Juventus boss Andrea Pirlo has issued a rallying cry to his side following their Champions League exit, insisting they still have plenty to play for this season.
The Old Lady last tasted European success all the way back in 1996, and their wait to once again be crowned Champions League winners goes on following their last 16 defeat to Porto on Tuesday night.
Pirlo is under no illusions as to just how disappointing Juventus’ exit from the competition is for their season, though he’s calling on his side to show heart and character as they look to bounce back and ensure they will be playing Champions League football next season.
“The team is getting back to it. We’ve suffered a heavy blow, but we have a clear path in mind, it will take great pride and team spirit,” he told reporters (via the club’s official website).
“In my career I have experienced several similar situations. I have always tried to restart with great enthusiasm and tomorrow we will do the same. We are in March: we have 13 games and the final of the Coppa Italia.
“We take note of the mistakes that we made and paid for in the Champions League, but now we have to focus on the league. We want to show that we are Juve and that we want to fight for the title until the end.”
Pirlo’s first season as Juventus boss hasn’t really gone to plan, with the club falling at the first hurdle in the Champions League knockout rounds and a top four Serie A finish looking far from certain.
Despite an underwhelming campaign so far, the Italian insists both he and his players are fully committed to the club’s project and they still have plenty to play for this season.
“The project has always been to unite young players with more experienced ones,” he added. “It has been like this from the beginning and it will be like this for the future. The team and I are convinced that we still have a great future ahead, with games to play and goals to achieve. This is the most important thing.”
Juve travel to Serie A strugglers Cagliari on Sunday looking to strengthen their grip on a top four spot.
Pirlo provided injury updates on a number of key players ahead of the clash, with Paulo Dybala not expected to be back in contention prior to the upcoming international break.
“Everyone is available except for Merih Demiral, Aaron Ramsey, Paulo Dybala and Rodrigo Bentancur,” he added. “Cristiano Ronaldo is fine. He’s trained well to be able to play tomorrow. It’s normal that he is disappointed [at the Champions League exit], as is the rest of the team.
“We hope to have Paulo Dybala back after the international break. A champion like him has been a big absence this season. Gianluigi Buffon isn’t in optimal condition. We’ll evaluate him in this afternoon’s training.
“Giorgio Chiellini has recovered from his injury, he could play from the start. Kulusevski is young, he still has a lot of room for improvement, we will also try him out in a more central position in midfield.”