Juventus travel to Porto in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 on Wednesday. Manager Massimiliano Allegri spoke to the media ahead of the game, and insisted that his dropping of Leonardo Bonucci for disciplinary reasons is the right decision.
“Tomorrow Bonucci will be in the stands. That doesn’t mean it has to be made into a big deal. Out of respect for the club, the team and the fans, this was the right decision.
“The case is closed. Leo understood the situation, as an intelligent lad and important player for Juventus. It’s a moment that will be useful for the future.
“I also had a reaction that was not right and not suited to the way I see football, above all with fans and children watching, so tomorrow I will give a charity donation.”
He also spoke about tomorrow’s opponents -
“Porto are a team and club accustomed to being in the Champions League. They are unbeaten since September, have conceded only 14 goals all season.
“They beat Bayern Munich and Chelsea at home in the last three years, have an excellent record and so this is a difficult test. We know the problems we’ll run into.
“The difference between playing at home and away is that we need to score an away goal.”
Allegri updated the status of some players, including dropping some hints on who will play tomorrow -
“I will give you four starting players: Juan Cuadrado, Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic. Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini are fine. It’s an important moment of the season, four will go in the stands, but we have Empoli and Napoli coming up, so it’s crucial all the players stay together as a group during this period.
“There are tensions and a bit of chaos during a season, that’s part of the sport, but we don’t need to make things worse than they are. It is all sorted out, we move forward.
“We have to keep the focus on the most important thing, which is the game. These are 180 very difficult minutes, Porto are the worst side we could’ve drawn in the Round of 16 and we do not want to be distracted by a situation that does not exist.
“Nothing else happened. I spoke to Leo, he understood and we move forward.”
Club captain Gianluigi Buffon also spoke about the Bonucci issue -
“These are situations that happen in a team that has a lot of competition for places. I think Juve are now among the elite of football, so it’s normal that incidents like that occur, as the only way to be satisfied is victory and a great performance every individual wants to give to his team.
“If that doesn’t happen, this feeling of responsibility and desire to go beyond limits can cause you to experience some situations in a bad way. It happens when the level of a team is this high, but it’s nothing serious and nothing is compromised.
“I was asked if I intervened when someone didn’t have a perfect attitude, I think all of us have the duty to intervene when work is not done properly.
“As for other situations, we are all more or less the same age except me – as I’ve gone a bit beyond – but we all know how to behave and the dynamics of a locker room.
“I have no idea if Leo will play. The Coach hasn’t given us the line-up yet, so we’ll wait and see. All we can say in these situation is that if there is a very talented, strong and leadership-style players as Leo, we are the first who have to sacrifice ourselves for the good of the team and to maintain certain balances and values.
“Leo is a very intelligent lad who embodies the Juventus spirit, so I don’t think he’ll have any problems accepting any type of decision, as he knows he’ll do it for the good of Juve and will send a teachable moment to the others.”
Porto player Andre Silva struck a confident note ahead of the game.
“Gigi Buffon is a legend, but I work with Iker Casillas, who is also a great goalkeeper. I’ll be happy if I manage to score past Buffon, but whoever manages to score and help my team to victory will be fine.
“We have studied Juve very carefully, they are a good side and solid, but we too have a strong strike force. I don’t believe there are any favourites in this tie and only at the end of the game will we see what the result was.
“Juve have a great defence, but we are good too and know how to play, how to score and how to react to situations. When situations change, so do we.”