Dusan Vlahovic joins Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland as "the best players of their generation", according to Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri.

Allegri signed Serbia international Vlahovic from Fiorentina in January in a transfer initially worth €70million, and the striker has managed four goals in his first seven Serie A games for his new club.

The former Viola star also netted 33 times in the league in 2021, matching Cristiano Ronaldo's record for the most scored in the Italian top flight during a calendar year.

Indeed, his 21-goal league haul last season was the highest recorded by a Fiorentina player in a single campaign since Alberto Gilardino in 2008-09 (25), and he has carried that form into the new campaign as well.

Vlahovic has registered 21 goals across appearances for Juve and Fiorentina in Serie A this season, making him the league's joint-top scorer – level with Ciro Immobile – while only Robert Lewandowski (31) and Karim Benzema (22) have scored more in Europe's top-five leagues.

Haaland, who has been limited by injuries at Borussia Dortmund, is ninth in the same list with 16 Bundesliga goals, striking once every 81 minutes on average, while Paris Saint-Germain's Mbappe is 11th with 15 to his name in the French top flight.

Allegri hailed the youthful trio as he expressed his excitement to see Vlahovic develop more.

"He is a young player with not much international experience. But he has quality. He wants and can improve. He has time to do it," Allegri said of Vlahovic in an interview with GQ, as quoted by CalcioMercato.

"He is ruthless in front of the goal and Juventus made an important signing. He, Mbappe and Haaland are the best players of their generation."

While there were expectations that Vlahovic's arrival may knock Alvaro Morata down the pecking order of Juve strikers, Allegri reiterated that the Spain international remains integral to his plans in Turin.

"I called him that night [when Juve signed Vlahovic] to tell him: 'You are going nowhere, with him, you will become even more important,' and that's what happened," Allegri added on Morata.

"It's crazy to question Morata. He can't be at his best if he is asked to do things that he can't. But he's always been available playing in a position which is not exactly the best one for him."

Allegri will be hoping for Morata and Vlahovic to link-up once more when Juve, who are fourth in Serie A and seven points adrift of leaders Milan, host Inter on Sunday.

Juventus chief executive Maurizio Arrivabene has confirmed Paulo Dybala will leave the Bianconeri when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Dybala moved from Palermo to Juventus in June 2015 in a deal worth up to €40million and has since scored 80 goals in 202 Serie A appearances.

The forward was on target in Sunday's 2-0 win over Serie A strugglers Salernitana, with Alvaro Morata alone matching his league tally of eight for Juve so far this season.

Dybala now has 113 goals across all competitions for Juve, ranking him third all-time among the club’s non-Italian scorers, behind only David Trezeguet (171) and John Hansen (124).

However, head coach Massimiliano Allegri suggested he did not know what the future held for the Argentina international, before reports claimed he would be departing.

Arrivabene reinforced those claims on Monday, as he told Tuttomercatoweb.com: "The most important change is that Juventus has not renewed Paulo Dybala's contract.

"With the transfer market, I reiterated it: the approach was sincere. With the signings made in January, with the arrival of [Dusan] Vlahovic, Paulo's position is not what it was any more at the centre of the project.

"That is why we preferred to make this kind of decision."

Previous reports suggested Dybala had reached a verbal agreement with Juve last October before nothing came of the negotiations, and Arrivabene acknowledged the club's January business had changed their thinking.

"The parameters were different. I had already talked about it; no one has ever questioned Paulo's ability," he continued. "There were considerations to be made on appearances, contract length and financial considerations.

"We had to make our choices in January, we made them, we got here. For Juventus, it would have been easy to make a lower offer, but it would have been disrespectful towards Paulo. The decision has been made. Today's meeting was friendly, clear and respectful."

Massimiliano Allegri is unsure whether Paulo Dybala will remain at Juventus beyond the end of this season after he scored in a 2-0 win over Salernitana.

Dybala's fifth-minute strike beat Luigi Sepe at his near post to set the Bianconeri on their way to a routine win, extending their unbeaten run to 16 Serie A games and keeping them within seven points of leaders Milan.

He has now scored eight league goals for Juventus this term, more than any other player (Alvaro Morata also has eight), but the 28-year-old has recently been linked with a move away from Turin.

The Argentine's contract with Juventus is set to expire at the end of the season, and he was reported to have clashed with Allegri over the Bianconeri's training schedule earlier this week.

Speaking after Dybala starred against Serie A's bottom club, the Bianconeri boss was unsure whether he would remain at the club.

