Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 3 August 2020

A blank for Cristiano Ronaldo and Sarri tempted to field Under-23 team as Juventus crash to humiliating defeat

Juve lose 2-0 to Cagliari as manager bemoans Serie A schedule

Juventus manager Maurizio Sarri says he may field his Under-23 team in Saturday’s Serie A finale after the Italian champions crashed to a humiliating 2-0 defeat at Cagliari on Wednesday.

The defeat means Juve have won just two of their last seven games, but of more pressing concern for Sarri is the toll taken on his players with his sights set further afield to next month’s Champions League resumption.

Luca Gagliano’s first goal in Italy’s top flight will be one to tell his grandchildren after the 20-year-old poked home from close range against Italy World Cup winner Gigi Buffon after eight minutes.

He then turned provider for Giovanni Simeone in first-half stoppage time to give Cagliari their first win over Juventus in 11 years.

The setback itself did not seem to concern Sarri as much as Juve’s defensive deficiencies throughout the campaign.

"The 40 goals conceded [this season] may be a concern, but tonight's game is not," said Sarri.

"We had nine injured and we came from a championship win 68 hours ago, so it was an atypical game that should be taken for what it is.”

It was a worrying performance for Sarri's side. The Italian took aim at Serie A for Juve’s congested schedule ahead of their return leg against Lyon on August 7, where they trail the French side 1-0 for a place in the Champions League quarter-finals.

"We are the only ones in Europe who have played five games in 12 days, the league has created big problems for us,” Sarri added.

"Let's see how we are tomorrow and if it is appropriate to line up the Under-23 team on Saturday against Roma to recover better."

Cristiano Ronaldo missed the chance to keep pace with Serie A's leading scorer Ciro Immobile. The Portuguese now trails the Lazio forward's tally of 35 by four goals, with one match remaining.

Immobile moved to within one goal of equalling the Serie A single season scoring record as Lazio beat relegated Brescia 2-0 to stay in the race for second place.

The Italian striker struck eight minutes from time to close in on Gonzalo Higuain's record of 36 goals, scored for Napoli in 2015/16.

Lazio are fourth, equal on 78 points with third-placed Atalanta, who beat Parma 2-1 on Tuesday, and one adrift of Inter Milan who are second following their 2-0 win over Napoli.

Inter and Atalanta will go head-to-head this weekend, with Lazio's last game at seventh-placed Napoli.

Behind the top four, who are assured of Champions League football next season, Roma sealed their Europa League group stage berth with a 3-2 win at Torino.

AC Milan, who will finish sixth, must go through the Europa League qualifying rounds despite beating Sampdoria 4-1.

Star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic bagged a brace as Milan extended their unbeaten run to 11 games.

The veteran Swede took his tally to 51 goals for the club, combined with his previous stint between 2010 and 2012, becoming the first player to have scored 50 goals for both Milan clubs, with 57 netted during his time at city rivals Inter from 2006 to 2009.

"Like Benjamin Button, I've always been young, never old," said Ibrahimovic of the film of a man who ages in reverse.

"They tell me I'm old and tired, but I'm just warming up."

Updated: July 30, 2020 02:04 PM

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