the Coppa Italia and to the two Super Cups, reaching two Champions League finals in just three seasons, in what were epic feats both in Italy and in Europe."

The statement on the Juventus website added: "Now we are ready to begin again with Allegri, to build our future together; with his enormous professionalism, his moral strength, with the brilliant ideas of a coach capable of shuffling the cards, both on and off the pitch.

"With his smile, a sort of 'signature'. With his way of understanding football and life with simplicity, with his desire to play things down and with the commitment to enjoy every beautiful moment that being at Juventus can give and will give."

Massimiliano Allegri has returned to Juventus for a second spell as head coach after Andrea Pirlo's departure.

Pirlo on Friday left the Turin giants barely nine months after signing a two-year deal to take over from Maurizio Sarri.

The former playmaker failed to live up to expectations as a coach and Juventus brought an abrupt end to his reign. 

The Bianconeri wasted little time in revealing that Allegri has returned as boss of the Serie A giants, who were dethroned as Italian champions by Inter this month.

Allegri, who was linked with Inter and Real Madrid before agreeing to rejoin his former club, had been out of work since ending his hugely successful tenure with Juventus two years ago.

The 53-year-old masterminded five consecutive Scudetto triumphs in his first spell at the club, and his team lifted the Coppa Italia on four occasions.

Juve were beaten Champions League finalists with Allegri at the helm in 2014-15 and 2016-17.

Juventus have announced the departure of head coach Andrea Pirlo as Massimiliano Allegri looks set to return to the club as his successor.

Pirlo signed a two-year deal to take over from Maurizio Sarri as Bianconeri boss last August, but the 42-year-old rookie boss failed to live up to expectations.

The former Italy playmaker failed to guide Juve to what would have been a 10th consecutive Serie A title and has paid the price after just one season in charge.

Juventus edged into the Champions League for 2021-22 by finishing fourth as Inter won the Scudetto.

The Turin giants tumbled out of this season's Champions League in March at the hands of Porto, losing on away goals at the round-of-16 stage.

Juventus announced Pirlo's departure in a manner that spoke of the esteem in which he is held at the club, and in a way that highlighted achievements over shortcomings.

"Thank you, Andrea," the club statement began. "These are the first words that all of us need to say at the end of this special experience together.

"A few months ago, Andrea Pirlo, an icon of world football, began his new adventure, his first as a coach.

"To do this, first of all, it takes courage, as well as awareness of one's own means, especially in a period marked by thousands of difficulties, with the world forced by the pandemic to reinvent its own rules day after day."

The statement, posted on the club's website, added: "Pirlo has just begun the first steps of what will no doubt become a brilliant career as a coach. An adventure of transformation, seeking, and often managing, to bring his ideas and his experience as a champion on the pitch from the 'other side' of the fence.

"And since in football, what counts are the victories, let's remember them: in the space of a few short months Pirlo's Juve has raised two trophies: The Italian Supercup and the Coppa Italia. And he, as coach, brought home brilliant victories on the most prestigious of fields, from San Siro to Camp Nou.

"For all this, for the courage, the dedication, the passion with which he demonstrated every day, our thanks go to the maestro, the coach and to Andrea, that really comes from the heart. As well as our good luck for the future that will surely be a wonderful one."

Allegri has been out of work since leaving the Turin giants two years ago. He had been linked with Real Madrid before news emerged on Thursday of a likely change at Juventus.

Juventus were champions of Italy in five consecutive seasons under the experienced Allegri, who has the highest Serie A win percentage at the club with 74.74 per cent.

They were beaten Champions League finalists with the 53-year-old at the helm in 2014-15 and 2016-17, while Allegri's side also lifted the Coppa Italia on four occasions during his first stint with Juve.

Pirlo was promoted from a briefly-held role as Juventus under-23 coach, and although he won the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana, the former midfield maestro is now on the lookout for a new challenge.

Juventus have announced the departure of head coach Andrea Pirlo as Massimiliano Allegri looks set to return to the club as his successor.