"I don't know if he will be a Juventus player or not," Allegri told DAZN. "That's why there is the club, with which I am absolutely in line. 

"It is not just Paulo who is about to expire his contract, there are also [Juan] Cuadrado, [Federico] Bernardeschi, [Mattia] De Sciglio. 

"On my part and on the part of the team, there is only the will to do well now. I give evaluations of the players, but then there are also contracts and many other things to see."

Despite being unsure as to where the forward's future lay, Allegri was adamant that the pair have maintained a positive relationship.

"The relationship with Dybala and all the other players is good," the Bianconeri coach added.

"There are disagreements, exchanges of opinions, and I am quite direct in things. The players have to perform on the pitch, and they have to know that they have my respect, regardless. 

"Paulo arrived as a child from Palermo, then he grew up and became a great player."

Dybala was joined on the scoresheet by Dusan Vlahovic after 28 minutes.

The Serbia international's 21st Serie A goal of the campaign put him level with Adem Ljajic as the second-highest goalscorer from his nation in Italian top-flight history; his tally of 48 putting him just three behind Dejan Stankovic (51).

Allegri was keen to emphasise the importance of Vlahovic at the spearhead of his attack, but said the league's leading marksman still had room to improve. 

"He played a good game," Allegri said of the 22-year-old. "He's an important point of reference, then he comes back and covers. 

"Like everyone, I talk to him often, he needs to improve a lot on the cleanliness of the game. He knows this, and we are working on it."

Juventus have taken 35 points from their last 15 league games to give themselves an outside shot of the Serie A title, having taken just 24 points from their first 15 this season.

Juventus responded to their shock Champions League defeat to Villarreal by beating Salernitana 2-0, as forwards Paulo Dybala and Dusan Vlahovic starred in Turin.

Dybala's early strike set the tone for a routine victory, and Vlahovic doubled the lead after twice being denied by visiting goalkeeper Luigi Sepe.

The home defence was untroubled during a quiet second half, with Juve's win meaning they are unbeaten in their past 33 Serie A outings against teams starting the game in the bottom three.

Massimiliano Allegri's team also extended their unbeaten league run to 16 games, remaining in the hunt for a 10th Scudetto in 11 years. 

Dybala required just five minutes to open the scoring, latching onto Vlahovic's pass in the area before rifling a left-footed shot past Sepe at his near post.

The Argentine should have doubled his tally on 13 minutes, chipping over the bar when through on goal, before Vlahovic was denied by a superb Sepe save after Dybala's unselfish cut-back.

Sepe made another excellent save just moments later, clawing Vlahovic's goal-bound flick away from the bottom-right corner, but the Serbia star did net on 28 minutes when he headed home Mattia De Sciglio's cross from inside the six-yard box.

The Bianconeri did not concede a single shot on target during a dominant first-half display and went close to a third on the hour when Sepe almost spilled Matthijs de Ligt's volley to Vlahovic.

Lively substitute Simone Verdi drew Wojciech Szczesny's first save with a long-range strike, and the Poland keeper made a superb stop from Federico Bonazzoli's volley, as the hosts continued their fine league form.

What does it mean? Bianconeri maintain excellent Serie A run

As well as providing the perfect tonic to their 3-0 Champions League last-16 second-leg defeat, Juve's win moved them back to within seven points of Serie A leaders Milan and maintained their fantastic run of league form.

The Bianconeri are one of just two teams in the big five European leagues, the other being Sevilla, to be unbeaten in league action since the start of December. Allegri's men have taken 35 points from their past 15 games, having collected just 24 from their first 15 this season.

Fast start for Dybala 

Dybala's early strike set Juventus on their way to a routine win and marked the fifth time that the 28-year-old has opened the scoring in a Serie A match this season.

He has now scored eight league goals for Juventus this term, more than any other player has managed for the Bianconeri.

Vlahovic eyeing Stankovic record after bullying promoted outfit 

Having failed to score in his first 12 Serie A games against promoted sides, Vlahovic's first-half header was his 11th goal in his past nine such contests.

With his 48th strike in the competition, Vlahovic has equalled Adem Ljajic as the second-highest scoring Serbian in Serie A history, with only Dejan Stankovic (51 goals) ahead of him on that list.

What's next?

Title-chasing Juve are back in Serie A action after the international break, hosting Inter in a crucial Derby d'Italia clash over the first weekend of April, when Salernitana host Torino.

Massimiliano Allegri confirmed Juventus stars Giorgio Chiellini and Paulo Dybala will return against Villarreal in the Champions League, while he hailed the partnership between Dusan Vlahovic and Alvaro Morata.

