By Brian Homewood
(Reuters) - Talking-points from the weekend's Serie A matches
HOW LONG CAN JUVENTUS REMAIN UNDER CONSTRUCTION?
For the second weekend in a row, Juventus were held to a 1-1 draw in Serie A by a team they would routinely expect to beat while coach Andrea Pirlo offered a now-familiar explanation for the disjointed display: "We are under construction."
"I'm not worried as we are still in the rebuilding stage," he said after they were held by Hellas Verona. "It's disappointing to drop two points but we are on the right track, this is a long-term project and it's only our fifth match together."
Pirlo is in his first coaching job and Juve have brought in several new players this season, including Arthur, Federico Chiesa, Dejan Kulusevski and Alvaro Morata.
They are also depleted by injuries and COVID-19 infections, with Cristiano Ronaldo the most significant of the absentees.
But Pirlo is not going to be able to offer the same argument forever, especially at a club where winning the Serie A title is now regarded as the absolute minimum.
Pirlo, who has fielded five different lineups in his five matches in charge and managed two wins and three draws, is treated with enormous reverence by the Italian media.
But questions are already being asked and, on Monday, various reports spoke of alarm bells ringing, of a "team without identity" and of opposite number Ivan Juric handing Pirlo a lesson.
SAMPDORIA NEED 31 MORE POINTS
Could Claudio Ranieri's Sampdoria be the Serie A dark horses this season?
Having demolished Lazio 3-0 on week ago, Sampdoria were even more impressive on Saturday as they won 3-1 at Atalanta, a team who are expected to be among the title contenders, for their third win in a row.
Yet the wily 69-year-old Ranieri, who has coached more than one dozen teams around Europe in his time, was quick to lower expectations, saying his target was simply to avoid relegation.
"I know that we have nine points and are 31 away from the magic 40," he said, referring to the total regarded as necessary to guarantee survival.
"We spent the whole of last season with the water up to our necks, trying to stay out of the relegation zone and we don’t want to be in that position at the very end again."
FIORENTINA FANS APPLAUD REF WHO SENT OFF CHIESA
Serie A referee Francesco Fourneau had the unusual experience of being applauded by the 1,000 fans present when he took the pitch for the fixture between Fiorentina and Udinese on Sunday.
One week earlier, Fourneau had sent off winger Federico Chiesa on his debut for Juventus in their 1-1 draw at Crotone.
Chiesa was raised at Fiorentina and played for them for four seasons before moving to Juventus in the recent transfer window -- a move that infuriated Fiorentina supporters and made him persona non grata at his former club.
(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Christian Radnedge)