Pirlo signed a two-year deal to take over from Maurizio Sarri as Bianconeri boss last August, but the 42-year-old rookie boss failed to live up to expectations.

The former Italy playmaker failed to guide Juve to what would have been a 10th consecutive Serie A title and has paid the price after just one season in charge.

Juventus edged into the Champions League for 2021-22 by finishing fourth as Inter won the Scudetto.

The Turin giants tumbled out of this season's Champions League in March at the hands of Porto, losing on away goals at the round-of-16 stage.

Juventus will part company with head coach Andrea Pirlo and replace him with Massimiliano Allegri, reports in Italy said on Thursday.

Rookie boss Pirlo signed a two-year deal to take over from Maurizio Sarri as Bianconeri boss last August, but the 42-year-old failed to live up to expectations.

The former Italy playmaker failed to guide Juve to what would have been a 10th consecutive Serie A title and appears to have paid the price.

Italian sport dailies La Gazzetta dello Sport and Corriere dello Sport both reported an agreement had been reached with Allegri.

Juventus edged into the Champions League for 2021-22 by finishing fourth as Inter won the Scudetto,

They tumbled out of this season's Champions League in March at the hands of Porto, losing on away goals at the round-of-16 stage.

Allegri has been out of work since leaving the Turin giants two years ago, but he had been linked with Real Madrid before news emerged of the likely change at Juventus.

Juventus were champions of Italy in five consecutive seasons under the experienced Allegri.

Juventus have announced that managing director Fabio Paratici is to leave next month after 11 years at the club.

Paratici arrived at the Italian giants from Sampdoria in May 2010 and has taken up a number of boardroom positions, during which time he has helped oversee transfer activity.

However, his contract expires at the end of June and, following talks with president Andrea Agnelli on Wednesday, it has been confirmed the 48-year-old's deal will not be renewed.

Agnelli said in a statement on Juve's official website: "Fabio has written the history of Juventus over the past few years. 

"A growth path characterised by professionalism, perseverance and many successes. 

"Today is the time to thank him for being able to create a strong professional bond, accompanied by a daily passion."

Juve have won 19 domestic trophies during Paratici's time in Turin and pulled off a major transfer coup by signing Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid in 2018.

"They were wonderful years of professional growth and strong emotions," Paratici said of his spell with Juve. 

"Juventus gave me the opportunity to carry out my work with full freedom and without interference in full respect of my role. 

"For this I would like to thank the whole club, my staff, the employees, co-workers, the players, the coaches, the shareholders, and in particular the president, Andrea Agnelli. 

"An important chapter of my career closes, as I await new challenges."

The decision to part ways with Paratici comes on the back of a disappointing 2020-21 campaign for Juventus, head coach Andrea Pirlo's first in charge.

Juve relinquished their grip on the Scudetto for the first time in 10 seasons, with Inter finishing top, though they did salvage their campaign somewhat in the run-in.

They won their final three Serie A games to finish above Napoli in fourth place, as well as beating Atalanta 2-1 in the Coppa Italia final to add to their Supercoppa Italiana triumph back in January.

While Paratici is certainly moving on, the future for Pirlo still remains unclear. Former head coach Massimiliano Allegri has been linked with a return to the Allianz Arena.

Is the Gianluigi Donnarumma-Milan relationship coming to an end?

Donnarumma made his debut as a 16-year-old for Milan in 2015, however, the Italy international is reportedly close to making the move to Serie A rivals Juventus.

Step forward Mike Maignan…

 

TOP STORY – DONNARUMMA OUT, MAIGNAN IN?

Lille goalkeeper Mike Maignan is poised to undergo a medical with Milan as Gianluigi Donnarumma edges closer to a blockbuster Juventus switch, according to widespread reports.

Donnarumma is set to become a free agent and the Milan star is yet to re-sign with the Rossoneri, who qualified for the Champions League.

