Massimiliano Allegri rued Juventus only sparking into life after suffering a “slap in the face” during their 1-0 loss at Sassuolo.
Juve went down to Gregoire Defrel’s fine finish on Sunday, suffering a second straight Serie A defeat and their third loss in four away games in the league.
The defeat leaves Juve – who will defend a 1-0 lead against Sporting CP in the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final on Thursday – sitting in seventh place and nine points behind Milan in the final Champions League spot.
Having hardly threatened prior to going behind, Juve did spark into life in the closing stages. Andrea Consigli saved from Adrien Rabiot’s excellent header, while Angel Di Maria blazed over from a great chance.
But it was not enough to ease Allegri’s frustration, with the Juventus coach telling DAZN: “We did not play well for an hour, then reacted after the slap in the face of the goal.
“It was an important game for the table, but it was a second consecutive defeat in the league.
“We’ve got to get back to our feet, work on what we got wrong and take a different approach to the matches. All we can do is stay quiet, work hard and drag out the last drops of energy to get past Sporting.
“I told the players this was an important step. Instead, we dropped points.”
23 – In the second half of the current Serie A campaign only Napoli (25) and Lazio (24) have picked up more points than Sassuolo (23 in 11 games). Breakthrough.#SassuoloJuventus #SerieA
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) April 16, 2023
Paul Pogba came on for just his fourth appearance of the season, all of which have come from the bench since his return from a calf injury that kept him out for over six months.
Allegri, though, said the France midfielder is still well behind where Juve hoped he would be.
“There are players like Federico Chiesa and Paul Pogba who are getting back into shape, while others have played a lot more and are tired,” Allegri added.
“I saw improvements from Pogba, but he’s still a long way behind schedule and not in condition to play 90 minutes.
“We’ll try to slowly get him up to 30 minutes and see how he responds.”
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