Andrea Pirlo insists Juventus remain determined to push for glory on all fronts despite not being at 100 per cent, with the club heading into a pivotal stage of the season.
The reigning champions find themselves in a battle to remain in touch with Inter in the Serie A title race; they trail the leaders by 10 points, albeit with a game in hand.
They host Lazio on Saturday in league action, then have a crucial Champions League clash with Porto to follow on Tuesday, the Bianconeri needing to overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit to make it through to the quarter-finals.
With a Coppa Italia final to come later in the year, Pirlo appreciates he will have to manage his squad carefully in the coming weeks, though insists his focus will not switch away from the Scudetto while there is still a chance of winning it for a 10th successive season.
“All the matches are decisive for Juventus. The next game is tomorrow’s match and we will concentrate on it with all our strength to win and only then will we think about Porto,” Pirlo told the media on Friday.
“We are still in the race on all fronts and as long as there is hope we will give our all to try to win the league.
“The enthusiasm is there because we are going through a period of tough and important games. Tomorrow’s match is also important for the standings and where we are is the same as last week. We can’t make mistakes in case those in front of us do so.”
He added: “We must play an intelligent game tomorrow, knowing that we are in a delicate period and we are not at 100 per cent.
“It will be important to manage every situation and every play well, because you won’t be able to go to 100 miles per hour for 90 minutes.”
4+4+4 – Cristiano Ronaldo is the first player to have scored at least four goals with his right foot (12), left foot (4) and head (4) in the top-5 European leagues this season. Multifaceted. pic.twitter.com/d8abYSdhuY
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) March 3, 2021
Pirlo is hampered in his preparations by injuries within the first-team squad, while Rodrigo Bentancur is isolating away from the group after testing positive for COVID-19.
Alvaro Morata is nearing a return to action; the striker’s recent absence has increased the reliance on Cristiano Ronaldo, who has scored four goals in Juve’s past three games.
“When you play a lot of games, a day or two of rest is good,” Pirlo said. “It also applies to Cristiano.
“Now that we are short up front, he has gritted his teeth and will do it for as long as we need it. He has shown and continues to demonstrate his great professionalism.”
Pirlo revealed Leonardo Bonucci has been able to take part in some sessions, though fellow defender Matthijs de Ligt is yet to resume training. Morata, meanwhile, is “getting better every day”.
There was also good news regarding Arthur, with the midfielder sidelined since early February but potentially close to a comeback.
“Arthur’s medical check-up went well yesterday, the pain is reducing,” the Juve boss revealed. “We hope he can give us a hand in the next few matches, it will depend on the pain when he resumes training with the team.
“Aaron Ramsey is fine and could play tomorrow. He can be an extra resource and we might need him.”