Gianluca Di Marzio reports Milan are no longer waiting on Donnarumma as they step up their pursuit of Maignan, who will arrive in Italy on Tuesday after helping Lille to Ligue 1 glory.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fabrizio Romano says Massimiliano Allegri's priority is to take charge of Real Madrid, despite interest from former club Juve and Napoli in Serie A. Allegri is the favourite to replace Zinedine Zidane should he leave the Spanish capital. Despite securing a top-four finish, Andrea Pirlo is being tipped to leave Juve.

- There is set to be a coaching merry-go-round in Serie A this off-season. The front page of Tuesday's Corriere dello Sport says Porto boss Sergio Conceicao is favourite to succeed Gennaro Gattuso at Napoli, with the latter tipped to replace Simone Inzaghi at Lazio. Ex-Roma head coach Paulo Fonseca is the new first choice to join Fiorentina.

Inter must sell one star – Lautaro Martinez or Alessandro Bastoni – due to their financial situation, according to Corriere dello Sport. Martinez has been linked with Barcelona and Real Madrid, while Bastoni has attracted interest from Liverpool and Manchester City. There is also speculation regarding the future of coach Antonio Conte and star Romelu Lukaku, who is reportedly wanted by Chelsea, Barca and Madrid.

- The Telegraph claims Manchester United are prioritising the signing of Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, who has long been tipped to join the Red Devils. Dortmund team-mate Erling Haaland is also wanted at Old Trafford, while Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo has been linked with a sensational return.

Tottenham are interested in re-hiring Mauricio Pochettino, reports the Independent. Pochettino is in charge of Paris Saint-Germain after replacing Thomas Tuchel in January but he was unable to oversee a successful title defence this season.

Bayern Munich and Barcelona are targeting Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum on a free transfer, says Sky Sports.

Andrea Pirlo expects to stay on as Juventus coach next season after guiding them to a top-four finish.

Juve beat Bologna 4-1 on Sunday, a victory that confirmed they will finish fourth in Serie A, a point ahead of Napoli after they could only draw 1-1 at home to Hellas Verona.

A win for Napoli would have left Juve out of the top four regardless of the Bianconeri's result, though Gennaro Gattuso's men were only ahead for a short while.

It was plain sailing throughout for Juve at Bologna, with Federico Chiesa opening the scoring early on to ensure he finished the season as the second youngest player after Marcus Rashford to record at least nine goals and assists across the top five European leagues this term.

Adrien Rabiot and Alvaro Morata, who got a brace, did the rest of the damage, with the Spaniard reaching the 20-goals mark across all competitions for the first time since 2016-17 as he deputised effectively for Cristiano Ronaldo.

It was Juve's 342nd and final game as reigning Serie A champions, a record, and although Pirlo was unable to continue their domination of Italy's top flight, he expects to be in charge again next term.

"I've always put in the maximum commitment, and this is the end result. Those who must decide [about my future] will do so," he told DAZN.

"I see myself in the Juve dugout next season. I would confirm it myself, but now we have to just enjoy what we have achieved.

"For me, it was important to finish the job: winning the Coppa Italia and qualifying for the Champions League. It was a very important goal."

There were conflicting rumours about the reasoning behind Ronaldo's absence, which was seen as curious given the importance of the game for Juve.

While some reports suggested Ronaldo made himself unavailable due to fatigue following the Coppa Italia final, others said it was Pirlo's decision, but the coach insisted they had agreed he would start on the bench.

"It was a joint decision," Pirlo said. "Ronaldo was tired after the match on Wednesday, so I opted to start Morata, who is another great player.

"Ronaldo was available. I've got a strong squad and I can pick many different players."

Nevertheless, Ronaldo finished the season as Serie A's most-prolific player with 29 goals, becoming the first player to achieve that feat in Italy's top flight, LaLiga and the Premier League.

Andrea Pirlo still hopes to stay on as Juventus coach and keep Cristiano Ronaldo at the club as he prepares for Sunday's decisive Serie A clash with Bologna.

Juve sit fifth in the table after 37 matches, a point behind Napoli in fourth and Milan in third, and they know they must win to have any chance of finishing in a Champions League spot.

