Juve's Pirlo says Inter lucky to keep international players home

·2-min read
Serie A - Cagliari v Juventus

(Reuters) - Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo believes Serie A title rivals Inter Milan could benefit from the consequences of a COVID-19 outbreak, as their national team players are set to stay in Italy during the coming international break.

Inter's league match against Sassuolo, scheduled for Saturday, was postponed on Thursday after two more coronavirus cases brought the total number of positive cases in their playing squad to four.

Inter said in a statement that their players would be prohibited from responding to call-ups to their national teams, a decision that Pirlo, whose Juve side host Benevento on Sunday, believes could help the league leaders.

"Different things have been done in this case compared to others," he told a news conference.

"Unfortunately, it happens at a positive moment for Inter, who will have the opportunity to work without sending their players to the national teams. In this sense they were also lucky."

Juve's nine-year stranglehold on the Serie A title is at risk of ending this season, as they are currently third and 10 points behind Inter, albeit with a game in hand.

"It is our duty to put pressure on Inter. We have the opportunity to reduce the gap but that will depend on us," Pirlo said.

"Tomorrow is an important match because it comes before the international break, when heads can turn towards the national team or days off.

"But the guys have already been told that this is fundamental for our path in the championship. We know we are facing a team that is coming here to get a result."

Pirlo was also asked about the future of star striker Cristiano Ronaldo, who has been linked with an exit at the end of the season following Juve’s disappointing Champions League Last-16 exit to Porto.

"Ronaldo still has one year on his contract and therefore we are happy he can continue playing with us," Pirlo said.

"We haven't thought about it on technical-tactical level, we are still in the middle of the season. We are just thinking of doing our best this season."

(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie; Editing by Hugh Lawson)