Massimiliano Allegri called for Juventus to forget about their Champions League exit, insisting fourth place in Serie A would not define their season as a failure.

Juventus are one of two teams – Sevilla are the others – from the top five European leagues to remain unbeaten in their main domestic competition since the start of December, with no side picking up more points in the Italian top flight during that period (32).

That undefeated streak has guided the Bianconeri to fourth in the league, seven clear of fifth-placed Lazio and just seven behind leaders Milan coming into this weekend's games.

Head coach Allegri's side are also still in contention for the Coppa Italia, leading 1-0 before the return leg of their semi-final on April 21 with Fiorentina.

However, Juve crashed out of the Champions League as they were 4-1 aggregate losers to Villarreal in their last-16 clash in midweek, but Allegri insists that does not take anything away from their campaign so far.

Speaking at Saturday's news conference ahead of a clash with Salernitana, Allegri said: "Salernitana are different to the first meeting, they've done well and are playing better.

"We must immediately erase the Champions League exit and finish this period in the best possible way to try to stay three points behind Inter."

Pressed on whether Juve's 2021-22 season was a failure after elimination in Europe, he said: "I have nothing to clarify. Together with the club we're on a path, and we've laid a good foundation.

"I think we're on the right track. It doesn't take much to destroy things, so you have to be very careful. We went from a very dangerous situation in January when we were 10 points behind Atalanta, and we were good and lucky there, something that didn't happen against Villarreal.

"On Tuesday we weren't the team that could win the Champions League, on Thursday it's all over again, it's failure.

"[Reporters] have to write these things, we have to keep a clear head. It's not that Tuesday is one thing and Thursday is another.

"Of course, no one expected a 3-0 defeat [in the second leg to Villarreal], but that's football. Like what happened in Madrid with PSG. The positive thing is that after the international break we'll have all the players available, except for [Federico] Chiesa and [Weston] McKennie."

Juve will again qualify for next season's Champions League if they can finish in Italy's top four, and Allegri assured that he is committed to a long-term project at the Allianz Stadium.

"To me, those who judge know little," he added. "Together with the club I have to look at the construction of a four-year project. We've shortened the time frame a little thanks to the January transfer market, and now we'll evaluate how to improve further.

"If for you fourth place is a failure, you are right to write it down. There's an old saying in football: whoever wins is a good guy, whoever loses… You don't have to smash the atom, you have to win games based on an assessment of what you have available.

"The club and I know very well what to do, we have clear ideas and the same thoughts. But this doesn't matter now, I have these players and I'm proud of them. We have 10 games in which to do our best and then see where we are.

"But I'm not changing my evaluations, maybe we can do better one year and worse the next. Now we have to put everything aside and think about these games.

"Let's try to beat Salernitana, which isn't easy. Above all, to have the ambition of being three points behind Inter when we play them [at home on April 3]."

Paris Saint-Germain have reportedly opened talks with Tottenham head coach Antonio Conte, who has a clause to leave Spurs at the end of the season.

Conte's contract with the North London club runs until the end of the 2022-23 season, after replacing Nuno Espirito Santo in November last year.

However, while the specific terms of that contract are unclear, it reportedly allows for a departure pending certain circumstances. 

TOP STORY – PSG TARGET CONTE AS POCH REPLACEMENT

According to Calciomercato, Paris Saint-Germain are set to part ways with Mauricio Pochettino and are already in the process of looking for his replacement.

Their primary target appears to be Antonio Conte  - who is reportedly tempted by the contract - which is forcing Tottenham into action, to persuade him to see out his deal. 

The 52-year-old is not the only candidate according to the report, with Massimiliano Allegri and Zinedine Zidane also among the potential hires.

Tottenham accounted for Brighton and Hove Albion on Wednesday, but earlier last week, Conte said he would discuss his future with Spurs at the end of the season. 

ROUND-UP

- Per reports from Kicker, Robert Lewandowski is yet to extend his contract at Bayern Munich, despite Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic's public claims the club wants him to stay. With the Polish striker entering the final 18 months of his current deal, agent Pini Zahavi is looking to secure his future at Sabenerstrasse.

- According to Globo, Edinson Cavani's potential move to Botafogo has fallen through due to the Uruguayan striker's wage demands. Battling injury, Cavani's playing time at Manchester United has failed to see continuity under Ralf Rangnick.

- Nicolo Schira is reporting Milan are getting closer to signing Divock Origi from Liverpool, in order to bolster their stocks up front. Origi's representatives and Milan have met and are looking to progress discussions.

- The Mirror is reporting Lord Sebastian Coe is joining a consortium for the potential takeover of Chelsea, after Roman Abramovich's assets were frozen by the United Kingdom government.

Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri insisted he would play the same way again despite his side's "ugly" Champions League last-16 exit at the hands of Villarreal on Wednesday. 

The Bianconeri conceded three goals in the final 12 minutes to Unai Emery's side – two of which came from the penalty spot – to suffer a 3-0 defeat at the Allianz Stadium, following a 1-1 draw in the first leg three weeks ago. 

It was Juve's joint-heaviest home defeat in the Champions League and saw them dumped out at the last-16 stage for the third consecutive season. 

Despite that, Allegri has no regrets over the way he set his side up and refused to criticise his players. 

"I would play it the same way, as the players did well for 65 minutes," he told Amazon Prime Italia. "At a certain point, Villarreal put everyone in defence and only an incident could break that deadlock. 

"We have to accept this defeat, it's ugly, but I cannot complain about the lads as they played well. 

"This is football, sometimes it goes in your favour, sometimes it's against you. It's just about accepting that." 

Villarreal scored with all three of their shots on target to equal their biggest margin of victory in the Champions League. 

