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Oct 2, 2012

Lucescu backs Pirlo for Ballon d'Or

Shakhtar Donetsk manager Mircea Lucescu has claimed that Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo should win this year's FIFA Ballon d'Or, ahead of the two sides' upcoming Champions League clash.

• Blog: Pogba and Conte in spotlight

Lucescu takes his players to Turin on Wednesday night, with the club sitting top of Group E, two points ahead of the Italian champions, after their 2-0 win over Nordsjaelland.

The Romanian coach is well aware of the damage that Pirlo, 33, can cause after working with him during his time in charge of both Brescia and Inter Milan.

"I know Pirlo very well as I gave him his debut when he was 15 and a half, then I worked with him again at Inter," Lucescu said. "His evolution has been exceptional. I'm convinced that for what he achieved last season, he deserves to win the Golden Ball. He should win it to crown his career. Pirlo is in great form and, for me, he is always number one."

However, he was quick to point out that Juventus have many other weapons at their disposal and hopes his players have learnt lessons from watching how poorly Roma performed against them in their 4-1 defeat at the weekend.

"Juventus are not just Pirlo though," he added. "Right now, they are the best side in Europe when you consider results, how many players they provide for national teams and for the way they play. They are a well organised side which has been constructed very well, with new signings which they needed.

"Their spine, with Gigi Buffon, Leonardo Bonucci, Pirlo and Mirko Vucinic, is fundamental, as that is where their play originates from. I've shown my boys the Juventus-Roma game from the weekend, telling them that is not the way you play against them. The Giallorossi left Juventus too much freedom to do what they wanted. But no side is perfect."

The Bianconeri are in great form after the win against Roma that kept them top of Serie A, and defender Giorgio Chiellini states they will not be taking their Ukrainian opponents lightly.

"We experienced a special atmosphere in London [against Chelsea], but this is our first home game at the Juventus Stadium and it will be extremely exciting," he said. "We'll be taking on a very strong and underrated outfit. When the draw was made I heard people talk about an easy group, which couldn't be further from the truth."

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