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.

Alvaro Morata spoke of how Massimiliano Allegri convinced him to stay Juventus and that if it were up to him he would always remain with the Bianconeri.

Spain striker Morata returned to the Allianz Stadium in September 2020 and is in the second season of a loan from Atletico Madrid.

During last month's January transfer window Morata was linked with a LaLiga return, with Barcelona reported to have been interested in his signature.

Such speculation only mounted with Juve spending big to land Dusan Vlahovic from Fiorentina.

Asked about Barca's interest, Morata – speaking at a news conference previewing Juve's Champions League last-16 first-leg tie against Villarreal – said: "It's not important.

"We talked with the coach during the transfer window, about his ideas, and he told me the arrival of Dusan would help me and that has been the case. I'm happy to be here.

"If it depended on me, I would always stay here." 

Morata went on to explain how influential Allegri was in convincing him to stay in Turin.

"I have always felt his confidence, since we started working together. He is the first to ask me things, but he knows what I am and what I am not.

"He told me that I had to stay and that he trusted me. Now I have to give everything to return his trust."

Vlahovic moved to Juve in an €80million deal and Morata spoke about how his arrival has lifted Juve's squad.

"He has given us all extra energy," he said. 

"You can see in his eyes how much Dusan is looking forward to tomorrow's match. He only brings positive things.

"He is young and he has a wonderful career ahead of him. He's adapted right away."

Massimiliano Allegri remains optimistic about Juventus' chances of succeeding in the Coppa Italia and the Champions League.

The Bianconeri occupy the final Champions League qualification spot in Serie A, three points ahead of fifth-placed Atalanta, who have a game in hand.

Allegri's team struggled to find their feet at the start of the season, but they are now unbeaten across seven games in all competitions, including a 2-1 win over Sassuolo that booked their spot in the Coppa Italia semi-final - where they will meet Fiorentina across a two-legged tie.

While the 54-year-old has repeatedly quashed claims that Juve could mount a late charge for the Scudetto, he suggested his side fancy their chances in the other two competitions they are in.

"We play to win, both the Cup and the Champions League, then obviously it all depends on how things go," Allegri told reporters ahead of Tuesday's away first-leg clash with Villarreal in the Champions League last 16.

"How does our approach change with the new away goals rule? I don't know yet, in the meantime let's think about getting a result.

"Order, technique and patience: it is unlikely that the next round will be decided on Tuesday. The derby [a 1-1 draw with Torino] was a hard-fought game, Juve played a good game, but you always need to be calm and balanced in the analysis.

"At the beginning of the season against Torino, we would have lost. I'm happy with the team's approach, so I want to see them play well with and without the ball against Villarreal. We will have to be both good and lucky."

Juve's upturn in form has coincided with the January signing of Dusan Vlahovic, who moved from Fiorentina in a deal that could be worth up to €80million.

However, Juve will be without talisman Paulo Dybala – who leads the club scoring and assist charts this season (12 goals, six assists) – after the forward sustained a muscle injury against Torino.

In the Argentina international's absence, Allegri confirmed that new star Vlahovic will be supported by Alvaro Morata, who has scored in two of his last four appearances against Villarreal in all competitions (two goals).

"Alvaro Morata and Vlahovic play up top, then let's see for the rest," he continued. "I have some doubts in midfield.

"We must not give an excessive load of responsibility to Vlahovic - this is his [Champions League] debut, let's not forget that. I must also protect him as I have done with others. He is just 22 years old."

Allegri has progressed from four of his previous five round-of-16 ties in charge of Juventus in the Champions League, with his only elimination coming against Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich in 2015-16.

Meanwhile, Villarreal head coach Unai Emery has only won one of his six games as a head coach in the knockout stages of the competition (D1 L4), losing each of the last three in a row, but Allegri reserved praise for his opposite number.

"It is not an easy tie - Villarreal have a good coach, they have technique, physicality and also they have come from a good period," he added. "On our part, we will have to bring maximum effort."

Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri insisted that a 1-1 draw with Torino at Allianz Stadium on Friday continued his team's "positive streak".

The hosts took the lead through a first-half Matthijs de Ligt header, but Andrea Belotti equalised just after the hour mark and Juve struggled to create any meaningful chances in response, failing to hit the target at all in the second half.

The Old Lady remain in fourth place in Serie A, eight points behind leaders Milan having played a game more, and just three points ahead of Atalanta in fifth, who have two games in hand.

Speaking to DAZN after the game, Allegri appeared to be satisfied with both the result and performance.