The Bianconeri were held to a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the last-16 clash between the pair on February 22, leaving it all to play for in the return meeting on Wednesday in Turin.

History favours the Italian hosts at the Allianz Stadium, given Juve have won each of their last six Champions League home games - only managing more consecutive such victories once in the competition (10 games between 1996 and 1997).

Allegri's side will also be boosted by the return of Dybala and Chiellini, who have not featured in over a month due to muscle injuries, but they will be without Leonardo Bonucci and Alex Sandro.

"Chiellini, Dybala and [Federico] Bernardeschi are back," Allegri told reporters at Tuesday's pre-match news conference.

"They are three important returns, we hope to win the game in normal time otherwise we will have to do it in extra time.

"Tomorrow the substitutions will be important. Chiellini, Dybala and Bernardeschi are not ready to play 90 minutes, but they can be important changes.

"Bonucci is out: at Empoli and with Villarreal in the first leg, he was struggling with injury and made himself available to the team. He has a calf problem that will keep him out.

"Alex [Sandro] felt something in his calf and I do not want to risk it, since it is not the last game of the season. [Denis] Zakaria will maybe come back on Thursday, otherwise after the international break."

 

Vlahovic became just the third player in Champions League history to score inside the first minute on their debut in the competition, after Andreas Moller (for Borussia Dortmund v Juventus) and Ishak Belfodil (for Hoffenheim v Manchester City).

Allegri revealed that the former Fiorentina striker will start against Unai Emery's side, while he praised the recent form of the Serbian forward and partner Morata.

"Vlahovic will play, Morata is in good form and he's always had quality. He was always criticised despite playing in a position that was not his natural one.

"I am happy with him, he is playing well with Vlahovic, he has more freedom on the pitch. We all feel well, we'll also need a bit of luck to qualify.”

As for Juve's chances of winning the competition, Allegri - who has twice guided the Bianconeri to the Champions League final - insisted that his side must leave everything on the pitch and not have any regrets.

"I have clear ideas, hopefully, I’ll get it right. The team is feeling well. It’s the decisive moment of the season," he continued.

"We must have the ambition to reach the final, it's a target we have so we must try. If we are good and lucky, we'll make it, if the others are better than us, we won't make it.

"We can't have regrets, tomorrow is like a final that we play at home. 

"However, we've done nothing so far. We can't lose balance, we must keep our feet on the ground and take a step at a time. The target was to get to March and play for our targets. We are here, there's adrenaline, the fans will have to help us.

"Villarreal are an experienced team, with a very good coach. They concede almost nothing, we must make as few mistakes as possible and prepare the game well. We took some risks in Spain, but we also had a few chances to double the lead."

Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri warned that "a moment can change everything" heading into a decisive stage of the season.

Allegri's side started the season in mixed fashion, but a 14-game unbeaten streak in Serie A has them back on track and they are one of only five teams still unbeaten in Europe's top-five leagues in 2022.

Juve sit fourth in the league, six points clear of fifth-placed Atalanta and just seven adrift of leaders Milan, and are still in the Champions League with the return leg of their last-16 clash against Villarreal to come on Wednesday.

The Bianconeri next head to Sampdoria, who Juve have won their last six against in all competitions and scored at least two goals in each of those games, but Allegri is expecting a tough test on Saturday.

Juve boss Allegri also referenced a frantic Champions League clash between Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid as a warning sign for how quickly things can change in football.

"We've reached the decisive moment of the season," he told reporters at Friday's pre-match news conference. 

"With two months to play, this is the run-in. There's the international break in a week, but in the meantime, we have an intense week ahead of us. 

"Our first objective is to defeat Sampdoria, then the second is to qualify to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

"Our objective is to finish in the top four. Whether fourth, third or second, it's not important. What is important is that we continue our positive run and hold down fourth place.

"Football is played on a knife's edge - as was demonstrated during the week between Real Madrid and PSG.

"When the situation appears to be going well, a moment can change everything. So, concentration needs to be kept to a maximum."

 

Sampdoria are eyeing three straight home league wins for the first time since a run between December 2018 and January 2019, and Allegri reiterated the challenge that a new-look side under Marco Giampaolo pose.

Allegri added: "In their two matches at home with Marco Giampaolo as coach, Sampdoria have scored six goals and conceded none, while 25 per cent of their goals were scored in the opening 15 minutes, so our approach needs to be right. 

"Winning in Genoa is always difficult, either against Genoa or Sampdoria. They are transformed when they play at home. We need to have the character to obtain the result we’re looking for."

