The impact of the pandemic on the schedule is why the Italian champions are one of a number of top sides facing a challenge, says their coach
Italian champions Juve are fourth in the table after 11 matches, four points off leaders Milan, but they are not the only top side struggling to match the high standards of previous campaigns.
Indeed, each of the leaders in Europe’s top five leagues – Tottenham, Real Sociedad, Bayer Leverkusen, Milan and Lille – are playing in the Europa League in 2020-21, rather than joining Juve in the Champions League.
“It’s a strange championship but it’s like all the other European championships,” Pirlo told Juventus TV. “With Covid and the matches close together, everything has balanced out a bit and therefore you have to face every game with the right mentality.
“There are no more ‘materasso’ teams; there are strong teams who think about playing and not just defending themselves. You have to face them all with a certain mentality otherwise you risk facing nasty surprises.”
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Juve’s fortunes have improved in recent weeks, however, winning their past four matches in all competitions. They face Atalanta on Wednesday and could win five consecutive games for the first time since January.
“More than results, it is the attitude and concentration in facing all matches in the same way, both in the Champions League and in the league,” Pirlo said. “When you have the right attitude and the spirit of wanting to play the game, the results are on your side.”
Juve are unbeaten in 23 home Serie A games against Atalanta, a run stretching back to 1989, while they are the only side Gian Piero Gasperini has faced more than once in the league without defeating since taking charge in Bergamo.
However Pirlo is wary of the threat of the eighth-place team, who have had 11 different scorers in Serie A this term – more than any other side.
“I expect a difficult match against a very strong team,” the Bianconeri coach said. “They have been a reality for several years now. We have seen that not only in the Italian league but also at European level. It will be a tough game to play given their attitude. We will have to face it as a top team.”