"It matters because, with the point, we followed up on the positive results we've had in the last two to three months," he said. "It wasn't easy, we weren't brilliant compared to Torino, but we played a good game.

"Paradoxically, we conceded a goal in our best moment. In the first half we had two or three situations where we could have scored, but not in the second half.

"Then we weren't very clean in the second half, but I think it's a normal path, it's natural when you're playing in the league, especially when you're aiming to be in the top four, so a draw isn't to be dismissed.

"I'd say the boys played a good game in terms of commitment and intensity. They tried to win until the end, so it's a point that we take home and allows us to extend the positive streak."

Allegri also seemed unconcerned by the performance of Dusan Vlahovic, who struggled to make an impact, having just one shot all game before coming off in the 74th minute.

The Serbia striker made a January move from Fiorentina in a transfer that could be worth up to €80million. 

"He struggled because he's a very good player, but he has to learn a lot," Allegri added. "As many players have to learn. Tonight, he had to drag Bremer around the pitch and not give him any points of reference, because he is very strong on direct balls and less strong when you drag him around the pitch.

"Let's not forget that he comes from a team who are having a very good season, but he played one game a week. He's played six [here], so I think it's normal for him to grow. It amuses me because someone comes in and has to play every game.

"You have to grow, you have to get used to it, all the things you need in a great team, otherwise physically you can't manage to play a game every three days."

Daniele Rugani was withdrawn from the starting line-up ahead of the game after picking up an injury in the warm-up, while Luca Pellegrini and Paolo Dybala both came off with knocks, but Allegri did not seem concerned despite the upcoming Champions League round-of-16 first leg away at Villarreal on Tuesday.

"I'm not worried at all also because during the season there are injuries and those we have and who are fit and enlisted, will play on Tuesday against Villarreal and then we will prepare for Empoli," he said.

Massimiliano Allegri believes Juventus' improvement in recent weeks is simply down to greater familiarity and understanding between himself and the players.

Allegri returned to Juve last May after two years away, with Maurizio Sarri and Andrea Pirlo each spending a season at the helm during the intervening campaigns.

The experiment with Pirlo proved particularly ill-judged, while Sarri was shown the door despite guiding Juve to the title – his successor presided over a fourth-placed finish as the Bianconeri's Scudetto streak ended at nine.

Allegri's return did not usher in an immediate change in fortunes, with Juve taking just two points from their first four Serie A matches. That was their worst start to a season in 60 years and left them in the bottom three.

But their form did soon pick up, and in the past three months they have embarked on a promising run. The Bianconeri head into Friday's Derby della Mole against Torino unbeaten in 11 league games – their best such sequence since a stretch of 12 without defeat from September to December 2020 – and sitting fourth.

That run was almost ended by Atalanta last weekend, but Danilo's stoppage-time goal salvaged a 1-1 draw. Allegri is adamant he knows why Juve have climbed the table.

"Personal goals have been set aside to make yourself available to the team," Allegri told reporters of his players.

"We have been together for six or seven months now, we know each other better. Now they know my language better, too. We are more of a team, there is enthusiasm and desire to win."

On the Atalanta draw, Allegri added: "The team was doing well, then we conceded a goal when in a favourable situation.

"We look at the glass half full: it was a good point, we were left in front of them. We must continue our journey to try to finish in the top four.

"We must not be happy regardless. The draw with Atalanta [only] becomes excellent if we win the derby.

"A point is also important. You can win or lose the Scudetto by a point, enter the Champions League or not by a point, you save yourself or not by a point."

Nevertheless, Juve certainly have issues to contend with ahead of Friday's clash, particularly in the injury department.

Leonardo Bonucci will be absent, meaning only Matthijs de Ligt is set to be available from their first-choice defensive trio – Giorgio Chiellini is not expected to return from a "low-grade lesion" in his calf until next month.

"Tomorrow is complicated, I don't know if I'll line up with the three up front," he continued. "There will also be no Bonucci, he has calf fatigue. Let's see if he will be available on Tuesday [against Villarreal in the Champions League].

"Who plays centre-back? It depends. Denis Zakaria could."

Victory at the Allianz Stadium on Friday would move Juve to within four points of third-placed Napoli and six of pacesetters Milan, though the top three will all have at least one game in hand.

Despite their failure to pull away from Atalanta in the hunt for a Champions League qualification place, Massimiliano Allegri said Juventus' 1-1 draw at the Gewiss Stadium was an "important point".

