Juventus travel to Hellas Verona tomorrow, looking to keep the pressure on Scudetto leaders Napoli who are just a point ahead and play tonight. Manager Massimiliano Allegri is well aware that this will be no easy task despite tomorrow’s opponents sitting in 19th place in the table.
“What’s on paper doesn’t count. What matters is the pitch. Among other things, Juventus haven’t won at Verona [in Serie A] since 2001, and have lost so many times.
“I think Juventus have lost 10 times in 17 games at Verona, and only won seven times so tomorrow is a game for us where we need to take three points.
“There are some matches, like the big head-to-head games, where anything can happen and some where nothing but winning can happen, all you can do is take the three points.
“Tomorrow is one of those games, because with anything else we’d be throwing away everything we did this month, so we need to try and stay close to Napoli, because we have two important league matches before the winter break and we want to close our the first half of the season in the best way.”
Juve will have to field a much-changed lineup with all the injuries that have been piling up lately.
“Miralem Pjanic won’t be there, just as Gianluigi Buffon won’t be there, just as Mattia De Sciglio won’t be there and Juan Cuadrado won’t be there. They definitely won’t be there.
“Cuadrado has another inflammation in his pubis, so he’s out. We hope to have him for Wednesday, but it’s very difficult.
“One of Rodrigo Bentancur or Claudio Marchsio will play in place of Pjanic, or we’ll move to a two-man midfield. I have to evaluate the last day of training and then we’ll decide.
“Bentancur is a 20-year-old kid in an important squad like Juventus’ and he’s always been called upon, and when he has been he’s done well. He’s growing, and just like everyone else he must improve, not least because he’s a young lad.”
The manager added that there were more decisions yet to be made too.
“I still have to evaluate the defence, Andrea Barzagli will be rested because he’s coming off a period where he’s played a lot so between Giorgio Chiellini, Daniele Rugani and Medhi Benatia, two will play.
“Stephan Lichtsteiner will come back in, then on the left I have to choose between Alex Sandro and Kwadwo Asamoah.”
Allegri added that he went with a three-man midfield earlier this season to stem the defensive issues.
“Last year we played with two midfielders and four in attack, and one of those in the middle of the park was Pjanic, but the two wingers worked really hard and helped a lot in defence.
“At the start of this season we conceded a lot of goals, so I had to change it a bit. Maybe in a month or two we’ll play with one in midfield, or play with three at the back, it just depends on the situation.
“The most important thing is for the team to know how to play in various systems and interpret games according to how we have to deal with them.”
In addition, Allegri was asked if Marko Pjaca would be loaned out this transfer window to continue his rehabilitation.
“We’ll talk to the lad and evaluate things, since he hasn’t played for nine months and he needs to be playing.
“So we’ll talk to him and we’ll decide what’s best for him and for Juventus, because he’s an important player.”
No press conference is complete nowadays without questions about Paulo Dybala, and Allegri spoke at length about the forward.
“Dybala could come back, so as a result it’s likely that all three will play together. He is calm, he’s trained well in the last week and as I’ve has tomorrow he could play from the first minute again.
“The relationship with him absolutely hasn’t changed, also because Dybala came to Juventus three years ago and I think he’s grown a lot, Juventus put even more emphasis on his qualities and he’s given a lot to Juventus.
“In my opinion, he still has huge margins for improvement. The comparisons which were made at the start [of the season] were damaging for Paulo, but fortunately he’s a smart lad and he understands you can’t compare a lad of 24 to two sacred monsters of football [Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo], who have won 10 Ballons d’Or.
“Plus there’s Neymar who is another that is close. So Paulo has to make his own way and not be compared to any other player. He has his own qualities, he’s an extraordinary player. You just have to watch him to see he’s different from the others.
“But these comparisons which were made were a bit damaging, these are comparisons which can not and should not be made, you can’t compare a 24-year-old lad to two who have won 10 Ballons d’Or. But in Italy…”