Juventus are away to Empoli tomorrow and manager Massimiliano Allegri has warned of a tricky lunchtime fixture.
“I’ll be happy if at the end of the game Juventus have picked up three points. To do that, we need a performance of quality in both attack and defence.
“It is an unusual kick-off time against an Empoli side that lost to Inter and Lazio, but played well and didn’t deserve defeat, especially last weekend.
“I am glad that in the Champions League against Dinamo Zagreb we played with much more quality and pace than at Palermo, so there were improvements.”
Allegri is often asked during his press conferences whether he will continue with his tinkering with the squad, like using Hernanes and Sami Khedira together in the middle, or Mario Mandzukic and Gonzalo Higuain lining up together.
“More than different systems, I am using players with different characteristics in the same roles, so some are 10 metres further forward, some 10 metres further back.
“I wanted to see how the lads would move on the field and it was decent. I think it’s wrong to change everything from the start, but we can perform a few experiments as the match goes on. Hopefully it won’t be necessary, as that’ll mean we need to turn the game around.
“Hernanes also did well in midfield as the playmaker last season, but was always murdered in the Press by critics, so it makes me smile that suddenly the same people see him as indispensable for Juventus.
“Right now those who are on the bench are more important almost than those who start, as they keep up the competitiveness of the squad. We need to improve the quality of our football, but in any case our aim is to continue improving from here to the end of the season, regardless of results.”
While defender Leonardo Bonucci said yesterday that the Champions League was the main priority for the season, Allegri as usual defused that statement -
“We are taking part in every competition with the objective to win it, not putting them in a certain order. The important thing is tomorrow that we cannot have the wrong attitude and the players know full well if they get it wrong with Empoli, they will ruin their own break for international duty and above all ruin that of the Coach. Trust me, they don’t want to do that!
“This game reminds of the one we had at Carpi last season and it ended with some heart flutters, because we risked throwing everything away and ruining the comeback. The lads know this is a very important match and they cannot underestimate it.”
In case you forgot, that Carpi game was where this memorable moment was born -
He talked about the team’s focus this week -
“We had an extra day of rest this week, so everyone is fresh, sharp and eager to be in good shape ahead of the break for international duty.
“The clubs buy players for millions of pounds because they bring a certain quality and have moves in their DNA that cannot be taught. A Coach can point to various directions for runs and positions, but can only do so much.
"Everyone here is giving their all to the group. We are together now for 40 days and getting to know each other better. We need to keep improving our style of play throughout the season."
On who will play this weekend -
“I have not yet decided the line-up, specifically who to play and where. Juan Cuadrado could feature, Miralem Pjanic is in good shape, while Hernanes has been playing well in the deep-lying midfield role.
“Our options are increasing in the middle of the park with Sami Khedira, Mario Lemina and Stefano Sturaro vying for berths, while we await the return of Claudio Marchisio.”