Atalanta had looked to be on their way to a third consecutive top-flight win over the Bianconeri after Ruslan Malinovskiy's stunning strike 14 minutes from time – the first goal Juve had conceded in 383 minutes in Serie A

Danilo ensured a share of the spoils, though, heading home two minutes into stoppage time to stretch Juve's unbeaten run to 11 games since they lost the reverse fixture in November. 

The result meant Juve remained in fourth, two points ahead of their hosts, although La Dea do have a game in hand.

"It would've been disappointing to lose a game after playing so well," Allegri told DAZN.

"We made mistakes in our finishing and the final ball. There were three minutes of terror just before half-time on the counter after we lost the ball cheaply and [Matthijs] De Ligt threw himself in the way twice.

"The second half was better. Atalanta were on the counter and Malinovskiy did well to win that free kick. It was an extraordinary goal and Danilo scored a great equaliser.

"[Weston] McKennie opened up a lot of spaces for [Paulo] Dybala and [Alvaro] Morata. The lads had some good triangles, the first chance was created by McKennie and Dybala, but there was a period where we got too crammed together and didn't spread the play.

"Atalanta are very aggressive, so we had to move the ball quickly to get it behind them. It was a very entertaining game, we were losing 1-0 and risked defeat, but it is an important point.

"We wanted to win, but knew Atalanta were strong and so we're happy to keep the unbeaten run going."

Juve are nine points adrift of leaders Milan and Allegri insists his side are not in the title race.

"It was official before this," he added. "There are too many points to claw back from three teams. We just try to improve our performances and we need to make a step forward when we have that final ball to turn a chance into a goal. That's where we need to do better.

"I said in September that Inter would win. I still feel that they are the strongest squad, no disrespect to Milan and Napoli.

"Right now, Inter are stronger than Juve. We dropped too many points at the start of the season. If we had just four points more, we could've had some fun, but that's not where we are."

Juve are next in action on Friday when they host Torino in the Derby della Mole. 

Massimiliano Allegri insists there will be more important games to come for Juventus despite the apparent stakes when they visit Atalanta on Sunday.

Juve are unbeaten in Serie A since their previous meeting with Atalanta at the end of November and head to Bergamo in fourth, two points and one place ahead of their opponents.

After a difficult start to the season, the Bianconeri's Champions League qualification hopes are in their hands – although that may well depend on securing a positive result this weekend.

Even after playing Atalanta, however, Juve have 13 games remaining, meaning Allegri is keen to talk down the magnitude of the fixture.

"It's a direct clash for fourth place, it's important but not decisive," he told a news conference. "It's a good test, it will be difficult because Atalanta have shown in recent years that they have won a place to fight for the top four positions.

"They are a physical team, who will be very angry about their elimination in the Coppa Italia, and so the game requires great focus, physicality and technique to bring a good result home."

Pushed again on the significance of this result, Allegri replied: "No, because Atalanta have [played] one less game. Now we are close, it is not decisive for anyone tomorrow. It's important, beautiful to play, but not decisive."

Juve's 10-match unbeaten run in the top flight is their longest since 2020, while a sequence of three consecutive clean sheets is their best since 2018.

But Atalanta have previously proven themselves capable of checking Juve's momentum.

Gian Piero Gasperini has overseen back-to-back Serie A wins over Juve – already Atalanta's best run in the fixture – with Parma (between 2010 and 2011) the last team to beat the perennial champions in three straight.

And Allegri is not getting carried away heading into this match, saying: "In football you always need balance. We come from a good period of 12, 13 games. Now, we must not think, because we lose focus on what we need to do.

"We have reached a semi-final of the Coppa Italia, we have to fix the league season game by game, and the more we go on the more difficult it will be to win, because the points matter more for everyone.

"We have done nothing; it is normal for Juventus to win games. Tomorrow there is Atalanta and we have to try to take three points, and then Torino, then the Champions League and so on.

"So far we have not conquered anything, there is only to do right now, there is no chatting."

Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri hailed new signings Dusan Vlahovic and Denis Zakaria but acknowledged his side were lucky to edge past Sassuolo in the Coppa Italia. 

Paulo Dybala fired in the opener at the Allianz Stadium after just three minutes in Thursday's quarter-final, but Hamed Traore soon restored parity 

Allegri's side twice struck the woodwork in the second half, with Matthijis de Ligt missing a gilt-edged opportunity, but a late winner arrived when Vlahovic's effort deflected past Gianluca Pegolo after an attempted Ruan block. 