Juve will be hoping that new signing Dusan Vlahovic can continue his fine scoring run against Sampdoria, who are his favourite opponent in Serie A having scored five goals in five games against them.

Allegri still wants to see more from the former Fiorentina striker Vlahovic, despite the forward topping Juve's scoring charts with three goals in five league games since his arrival, averaging a goal every 143 minutes in Serie A.

"I am happy with how Dusan Vlahovic is coping with the mental stress of playing every three days," he continued. 

"Every ball is decisive. I told him yesterday that he needs to be more precise in each action he’s involved in, to spare some energy and increase his skill."

While Vlahovic has impressed in recent weeks, Juve have been without talisman Paulo Dybala but Allegri hinted at a return for the Argentina international against Villarreal.

"I still need to decide who will play because I'm aware that some players need a rest," Allegri said of his team for the Sampdoria clash. 

"The good news is that Mattia De Sciglio and Alex Sandro are back with the team, and Juan Cuadrado feels fine. Federico Bernadeschi is suspended, but Danilo will definitely play. It will be his 100th game for Juventus, so how can he not play?

"Paulo Dybala is improving. He could be available for the Champions League, so could Leonardo Bonucci.

"On Sunday, Giorgio Chiellini should be back with the team. When the Champions League arrives, it's like honey, it attracts everyone."

Paulo Dybala will miss Juventus' Serie A clash with Spezia through injury, coach Massimiliano Allegri confirmed, while Dusan Vlahovic looks set to be rested to the bench.

Bianconeri forward Dybala has been the club's top league performer throughout the campaign, though his thunder has been arguably stolen by the arrival of his new team-mate from Fiorentina.

The Argentinian's contract in Turin runs out at the end of June, and attempts to persuade him to sign an extension have so far proven unsuccessful at Allianz Stadium.

Speaking ahead of his side's vital clash with relegation contenders Spezia on Sunday, Allegri confirmed Dybala would miss the game, and refused to be drawn on the player's future.

"Dybala left training prematurely yesterday," Allegri stated. "He had a problem with his flexor and he did not feel his leg free, so he is still out. If you want I will call him, but he cannot play."

Asked about the forward's injury problems and contract decision, the head coach added: "If we had known, we would have solved it. We are evaluating everything that has been done to understand.

"Then there is the contractual aspect, but it does not depend on me. It will be a negotiation between the club and Paulo. He has been here for eight years and on a technical level, [his contribution] is indisputable."

Vlahovic's arrival in the January transfer window has proven to be one of the more inspired buys of the season across Europe.

But Allegri says the Serbian may take a back seat this weekend, adding: "For Vlahovic I am thinking of the possibility of him starting from the bench. I will see and decide tomorrow."

Elsewhere, the Juve coach weighed in on Paul Pogba, after the Bianconeri were linked with a move for their former player as he appears to wind the clock down on his Manchester United contract.

"Talking about this doesn't make sense," Allegri said. "Pogba is a Manchester United player, I don't know what he'll do next year.

"I had a great relationship with him, he got angry when he lost in basketball and football. Now talking about the transfer market doesn't make sense. Our goal is to reach fourth place."

Massimiliano Allegri called on Dusan Vlahovic to be more unpredictable after his limited impact for Juventus on his return to former club Fiorentina.

Emotions were high as Vlahovic received a hostile welcome from the home fans back at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final.

Vlahovic, who followed a well-worn path in trading Fiorentina for hated rivals Juve in January for an initial fee of €70million, saw his influence restricted in a pulsating game.

Fiorentina dominated possession and wasted several chances to take the lead, while at the other end Vlahovic registered just 36 touches, the lowest of any Juve player to start and finish the game, with only two of those coming in the opposition box.

He was thwarted by Pietro Terracciano with one of his two shots, but the Fiorentina goalkeeper could do nothing as Juve clinched a 1-0 victory in stoppage time, the hosts punished for their profligacy when Lorenzo Venuti inadvertently deflected Juan Cuadrado's cross into his own net.

That meant an ineffectual performance from Vlahovic was immaterial, with Allegri focusing on his strengths while delivering a pointer to the man who scored 33 times in Serie A in 2021, equalling the competition's calendar-year record set by Cristiano Ronaldo – the man he was bought to replace in Turin.

"Vlahovic is very good at playing with the team, we have more of a link now between the midfielders and forwards, so that too is progress," Allegri told Mediaset.

"It's important to move around and be more unpredictable, as the simplest and toughest thing in football is to avoid marking."