Juve largely struggled to break them down at the other end, and Allegri believes they lost their discipline after Gerard Moreno's opener from the penalty spot. 

"We tried to move the ball around," he added. "Villarreal had nine men behind the ball and didn't even try to counter at one stage. 

"We had our chances in the first half. They were aiming to either take it to extra time or make the most of incidents. 

"We were naive on the penalty and rather than turning it around, we conceded another two goals and lost control of the match." 

Juan Cuadrado's 50th Champions League appearance for Juve ended in disappointment, yet the Colombia international wasted little time in turning his attention to domestic action. 

"We had a good first half, didn't take our chances and that affected us," he said. "We tried to move the ball more to create spaces after the break, but Villarreal defended well and were happy to wait for a counter-attack. 

"We tried to do what the coach asked, move the ball around more to create spaces, but Villarreal were so well set out in defence that the only way of finding a way through was crosses. This is football. 

"We now have to fight to the end to do well in Serie A. It's natural to feel upset, but we still have objectives in Serie A and the Coppa Italia. We need to turn the page quickly and try to be at 100 per cent for those remaining matches." 

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."

Massimiliano Allegri was full of praise for Alvaro Morata following Juventus' 3-1 win away to Sampdoria on Saturday.

The Spanish forward bagged a brace in an important victory for Juve, who put themselves nine points clear of Atalanta in Serie A's race for the final Champions League spot, though having played two games more.

January signing Dusan Vlahovic started on the bench for the Old Lady ahead of their second leg tie against Villarreal in the Champions League last-16 on Wednesday, but it was Morata who made the difference at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris.

Allegri was quick to compliment the 29-year-old, who followed up his first half penalty with a fine header in the 88th minute after Abdelhamid Sabiri had pulled a goal back for the hosts two minutes earlier.

"Alvaro is one of the best forwards on a technical level in Europe," the Bianconeri boss told DAZN post-match. "He will struggle more if you use him with his back to goal, but if he plays a little wider, with the space to run inside and use his characteristics, he's excellent.

"The team did well today on a technical basis. We need to improve when we are in control of the match, though, lower the tempo and then speed it up with a vertical pass. We need to understand when it's time to be patient and wait a moment."

Despite Maya Yoshida's opening own goal on 23 minutes, taking the eventual three points was not a simple task for Juventus. Allegri believes the result puts his team in good stead for the return leg against Villarreal, though.

He also gave special mention to Moise Kean, who made his second start in three games after a string of appearances off the bench in February.

"Sampdoria are not an easy team to face, we needed this result to consolidate fourth place and prepare for Villarreal in the best possible way," Allegri said.

"Kean played a good game, when he plays he is always effective. He earned the penalty [for 2-0], and started the action for the first goal, so he is an important player for this squad. He has to improve from a technical point of view, but can be devastating when he has space to run into."

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."

Weston McKennie will not return to action for Juventus until next season, head coach Massimiliano Allegri has confirmed.

The United States international fractured the second and third metatarsals in his left foot during last week's 1-1 draw with Villarreal in the Champions League.

Juve announced the following day that McKennie would likely sit out the next eight weeks, meaning he would be back in time for the closing stages of the campaign.

However, speaking after Juve's 1-0 win over Spezia on Sunday, Allegri said he does not expect the 23-year-old to return to action again this term.

"The season is over for Weston because of his injury. He'll be back next season," Allegri told DAZN.

McKennie has featured in 28 of the Bianconeri's 39 matches this season in all competitions, his 1,954 minutes on the field the eighth most of any Juve outfield player.

The 23-year-old, who has four goals to his name, will also miss the USA's upcoming triple-header of World Cup qualifying fixtures.

Juve won in McKennie's absence against Spezia on Sunday thanks to Alvaro Morata's 21st-minute strike at the Allianz Stadium.

 

Morata slotted home the only goal of the game after being played in by Manuel Locatelli – the Spain striker's first Serie A goal since netting against Bologna on December 18.

The victory extends Juve's unbeaten run to 14 Serie A matches – their best such streak since March 2019 when going 31 without defeat – and tightens their hold on fourth place.

"It's always important for the forwards. I'm happy with the goal and the performance," Allegri said at his post-match news conference when asked about Morata's goal. 

"Today, after so many matches with the same players, all you have to do is congratulate the boys. It wasn't easy to win. We dropped in the second half. 

"For the first time we are mathematically fourth in the rankings. In the first half we had to finish the game, in the second it was normal that we would suffer a little."

Juventus have now won four Serie A matches by a 1-0 scoreline this season, a tally only sixth-placed Roma can better with five.

And the manner of this latest slender victory was particularly pleasing for Allegri.

"If you want to reach your objectives, you have to play these games with suffering and it was important to bring home the three points," he said. 

"I have never seen a team win every game easily. You get to the Champions League and all your targets through performances like this, winning 1-0 with suffering.

"People forget quickly in football, but in my five years we had a lot of 1-0 results spent sitting in our own half for the final 20 minutes. 

"The important thing is not to let anything go in those moments."

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."

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.

Weston McKennie was injured against Villarreal on Tuesday in a blow to both Juventus and the United States.

Midfielder McKennie had to be helped from the pitch with nine minutes remaining of Juve's 1-1 Champions League draw.

And reports after the game suggested the former Schalke man had fractured two bones in his left foot.

Head coach Massimiliano Allegri was still waiting on official confirmation as he faced the media, saying: "He is going for an X-ray to his foot; we hope it is nothing serious."

An extended period on the sidelines would prompt concern for both club and country.

While Juve are battling for a top-four finish in Serie A and hoping to advance in the Champions League, the USMNT have vital World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica next month.

McKennie's international team-mate Giovanni Reyna left Borussia Dortmund's most recent match through injury.

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." 

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