Victory meant Juve have qualified for the Coppa Italia semi-finals in seven of the last eight seasons, while no side has made it past the quarter-final stage on more occasions than the Bianconeri (10) since the 2006-07 season. 

Much of the credit Allegri gave to his players after the game was aimed at new additions Zakaria and Vlahovic, the latter of whom made a January move from Fiorentina in a transfer that could be worth up to €80million. 

 

"We are happy with the signings of Vlahovic and Zakaria, who have integrated well," Allegri told Mediaset. 

"We are happy to have Vlahovic, who still needs to improve as much at attacking the depth better, but this is part of the improvement of each player.  

"We also had luck after a good second half, their goal made us leave the game but then we woke up." 

Juve's fortunes have slowly been changing. They have won nine of their 13 games since the start of December and have moved up to fourth in Serie A – eight points behind leaders Inter, who have a game in hand. 

But when asked if Juve could make a late charge for the Scudetto, Allegri swiftly dismissed the suggestions: "We are potentially 11 points behind Inter.  

"We have to make the race against Atalanta and we will have to be ready: it will be head-to-head until the end. The others are out of reach." 

Vlahovic may take the plaudits, including from Allegri, for his role in the winning goal, but he failed to replicate the form he showed when scoring on his debut against Hellas Verona last Sunday. 

The striker missed the target with three of his five shots, while also squandering a glorious first-half chance, but the Serbia international expressed his satisfaction with how he is settling in as he heaped praise on his attacking colleagues Dybala and Alvaro Morata. 

"We are only at the beginning, but as I said last time, I owe a lot to my team-mates, to the coach, to the whole club, who have welcomed me very well, they are helping me a lot," Vlahovic said. 

"It would not have been possible without the team. For me it is an honour to play here, to help my team-mates and to be available to the team. 

"They [Dybala and Morata] are two very good guys, after great champions, great players, they have won a lot. I'm the youngest, I'm here to listen to them and try to reach their levels." 

The Bianconeri will look to continue their fine run of form when they return to Serie A action against fellow top-four contenders Atalanta on Sunday. 

Dusan Vlahovic inspired a late winner as Juventus secured their place in the Coppa Italia semi-finals with a 2-1 home victory over Sassuolo on Thursday.

Reigning champions Juve raced out the blocks at the Allianz Stadium as Paulo Dybala scored after just three minutes, but Hamed Traore soon levelled things up.

The Bianconeri were twice denied by the woodwork after the break, with Matthijs de Ligt missing a golden chance, though Vlahovic fortuitously fired past Gianluca Pegolo via a heavy deflection off Ruan with two minutes remaining to send Juve through.

Massimiliano Allegri's team will now face Fiorentina – who defeated Atalanta 3-2 in the day's earlier quarter-final – in a two-legged tie across March and April.

Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri has revealed that Leonardo Bonucci and Mattia Perin will start the Coppa Italia quarter-final fixture against Sassuolo, and hinted that Dusan Vlahovic could be rested ahead of a huge Serie A clash with top-four rivals Atalanta.

In-form Juventus are unbeaten in 10 league games since losing at home to Atalanta in late November, but will shift their focus to reaching a 10th Coppa Italia semi-final since 2006-07 when Sassuolo travel to Turin. 

Allegri, who lifted Italy's domestic cup in four successive seasons during his previous spell at the helm, said the Bianconeri were determined to reach the final four, but spoke openly about his intention to ring the changes for the quarter-final match-up.

"Sassuolo play well technically, they lost their last game 4-0 [against Sampdoria], so they’ll be looking for revenge," he said.

"We need a serious performance, which would help us to prepare for the match against Atalanta.

"I am happy to be back and to be in the race for all the targets. The enthusiasm is back after the last game, but we can’t go too far. Too much confidence is not okay.

"Our target is to go as far as possible in the Champions League and to finish in the top four."

Dusan Vlahovic is not giving up hope on winning the Serie A title after helping to fire Juventus into fourth on his Bianconeri debut on Sunday.

Vlahovic joined in the January transfer window in a big-money move from Fiorentina and marked his bow with the opener in a 2-0 win over Verona.

The victory left Juventus eight points behind leaders Inter, beaten by rivals Milan on Saturday, although the Nerazzurri have a game in hand.

The Serbian was pleased to have helped his side to three vital points and says Juve have to have belief they are still in the race for the Scudetto.

"It was very important to win this match because these games after the [international] breaks are the most difficult mentally," Vlahovic said to DAZN after the game. "We had a good approach right from the start and in the end, we managed to do what was most important, to win.