"We have to congratulate Fiorentina on a good performance," he added. 

"We suffered with two counter-attacks in the first half, again in the second, and fortunately we didn't concede because they made mistakes.

"I liked the way we were organised today and only ran risks on counter-attacks. We knew Fiorentina liked to overlap on the flanks and put crosses in, so there wouldn't be a threat through the centre.

"We should've kept the ball in their half more, but I saw progress."

What do Dusan Vlahovic, Dodi Lukebakio and Gaetan Laborde all have in common?

As of this moment, not much – aside from having been touted as the next Newcastle United signing. But if Vlahovic gets a goal for Juventus against Fiorentina on Wednesday, he will join Wolfsburg's Lukebakio (who joined on loan from Hertha Berlin) and Rennes' Laborde (who signed from Montpellier) as the only players in Europe's top five leagues to score for and against the same team this season.

Vlahovic said his feelings were "a bit mixed" as he contemplated facing the Viola at the Artemio Franchi, where he spent four years after joining as an 18-year-old from Partizan. "It's a bit strange," he told DAZN, to prepare for a game against the team for whom he scored 33 times in Serie A in 2021, equalling the competition's calendar-year record set by Cristiano Ronaldo – the man he was bought to replace in Turin.

The sentiment among Fiorentina's faithful will be a bit more, well, partisan. Vlahovic's January transfer, completed on his 22nd birthday for an initial fee of €70million, sparked levels of fury among the fan base arguably not seen since the Roberto Baggio riots of the early 1990s. Fiorentina ultras vented their anger not just at the player, but at the club itself, lambasting president Rocco Commisso for doing deals with "the ultimate evil" after previously promising never to sell their best players to the hated Bianconeri.

Meanwhile, Vlahovic has got on with the day job of scoring goals, and with three in his past two games, Juve are beginning to hope of a surprise late challenge for the Champions League and Serie A titles. Before then comes the small matter of a Coppa Italia semi-final in Florence, and the chance for Vlahovic to take a step closer to a first trophy outside Serbia by knocking out his old employers.

And he wouldn't be the first Juve player to return to haunt Fiorentina...

Roberto Baggio

Baggio isn't the sole reason Fiorentina don't like Juventus, but ask someone to explain the rivalry and his name will likely come up pretty quickly.

The pony-tailed posterboy of Italian football developed into a star in his five years in Tuscany even before his rise to global fame at the 1990 World Cup on home soil. It was in that same year that Juve signed him from Fiorentina for an approximate fee of £8million, smashing the world transfer record and sparking furious Fiorentina fans to take to the streets in protest.

Baggio claimed he never really wanted to leave and, when he returned to face them in Bianconeri colours on April 7, he refused to take a penalty ostensibly out of concern that goalkeeper Gianmatteo Mareggini would know where he would put it. Luigi Di Biagio stepped up instead, missed, and Juve lost. Picking up a Fiorentina scarf didn't help Baggio to endear himself to the Juve faithful, either.

Still, over the next five years, Baggio would fire them to Serie A, Coppa Italia and UEFA Cup glory and become the first Italian since Paolo Rossi in 1982 to win the Ballon d'Or (it would be 13 more years before another, Fabio Cannavaro, did the same).

Giorgio Chiellini

If Baggio's transfer sparked a riot, Giorgio Chiellini's permanent move to Juve in 2005 prompted more of a quiet grumble. He spent 2004-05 with the Viola after they and Juve reached a co-ownership deal, so it was always anticipated the suits in Turin might stump up the full amount for his registration rights.

Of course, watching Chiellini win nine Scudetti, five Coppa Italia crowns and Euro 2020 as part of a glittering Azzurri career has left plenty of Fiorentina fans with an unshakeable sense of 'what if'.

In December 2005, Chiellini started against Fiorentina in a frankly unfair back four that also featured Lillian Thuram, Fabio Cannavaro and Gianluca Zambrotta, with Juve claiming a 2-1 win thanks to Mauro Camoranesi's 88th-minute goal. 

He's since gone on to face Fiorentina 17 times in Serie A, losing just twice. But, more importantly, Chiellini has become a Juve great – he is just two games away from putting himself third behind Alessandro Del Piero and Gianluigi Buffon on the club's all-time appearances list.

Federico Bernardeschi

Bernardeschi may have moved out of season, but that didn't stop Fiorentina fans venting their anger in response to his €40m switch. They hung a banner outside the stadium that made their displeasure fairly clear. It read: "Who wouldn't like to spit in your face… you s***** hunchback".