Pirlo's first season in charge has been difficult. The Bianconeri lost their title to Inter and crashed out of the Champions League to Porto at the last-16 stage.

However, they have still claimed two trophies in 2021, winning the Supercoppa Italiana match against Napoli in January before lifting the Coppa Italia this week after defeating Atalanta 2-1 in the final.

Speculation persists that Juve will look to replace Pirlo before next season, while it has also been rumoured they could sanction the sale of Ronaldo, who has scored 36 goals in all competitions this term.

Pirlo, however, appears eager to keep working with Ronaldo at the Allianz Stadium and improve on his first campaign in the dugout.

"We do this job for the adrenaline that it brings," he said on Saturday. "I want to continue working with this team and this club, but I think that's normal.

"The greatest satisfaction of this season has been the relationship with the boys, who have given me a lot, whilst I haven't liked the results and we didn't reach the set goals.

"I was a winner as a player, I want to be a manager, so I think of this year as an opportunity to improve. I don't think that the club will decide my future on the basis of tomorrow. We'll see what happens.  

"After the Milan game [a 3-0 defeat on May 9], we were 'dead'; now, we are still alive. Let's think about ourselves first, and then see what happens elsewhere. We mustn't have any regrets. There is always pressure, but we are calm and there is enthusiasm."

He added on Ronaldo: "I see Cristiano at Juventus and extremely focused, just as I saw him in the Coppa Italia final on Wednesday."

One figure who is set to leave Juve after this season is Gianluigi Buffon, with the 43-year-old having announced he will not commit to the club for 2021-22.

Pirlo said of his old team-mate: "With Buffon, Juve is losing a monument of football, both on and off the pitch. It's a sad feeling as we have come a long way together. I admire him very much."

Andrea Pirlo wants to remain as Juventus head coach next season, but accepts the decision could be taken out of his hands. 

Pirlo has endured a challenging first season in charge of the Bianconeri, but he steered them to a record-extending 14th Coppa Italia title with a 2-1 win over Atalanta on Wednesday.

Federico Chiesa scored the decisive goal 17 minutes from full-time after Ruslan Malinovskiy had earlier cancelled out Dejan Kulusevski's fine strike. 

The triumph meant Pirlo became the fourth Juve boss to win the Coppa Italia as both a player and a coach, after Luis Monti, Carlo Parola and Dino Zoff.

Juve need to beat Bologna on the final day of the season on Sunday and hope one of Napoli or Milan slip up in their respective games against Hellas Verona and Atalanta to qualify for next season's Champions League. 

While Pirlo accepts it has been a difficult season, he insists he has no intention of stepping down from his role at the end of the campaign. 

"We wouldn't be here talking about fifth place and a premature Champions League exit if it had been a totally positive season," he told RAI Sport. "There were ups and downs, these two trophies [Juve also won the Supercoppa Italiana] cannot cancel that out.

"For my first season, I have learned a great deal and then found these satisfactions that are very gratifying.

"Of course I would confirm myself in this role. I've loved football since I was a child and will continue to love it. The club will decide, but I love coaching. I love this club, and we'll see what is decided. I would like to continue."

Pirlo also revealed Chiesa was almost denied his moment of glory, with Paulo Dybala poised to replace him. 

"We were about to take him off when he scored; that's football for you," he said. "Not everyone has scored a decisive goal in a cup final, so it's great for him."

While Juve largely struggled in the first half at the Mapei Stadium, they were a team reborn in the second period. 

They limited Atalanta – who had Rafael Toloi sent off late on after he had already been substituted – to just a single shot on target after the break, with Pirlo attributing their improved display to a few half-time tweaks. 

"It was a wonderful game with two great teams who fought from start to finish," he added. 

"[Juan] Cuadrado was a little too deep in the first half, but I told him to be more ferocious on [Robin] Gosens and [Weston] McKennie to attack their centre-back. We did it in the second half and it all went much better."

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