"I have to thank my team-mates and the coach who welcomed me very well and helped me a lot, I'm trying to understand as soon as possible how it works here, I just have to continue like this and work harder. The most important thing is to have won today.

"Juve always thinks about the highest goals, when they start a competition they always do it to win. I'm here to give my maximum contribution, match by match, and at the end of the season we will do the maths."

Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri, however, suggested the top three are the only contenders.

"The Scudetto? It concerns the three in front, Inter, Milan and Napoli," Allegri said to DAZN. "We must take one step at a time. We now have the goal in our sights. The Coppa Italia and a place in the Champions League: 80 points are needed."

The Bianconeri's next Serie A fixture - after their Coppa Italia quarter-final against Sassuolo on Thursday - is a crunch clash with Atalanta on February 13, who are two points behind Juventus but with a game in hand.

Massimiliano Allegri was pleased with Juventus' display in a 0-0 draw at Milan on Sunday despite their failure to register a single shot on target.

It was the first time the Bianconeri had not had a shot on target in a Serie A match since March 2019 against Genoa.

The stalemate meant Juve remained in fifth, 11 points adrift of leaders Inter having played a game more.

However, Allegri was not despondent with this side's efforts and believes they are on the right track.

"It was a good game. We were coming off a lot of head-to-head clashes and a defeat would've sent us 10 points behind Milan, so that'd be negative," he told DAZN.

"We need to be a little calmer and more focused in the final third, as we are hasty and get the final ball wrong. It was a hard-fought game with some strong tackles; it was balanced and a draw is the right result.

"I think we did better in the second half against a good Milan and being at this stage after two head-to-head meetings is good.

"I am glad because the lads are playing more like a team, understanding when to control the ball in defensive and attacking moments. We are getting there.

"Considering how we started the season, I am very happy to be in this position and we'll see what happens in February.

"This was one of those games where anything could happen. We kept Milan within seven points and that is the important thing."

 

Giorgio Chiellini was typically robust at the heart of Juve's defence on what was his 550th game across all competitions for the club, and the 37-year-old agreed with his head coach that the club are moving in the right direction.

"I always think positive and see the glass half full. Obviously, I'd have preferred to win, but it was a balanced game. We have improved since the start of the season and are more solid now," he said.

"It's a pity as a win would've given us a boost, but we are on the right path and there are four important months coming up. We're up there and have to keep going.

"I think we've improved in our reading of the game, as we are a team for 95 minutes, but we lacked that final moment in front of goal. It was a good Juve; we have done very well over the last month and a half."

Juve are next in action on February 5 when they host Hellas Verona in Serie A. 

Stefano Pioli is paying no attention to his poor record against Massimiliano Allegri ahead of Milan's crunch clash with Juventus at San Siro on Sunday.

Milan boss Pioli has lost 11 and drawn four of his 15 meetings with Allegri in Serie A – the longest winless run for one head coach against another in the three-points-per-win era 

That includes a 1-1 draw in their most recent meeting four months ago when Ante Rebic cancelled out an early Alvaro Morata opener.

The Rossoneri are seven points better off than Juve with 22 games played, however, and Pioli is looking to end his disappointing run against Allegri in this latest encounter.

"I don't like to look back too much," he said at Saturday's pre-match news conference. "The past doesn't count, only tomorrow's game.

"It's a negative fact, of course, and one to try to change immediately."

 

Milan may be three places in front their opponents, but they suffered a shock 2-1 loss at home to Spezia last time out to miss out on the chance to move top of Serie A.

Juve are unbeaten in their last eight league games, meanwhile, winning six and drawing two, which is their best run in the competition since 12 without defeat in December 2020.

And Pioli is anticipating a far different test to earlier in the season when Juventus were still seeking their first win of Allegri's second spell in Turin.

"Juve have grown since our last game and are in positive form, but we are also doing well," he said. "We'll have to fight ball by ball and inch by inch.

"It's evident that Juventus are now in a great moment of form compared to the start of the season. We will have to put in a great performance.

"It's an important game, but it won't be decisive. Juventus are showing their strength, so being able to win would be important for our spot in the table."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is available to face Juve and is seeking a third league goal against his former side, with those previous two strikes coming at San Siro in 2010 and 2020.

Should he find the net, he will become the oldest player to score against Juve in the Italian top flight at the age of 40 years and 112 days, overtaking Silvio Piola.

The Sweden international has not scored a home goal since September, but he remains an important player under Pioli.