His move to the Old Lady came after a something of a breakthrough season as he scored 11 times in Serie A – that was an improvement of nine from the two he'd got the previous campaign.

Unsurprisingly he was jeered and targeted by banners on his first return to Florence in February 2018, though Bernardeschi had the last laugh, curling a free-kick in as Juve won 2-0. It's fair to say he didn't abstain from celebrating, letting out a huge scream.

"I celebrated when I scored because I believe a professional should respect the fans. I've always been grateful to Fiorentina, and always will, for the way they looked after me and helped me develop, but I made a career choice and now I play for another team," he told Sky Sport Italia at the time.

But Bernardeschi's struggled to have the same kind of importance to Juve, rather being used as more of a utility and back-up player, which is reflected by the fact he's scored just eight league goals for the club.

Federico Chiesa

If Fiorentina fans are upset on Wednesday, just wait until next season when Federico Chiesa is fit again and lining up alongside Vlahovic. The pair appeared together 41 times for the Viola before Chiesa's October 2020 departure for Turin.

Chiesa, who is out for the rest of the season following damage to his anterior cruciate ligament, will be a permanent Juve player in 2022-23. For now, remarkably, he is merely on loan from Fiorentina.

Such deals that appear to favour the buying club are not uncommon in Serie A, but Fiorentina supporters could be forgiven for being furious as their club again accommodated the transfer of a star player to their bitter rivals.

Chiesa – the son of former Fiorentina forward Enrico – dazzled in his final full season in Florence, with 11 goals and six assists, and has done likewise for Juve following a slightly tricky start. At the time of his injury – before Vlahovic's arrival – he was the Bianconeri's standout performer.

Dusan Vlahovic will always be grateful to Fiorentina and is calm ahead of his first return to Florence, according to Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri.

The Serbia international joined Juve for an initial €70million free in January, bringing an end to a three-and-a-half-year stay at Stadio Artemio Franchi.

Vlahovic had previously turned down the offer of a new contract with Fiorentina, forcing the club's hand somewhat as he had just 18 months to run on his existing deal.

After reportedly rejecting proposals from Premier League sides Arsenal, Tottenham and Newcastle United among others, Vlahovic instead opted for Serie A rivals Juventus.

Having also lost Federico Bernardeschi and Federico Chiesa to Juve in recent years, Vlahovic's choice of club did not go down well with Fiorentina's devoted supporters.

The forward's home is reported to have been under surveillance in the days leading up to the transfer, while some fans took to the streets to protest.

And in an open letter published in January, Fiorentina fans labelled Serie A top scorer Vlahovic "a coward" for joining Juve.

Ahead of Wednesday's Coppa Italia semi-final first leg, Fiorentina released a statement asking their fans to avoid derogatory and racist chants aimed towards the striker.

Allegri did not confirm whether Vlahovic would start against his former side, but he expects the 22-year-old to perform well regardless of the reception he receives.

"I believe in the intelligence and culture of the Florentine fans," Allegri said at Tuesday's pre-match news conference. 

"Vlahovic will always be grateful to everyone in Florence, society and the environment, who raised him and allowed him to arrive at Juventus. 

"He is calm. It's normal. He's a 22-year-old boy who returns to an environment where he grew up and gave him the opportunity to go to Juventus. 

"It is normal there is emotion. For him it will still be a particular match, but it is serene and so he must remain calm, otherwise he would never play against Fiorentina again.

"There are steps to be taken for the boy to mature."

Vlahovic matched Cristiano Ronaldo's high mark of the past 60 years in scoring 33 Serie A goals in a single calendar year when doing so in 2021.

He has carried that form with him to Turin, his four goals at least three more than any Juve team-mate since his debut against Verona on February 6.

Indeed, Vlahovic scored the fastest debut goal in Champions League history last week with his strike just 32 seconds into the 1-1 last-16 first-leg draw with Villarreal.

Should he score again in midweek, Vlahovic would become the third player in Europe's top five leagues after Dodi Lukebakio (Wolfsburg) and Gaetan Laborde (Montpellier) to net for and against any one team in all competitions this season.

While Allegri is pleased with the Serbia international's instant impact, however, he accepts there is room for improvement in other departments, with Juve winning just one of their past four games.

"We need to improve something else," he said. "We have conceded very avoidable goals, and it means that after scoring and everything seems to be done, we relax a bit. 

"In the last few games, we slept on goals, so we need to reactivate our attention, because when we lose fear, we become dangerous; not perceiving danger becomes a problem. 

