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Football Reporting


Pirlo praises ‘more mature’ Morata as Juventus claim comfortable Champions League win

The Spaniard has enjoyed a strong return to Turin with his manager thoroughly impressed with what he’s seen

Andrea Pirlo says Alvaro Morata is playing “free of pressure” after another impressive display from the on-loan striker in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Morata, who returned to Juve on a temporary basis from Atletico Madrid in September, took his tally in this season’s competition to six goals with the third in the Bianconeri’s 3-0 win over Dynamo Kiev

Juve – who had already secured their last-16 spot after three wins from their opening four games – had earlier gone ahead thanks to Federico Chiesa’s first Juve strike and Cristiano Ronaldo’s 750th career goal.

Morata is level with Manchester United‘s Marcus Rashford and Erling Haaland as the Champions League top scorer this season, while his seven goal involvements is just one fewer than Borussia Monchengladbach‘s Alassane Plea, who leads the way in that department. 

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Morata’s tally also means he has scored the most goals for Juventus in the group stage since David Trezeguet also scored six in the 2001-02 campaign. 

Pirlo was thrilled with the Spain international’s contribution and believes his experiences elsewhere in recent years have made him a more rounded player than the one that left the club in 2016. 

“Morata arrived very young at Juventus and he returned from his experiences in Madrid and London a more mature person and player,” the Juve boss told Sky Sport Italia .

“He feels happy and free of pressure, so that helps anyone give their best. We wanted him at all costs and are very happy to have him.”

Juve will need to overcome Barcelona at Camp Nou by three goals next week if they are to qualify for the knockout stages as group winners. 

While conceding it is a tall order, Pirlo believes his players will be highly motivated by the challenge. 

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“These were the easiest games to prepare as a player, so I hope the same will be true as a coach,” he added. “These fixtures really focus the mind, the motivation comes by itself and I feel ready.”

Captain Leonardo Bonucci agreed with his coach that the trip to Catalonia will be difficult, saying: “It won’t be easy to score the three goals against Barcelona to take the top spot, but we’ll try our best.

“We know there’s a process and a journey we need to go through. The target was to qualify for the round of 16 and be in the running with Barcelona for the top spot until the end, so we’ve achieved that. Now we’ll try to complete the job.

“I think we are on track considering we didn’t have any real rest or the kind of pre-season training routine you need when there are many changes both on the bench and in the squad.”

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