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Allegri: Juve used to playing teams who feel this is their match of the year

Manager’s pre-match comments ahead of pivotal clash

UC Sampdoria v Juventus FC - Serie A
Massimiliano Allegri
Photo by Paolo Rattini/Getty Images

Juventus travel to Napoli for the first of two games within four days, with three Serie A points on the line tomorrow and a spot in the Coppa Italia on Wednesday.

Manager Massimiliano Allegri talked about the raucous crowd he is expecting on Sunday, and what effect it would have on the game.

“Juventus are accustomed to playing these games against sides who feel this is the match of their year. We hope it will remain a fair game and that we can show Italian football has gone into a new era of sporting behaviour.

“This will be a clash between first and third. I am fully convinced the Napoli fans will be there to support their team and set an example of great civility and fair play. That’s what it ought to be and we shouldn’t even be discussing this.

“This is a game that will be watched all over the world and we want it to be an example of enthusiasm and fair play both on and off the field.”

Gonzalo Higuain returns to his home for the last three seasons, and is almost guaranteed a chorus of boos throughout the clash.

“There’s no point denying Gonzalo spent three years at Napoli, where he was loved, but he made a professional choice and that has to be respected. It’s only normal he’ll be jeered, because he now plays for Juventus and they support Napoli.

“Unfortunately in Italy we live for controversy, blaming everyone else and finding excuses. I think everyone ought to look at their own houses.

“Tomorrow is an important match between first and third. We need great internal strength and above all the psychological aspect will be fundamental. Nothing that is said or done must remotely touch us. We have to be calm, happy and focused.

“We’ve played Napoli many times, Maurizio Sarri’s movements are largely the same, but there are some changes without Higuain and Arkadiusz Milik.

“Their great strength is playing hide-and-seek with defenders near the box, so we need to be very careful.”

As far as the status of his squad, there are doubts over a couple of key forwards.

“The players are all back from international duty. Mario Mandzukic worked separately, Paulo Dybala in part with the team, so after today’s training session I’ll decide who to field.

“Dybala returned from Argentina without many training sessions, he’s not in terrible condition, but not at his best either. Even if Dybala doesn’t play, we have others who stayed in Turin and improved their fitness levels.

“As for Mandzukic, he had this inflammation to his knee and we’ll see what happens. I want to wish all the best to Marko Pjaca, who has been really unlucky with the microfracture and then this serious ligament tear.”

Would there be a change to the 4-2-3-1 formation if the pair were unable to play?

“I have not even thought about it yet. We have players like Juan Cuadrado who can play there, so it can still work.”

On Juve returning to the San Paolo in just a few days.

“These are two completely different games. There are three points up for grabs tomorrow, next week a place in the Coppa Italia Final. We know it’s complicated, we’ve faced Napoli many times, so we need to be tough, but very calm.

“Napoli are going through an excellent period of form, as are Roma, so in order to win the Scudetto we still need many more victories. Tomorrow’s game won’t be decisive for the title, no matter what happens, but the next few weeks are going to be decisive for Serie A, the Coppa Italia and the Champions League.

“We have everything we need here to prepare for Wednesday’s Coppa Italia semi-final, so it’s normal to return to Turin between the games.”

Allegri was asked if there were any contract renewal talks held over the international break.

“Absolutely not. We have not met up, we’re not discussing next season, as there is plenty of time for that.”

Was Allegri unhappy about losing out to Napoli manager Mauricio Sarri for the Panchina d’Oro (Golden Bench) award given to the Coach of the Year.

“If I remember right, I voted for Eusebio Di Francesco at Sassuolo. Sarri deserved it, as he did great work at Empoli and then at Napoli.”