Football

Juventus face uncertainties after Covid-19 break: Maurizio Sarri

Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri admitted that his team are venturing into the unknown as they return to action in the Coppa Italia semi-final, second leg against AC Milan tomorrow morning (Singapore time).

The Bianconeri are favourites to reach next week's final after a 1-1 draw in the first leg, but Sarri said the enforced break due to the Covid-19 pandemic has thrown up many uncertainties ahead of the tie at the Allianz Stadium.

"None of the staff at this moment knows where the preparation is because we come off an abnormal interruption," he said, noting that the stoppage was different to the usual close season.

"This is a unique situation, which does not give us any certainty, also because we have obviously not played friendlies.

"I am satisfied with what I have seen during these days in training, but the response during a game will be different."

The Italian tactician added that the risk of injury would be "very high" as the players would have lost muscular strength.

With so many variables, Sarri also insisted that there are no favourites to win the Serie A - which resumes next weekend - as all teams risk dropping points.

With 12 games left, only one point separates leaders Juventus from second-placed Lazio. Inter Milan are third, nine points behind Juve, but with a game in hand.

For Inter's city rivals Milan, who are seventh, the Coppa Italia represents their final chance for glory.

It has been a turbulent time for the fallen giants, with incessant speculation that the club management wants to sack coach Stefano Pioli at the end of the season and bring in former RB Leipzig coach Ralf Rangnick.

Against Juventus, Milan will be missing talismanic forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who suffered a calf injury in training last month. The Swede, 38, has revitalised the team since signing for six months in January.

Gazzetta dello Sport reported that there was a tense meeting between Milan chief executive Ivan Gazidis and the players on Wednesday to discuss a pay cut due to the stoppage.

Ibrahimovic was among those who complained that meeting should have been held much earlier and reportedly told Gazidis: "It's not the Milan it used to be, there's too much uncertainty."

In the other Coppa Italia semi-final on Sunday morning, Napoli will host Inter, after winning the first leg 1-0. - REUTERS

Football