Juventus return to Serie A action on Sunday to face Crotone, having lost their last league game away at Sampdoria. Speaking ahead of the game, manager Massimiliano Allegri was quizzed about his new 3-4-2-1 formation that he revealed midweek against Barcelona.
“The numbers and systems you cite are too confusing, otherwise you make it seem like there are 12 players. The important thing is how we move when going forward and defending. What we need to improve is occupying the pitch, as at the moment we leave the midfield too empty when we’re in possession.”
On the injury status of the squad for tomorrow -
“Giorgio Chiellini, Juan Cuadrado and Federico Bernardeschi are out. Sami Khedira will rest, so the others are at our disposal.
“Gigi Buffon will start. Mario Mandzukic will play tomorrow.
“Benedikt Howedes had a good training session yesterday. If he confirms that today, then he’s an option I could choose for tomorrow.
“Howedes has two good feet, he passes it well and starts moves from the back. He can play in a back three, either in the centre or centre-right, while he can also do well in a four-man defence.”
Allegri was asked about his tactical outlook as well -
“I’ll decide tomorrow whether we play with two or three midfielders.
“We played with four attacking players on Wednesday, the only difference was that Andrea Barzagli was more of a static full-back. It’s above all an issue of attitude. I am happy with what we did against Barcelona.
“Douglas Costa had a good game on Wednesday. He has extraordinary physical and technical capabilities, so can change the balance of a game. He proved himself up to the task against Barcelona.”
Recent results have put some pressure on the manager, but he’s not worried -
“Juve are not in a difficult moment at all. We must reach March in the best condition to be in the running for all our objectives. We are only missing two or three points in Serie A, not more than that. Napoli are in front because they are doing extraordinary things at the moment.
“In the Champions League, we are on track with the process we are meant to have. We are on the verge of qualification for the next round, which is the first objective right now for Juventus. We’ve got a very good chance in Athens with Olympiacos.
“We were in crisis two years ago, when 12 points from the top and really struggling. It’s not a crisis now. A year ago, we weren’t playing particularly good football, but still had a seven-point lead at the top of the table. You change when it is necessary.”
One of you Juve’s best players last season, Alex Sandro has been quite unrecognizable this year, what could be wrong with him?
“Nothing, it’s just that not every season is the same. He needs to find his fitness and already against Barcelona there were some improvements.
“We have some players who haven’t given their best for various reasons, yet we are on track in Serie A and the Champions League. That means we should be optimistic, because when we get better in terms of fitness and confidence, Juventus will put in a series of great performances.”
Crotone have been struggling this season, but he warned against complacency -
“We must show great respect for Crotone, who defend well, attack in dangerous ways and never let go. We’ve got to stay focused throughout, because we wandered out of the game a few times against the smaller sides and paid a heavy price.”
As far as motivation for another Scudetto?
“With every year that goes by, it becomes more difficult for Juventus to win. We must be aware of the teams that have reinforced, have the objective to be the first side after six years to beat Juventus to the title, and that has to motivate us even more.
“Right now, the top five are breaking away from the rest, so you can trip up and find yourself falling from first to fifth in a heartbeat. The important thing will be to stay in the running until March, then the sprint finish will be great fun.”