"He's had his chances but he hasn't taken advantage of them," Pioli said. "With Juventus we won't have 10 goals but there will be situations where he can be decisive for us."

Massimiliano Allegri shut down talk of a Scudetto challenge as his improving Juventus prepare to face Milan at San Siro on Sunday.

The Bianconeri are on an eight-match unbeaten run in Serie A, their longest such streak since December 2020.

Having lost three times in six matches in a tough spell in October and November, Juve have won six and drawn two to close back to within a point of the top four, with Milan seven points ahead in second and champions Inter a further two clear at the top of the table.

Allegri, though, is not prepared to look beyond the challenge of facing the Rossoneri, who have lost only once in the past four league meetings with Juve, having been beaten in 14 of the previous 17.

"We're experiencing a good moment, but the path is still long because there are so many games left, and we're behind in the table," he told reporters on Saturday.

"Tomorrow is a great game to play. I'm sorry there are only 5,000 spectators; it would be nice to play these great events with full stadiums. It's an important match for the standings and we need to do well.

"We can't get too far ahead with things. We face Milan now, who have done a great job in the past year and a half. Congratulations to Stefano [Pioli], who has done an excellent job.

"We have to play an important game to keep close, to get to the end of February in the best condition in the table. We can't think too far ahead at this moment, or talk about the Scudetto."

Allegri delivered Milan their most recent league title back in 2011, after which they could only watch on as Juve embarked on a run of nine consecutive Scudetti before their run was halted by Inter last season.

Pioli's arrival has signalled a shift in the balance of power, though. Milan were second in 2020-21, a point above Juve in fourth, and are the obvious challengers to Simone Inzaghi's Inter this term.

 

Indeed, since the start of 2020-21, the Nerazzurri are the only side to have won more games (43) and earned more points (141) than Milan (39 wins and 127 points). In a league table of that time frame, Juve would be fifth.

Allegri suggested Juve are taking some inspiration from Milan's modern model as they look to move into a new era.

"Milan worked well, they did things in an orderly way and they chose good players. They're fighting for the title," Allegri said.

"Juve had nine wonderful years and won two trophies last season. This year, without [Cristiano] Ronaldo, there is more space for other players. We've played games with six players between the ages of 20 and 23.

"Young players give you strength, but they lack experience. You can only improve by playing matches."

The future of Paulo Dybala remains unclear but the Argentina star has history against Milan, with seven goals and five assists in 12 league games against them.

While he did not comment on contract talks with Dybala, Allegri certainly believes the forward is improving.

"Paulo is better physically. He's growing, he is very calm and this helps him because he can play more freely," he said.

"I would say he has less responsibility on his shoulders and I'm happy with what he's doing. He will give us a lot between now and the end of the season."

Massimiliano Allegri warned that his Juventus players sometimes become too relaxed as he implored for improvements after defeating Udinese.

Goals from Paulo Dybala and Weston McKennie saw Juve claim a 2-0 triumph on Saturday, lifting fifth-placed Juve onto the same points as Atalanta, who occupy the last Champions League qualification spot.

Atalanta do have two games in hand, however, as the race for the final place in Europe's premier competition hots up.

Despite Juve's victory, Allegri outlined his reasons for frustration with some parts of the performance at the Allianz Stadium.

"We held out mentally and technically for 120 minutes on Wednesday, but there was a moment tonight when we just left the game," Allegri told Sky Sport Italia.

"That's not right, we always have to be fully focused, especially when there aren't enough fans to keep us on our toes, because for 10 minutes we ran some big risks.

"The thing we absolutely cannot do without is intensity, tempo and aggression, because if we don't drop the intensity level, then we don't get distracted and can make our technique count.

"I looked at the line-up, we had Matthijs de Ligt born in 1999, [Dejan] Kulusevski 2000, [Moise] Kean 2000, [Luca] Pellegrini 1999, the oldest was [Juan] Cuadrado and the others all between 20 and 23 years old. 

"You can lack some experience and understanding in those moments of when to hold off and when to control it."

Allegri assured, though, that with experience will come the understanding of how to control such moments in any given fixture.

"We made a mistake in the second half, thinking we were relaxed and in charge, so we drifted out of the game. It's not about finding a leader, it's about the general maturity as a whole," he said.

"You need experience in every profession, nobody is born knowing everything.

"We need patience. I did get very angry at that moment, but I talked to them afterwards and tried to make them understand. The important thing is they understand quickly and it has to be done on an individual level, whether they are at Juventus or elsewhere."

Juve are next in Serie A action on Sunday when they travel to face Milan.

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