"We could have conceded goals but not in those situations. From now until the end of the season, conceding few goals means reaching the top four."

Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri hailed the quality that Dusan Vlahovic has brought to the Bianconeri squad after he netted two superb goals in a 3-2 win at Empoli.

Vlahovic netted twice after Moise Kean had opened the scoring for the Old Lady in a win which saw them consolidate fourth place in Serie A, although they had to survive a late onslaught from their lively hosts.

The Serbian striker now has 20 Serie A goals this season, while the victory has given Juventus a six-point cushion over fifth-placed Atalanta, ahead of Gian Piero Gasperini's team's clash with Sampdoria on Monday.

Vlahovic's neat finishes proved the difference in a hard-fought encounter in which Empoli managed 11 attempts to the visitors' 12.

Allegri was keen to praise the in-form striker for the qualities he displayed.

"Vlahovic is an important player, he has character as well as quality," Allegri said. "You could tell straight away this lad has character, wants to win and is eager to learn. 

"He has the kind of characteristics we didn't have in the squad.

"He moved a lot more in this game, didn't just stay central, and that was a big advantage for him and for us."

 

Allegri was also asked how his number seven compared to the man who wore that shirt during his last spell in charge in Turin, two-time Serie A player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo.

"I don't think you can compare them," he said. "The previous seven won the Ballon d'Or five times, whereas Vlahovic is at the beginning of his career. 

"A good game isn't enough, [for comparisons with Ronaldo] you need immense mental strength, and he is at the start of his journey."

Vlahovic has now scored two or more goals on nine occasions in Serie A since the beginning of the 2020-21 campaign, equalling Ronaldo's tally of multiple-goal hauls in Italy during the same period.

Allegri also professed himself pleased with the forward options at his disposal, as both Kean and Alvaro Morata recorded goal involvements, but the Bianconeri boss maintained that Juventus are not contenders for the Serie A title.

He added: "Kean struggles with his back to goal and coming back to connect with the midfield, but he does well when wide and attacking the box. Alvaro Morata is the same, he gave a great pass to Vlahovic for the third goal.

"Football is very simple, you just have to put players in roles where they can work to their characteristics.

"We couldn't do that for four or five months, so we had to adapt, but we stayed in range of the top four and now we'll see what happens.

"I remain fully convinced it will take 84 to 85 points minimum to win the Scudetto. Our objective is to finish in the top four and we need to be consistent, because there's Atalanta, Fiorentina, Lazio are coming up too.

"The title will be a battle between those three up there [Milan, Inter, and Napoli]."

Juventus are now unbeaten in their last 13 Serie A games, their longest such run since a 14-match run under Maurizio Sarri between August and December 2019.

Dusan Vlahovic continued his fine form as Juventus boosted their Serie A top-four hopes with a hard-fought 3-2 win over Empoli.

Moise Kean's header and Vlahovic's neat finish came either side of Szymon Zurkowski's scrappy leveller, as Juve established a 2-1 half-time advantage on Saturday.

Vlahovic's sublime lob put Juve two ahead, though Andrea La Mantia's goal produced a nervous ending for the visitors.

Yet Massimiliano Allegri's team stood firm amid late pressure to move six points clear in fourth place.

Danilo and Denis Zakaria both passed up good opportunities in the early exchanges but the visitors broke the deadlock when Kean met Adrien Rabiot's cross, powering a header past Guglielmo Vicario.

Juve suffered an injury blow when the impressive Zakaria limped off, before Empoli levelled as Zurkowski evaded the visitors' statuesque defenders to prod home from a corner.

Juve were not to be denied their half-time lead, however, with the superb Vlahovic turning smartly on Juan Cuadrado's pass before drilling home.

Massimiliano Allegri insisted it is "actually impossible" for Juventus to recover to win the Scudetto as he previewed Saturday's clash with Empoli.

The Bianconeri have enjoyed an upturn in form since struggling at the start of the Serie A campaign, sitting in fourth as they fight with Atalanta for the final Champions League qualification spot.

Juve are also still in Europe's elite competition – their last-16 tie with Villarreal finely poised after a 1-1 draw in the first leg – and the Coppa Italia, where they face Fiorentina in a two-legged semi-final clash across March and April.

Allegri was quick to quash suggestions Juve – who are unbeaten in 12 Serie A games – can still win the Scudetto this season, revealing he may rest either Dusan Vlahovic or Alvaro Morata on Saturday as he eyes success elsewhere.

"Tomorrow, Moise Kean could play. If he does, one of Vlahovic or Alvaro Morata will rest," Allegri said at Friday's pre-match news conference.

