Soccer-All eyes on stuttering Juventus ahead of visit of flying Milan


ROME (Reuters) - Juventus have endured a far from ideal start to the Serie A campaign after failing to win any of their opening three games but coach Massimiliano Allegri is not panicking considering the last time this happened -- they won the title in 2016.

Juventus threw away the lead to lose at Napoli last weekend, leaving the Turin giants, the winners of a record 36 Serie A titles, languishing in 16th place with just one point.

But even a coach of the Italian’s experience and composure will surely feel the pressure when Juve try to end their rotten run against in-form AC Milan on Sunday.

Allegri’s return, two years after he left the club, was widely expected to restore an air of calm and clinical pragmatism to an inconsistent group that snuck into the top-four on the final day of last season under Andrea Pirlo.

However, the individual errors that plagued Pirlo’s spell in charge have continued.

Juve suffered back-to-back defeats to Empoli and Napoli since surrendering a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at Udinese on the opening day.

“We cannot allow three negative results to make us doubt this team,” Allegri said.

The 54-year-old believes that once the errors are cut out, the results will come, and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny has come in for heavy criticism for a string of damaging errors.

“We have conceded five goals and we have done that through our own mistakes,” the coach added.

Milan, meanwhile, are flying. Stefano Pioli’s side are one of two sides from last season's top seven to stick with their coach in the new campaign, along with Atalanta.

Continuity has helped, as the Rossoneri have won all three league games so far, impressively swatting away Lazio with a 2-0 victory at San Siro last time out.

CALMNESS RESTORED

The midweek Champions League fixtures have changed the narrative ahead of the game of the weekend in Serie A at the Juventus Stadium.

Juve’s 3-0 thumping of Malmo restored some confidence, and saw the Bianconeri end a six-month wait for a clean sheet in all competitions.

Milan, meanwhile, lost a 3-2 thriller against Liverpool at Anfield in a game the Premier League side dominated for large stretches.

"This match helped us understand that we can compete at this level. I know my players have the right qualities," Pioli said.

For many, Milan's performances so far in the league, in contrast with Juve’s, will make them the favourites.

The other two sides to have a perfect record so far, AS Roma and Napoli, face Hellas Verona and Udinese respectively.

Verona became the first team to change coaches this season on Tuesday, sacking Eusebio Di Francesco and replacing him with Igor Tudor after three consecutive defeats.

Winless Cagliari followed suit by swapping Leonardo Semplici for Walter Mazzarri, and the former Torino boss starts with a tricky trip Lazio.

Champions Inter Milan, who were held to a draw by Sampdoria last weekend, host unbeaten Bologna on Saturday, while Atalanta are looking for their first win since the opening day at bottom side Salernitana.

(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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