By Peter Hall
(Reuters) - The Juventus players are behind him, as is the club's hierarchy, but coach Andrea Pirlo must put a stop to any further slip-ups to start to win over the growing number of doubters.
Pirlo has had plenty of time to analyse Juve's last match – a shock 1-0 home defeat by Benevento that left the Serie A champions 10 points off leaders Inter Milan with 11 games to go.
Having been knocked out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage a strong league finish is esential to convince fans that rookie coach Pirlo, in his first season in Turin, is the right man to take Juve forward.
Despite a report in Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport on Thursday claiming poor results in Juve's next two matches, starting in Saturday's Turin derby, could see Pirlo sacked, the 41-year-old's job does not appear to be under immediate threat.
"Pirlo is and will be the coach of Juventus, that's 100 percent certain," Juve vice-president Pavel Nedved told DAZN last week.
"We committed to a project with Andrea, knowing that there would be difficulties. We wanted to do better than this and haven't managed to, but difficulties were predicted."
Whatever Pirlo is saying, despite the lack of positive results on the pitch, seems to be working, as the players appear similarly convinced of his credentials.
"He’s doing a great job," Colombia winger Juan Cuadrado said at an event at a Turin school this week. "It's not easy to arrive at a top club. It's not his fault; we're the ones out there on the pitch.
"There's been a lot of changes and new players have arrived, we need to be patient."
The next test is the Torino derby with Davide Nicola’s side desperate to win given that they are one point above the drop zone, albeit with a game in hand of their relegation rivals.
All 10 Serie A matches take place on Saturday, to leave Easter Sunday free, and AC Milan get the action underway at home to Sampdoria in the early kickoff.
Second-placed Milan are six points behind Inter having played one game more and will be looking to win back-to-back league matches for the first time since early February.
Inter finish off Satuday's bumper fixture list with Antonio Conte's men looking primed to earn a first Scudetto in 11 years. Victory at Bologna will stretch their winning Serie A run to nine games.
(Reporting by Peter Hall; Editing by Ken Ferris)