"Kean always has chances to score, so I am very calm. We are fighting on all fronts, even if the Scudetto is hard. Actually, impossible.

"We are out of the title race, I think that 85 points will be enough to win the title and we can't reach that. We have a Coppa Italia semi-final against Fiorentina and the Champions League against Villarreal.

"At the moment, it's a good season. Let's see which trophies we can lift, it's not easy to win every year. The important thing is to improve, but we have to do more in some situations."

 

Juve could be 12 points adrift of leaders Milan by the time they are next in action, given Stefano Pioli's men host Udinese on Friday.

Juve have won each of their last four top-flight visits to Empoli and Aurelio Andreazzoli's side are winless in nine Serie A matches, their longest such streak since November 2018, but Allegri is aware of the threat they could pose.

"We lost in the reverse fixture and it's never easy to play at Empoli," he added.

"We need to give continuity to our recent results. We need solid performance and recharge batteries, physically and mentally.

"Empoli have three offensive players, it's difficult to play against them. They have no problems in the table, we know that we must win tomorrow.

"We made many mistakes in Spain and didn't make the most of some opportunities.

"We must understand the right moment to 'kill' the opponents. We were doing well against Villarreal, but then we conceded a goal because we were too naive.

"When you play at a high level, you can't give your opponents the chance to get back in the game."

Allegri will have to do without several key figures as well, with Weston McKennie, Paulo Dybala, Alex Sandro, and Giorgio Chiellini heading a growing list of absentees.

Dusan Vlahovic was left with mixed feelings about his Champions League debut after Juventus' 1-1 draw with Villarreal. 

The former Fiorentina striker found the back of the net just 32 seconds into the first leg of the last-16 tie in Spain – the fastest goal in the competition by a full debutant. 

Vlahovic demonstrated tremendous instincts as he controlled Danilo's lofted ball on his chest and slotted into the far corner past a flat-footed Geronimo Rulli. 

Juventus were unable to preserve their advantage, though. Dani Parejo equalised in the 66th minute to leave the contest finely poised ahead of the second leg on March 16. 

While the Serbia international was thrilled to be on target, he admitted the result took the shine off his achievement. 

"It was huge to score on my debut; it was very emotional. However, I cannot be 100 per cent satisfied because we have not won the game," he said. 

"We have to keep working hard. We played a good game and we could have won.  

"We tried to play well also in the second half but sometimes the opposition do not allow you to do what you want to do. So, congratulations to them for equalising.  

"There are some regrets, but we must just focus on the next game." 

Meanwhile, head coach Massimiliano Allegri was left frustrated by the manner of Villarreal's equaliser. 

An unmarked Parejo was allowed to drift into the penalty area and sweep Etienne Capoue's lofted pass beyond Wojciech Szczesny. 

"We made a bad mistake on their equaliser," Allegri said. "We perfectly knew that they were trying that move and we still allowed them to score. However, the team played a good game in general.  

"We made a few mistakes also in attack; straying offside when we had good chances on the counter-attack.  

"In general, I'm quite satisfied with the performance." 

Dusan Vlahovic scored on his Champions League debut as Juventus were held to a 1-1 draw by Villarreal in the first leg of their last-16 tie.

The former Fiorentina striker broke the deadlock after just 32 seconds at El Madrigal, netting the fastest goal in the competition by a Bianconeri debutant.

But Juve were pegged back when Dani Parejo capitalised on sloppy defending by equalising in the 66th minute.

Neither side could then find a winner, leaving the tie finely poised ahead of the return leg in Turin on March 16.

Leading the line in the Champions League for the first time since his move from Fiorentina, Vlahovic wasted no time in making his mark. 

Latching onto Danilo's long ball, he brilliantly slotted into the far corner past Geronimo Rulli, becoming only the second Juventus player to find the net in the opening minute of a match in the competition.

Villarreal looked to respond in the 13th minute; Alfonso Pedraza embarked on a driving run into the box before feeding Giovani Lo Celso, who was denied by the post.

Wojciech Szczesny was then called into action as he produced smart reflexes to block Arnaut Danjuma's clever flick towards goal.

The hosts turned up the pressure after the break and were rewarded with an equaliser midway through the second half.

Completely unmarked, Parejo collected Etienne Capoue's lofted ball into the area before neatly sweeping past Szczesny.

Adrien Rabiot was fortunate to avoid further punishment when booked for his rash challenge on Samuel Chukwueze, and Juve held on as Villarreal enjoyed a greater share of possession as the clock ticked down.

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