Juventus take on Barcelona tomorrow as the Champions League group stages get underway for the 2017-18 season, and manager Massimiliano Allegri spoke to the media today about the club and its aspirations for the season.
Earlier, the Juventus Twitter account had confirmed that Giorgio Chiellini and Mario Mandzukic would not travel to Spain despite training this morning. Juan Cuadrado is suspended while Benedikt Howedes is still training on his own and didn’t travel. Midfielders Claudio Marchisio and Sami Khedira are also out recovering from injury.
In a puzzling statement, Allegri started by saying that he felt that despite adding quality over the offseason, winning the ‘Big Ears’ trophy was still a ‘dream’.
“The last three years have been fantastic, we achieved two Champions League Finals. The first was rather unexpected, while for the second, we had greater hopes of really winning it.
“We didn’t succeed but we still consider it a success because not everyone can play in a Champions League Final.
“Winning the Champions League can’t be an objective, it’s a dream. And to accomplish that dream, you have to work hard for so many years and, above all, develop a certain kind of mental approach.
“Juventus are aiming to be consistently among the top eight in Europe. In order to do that, we need to be signing quality players. I think the club are doing really well in this regard.”
Are Juve improved this season over the last?
“There are several players who have just arrived, but it’s always been like this for me at Juve. Between the first and second Finals, within three years, only four players stayed from the first year.
“The club have added so much quality and the results have kept following. In order to keep winning, you need a lot of hard work and you need to stay motivated.
“Ultimately, motivation is what makes the difference. It’s getting harder with each year, so winning seven [Scudetti] in a row would be something really extraordinary.
“The squad is strong, even though we still have to improve technically and tactically.”
How did he feel about the group the Bianconeri got drawn in?
“Our group? It’s is balanced, far more than it seems. Apart from Barcelona, Sporting CP and Olympiakos are teams with a lot of experience in Europe.
“It won’t be easy to pick up points in this group, and points can be dropped anywhere.”
Comments on club legend and captain Gianluigi Buffon and why he’s so special -
“Because he’s been the best goalkeeper in the world for the last 20 years. He’s an extraordinary guy, an exemplary professional.
“He’s turned 39 and he’s just been chosen as the best goalkeeper in the Champions League, so he really has something special.
“His secret? In my opinion, the enthusiasm with which he plays. He’s like a kid.”
How about the on-form Paulo Dybala, who has been banging in the goals and was tenuously linked with Barca during the transfer window?
“Paulo has really grown since coming to Juventus. He has so much talent but still has big room for improvement.
“He’s started the season very well, but we’re just at the beginning. He needs a great season in the Champions League, it’s his objective.”