A historic rivalry between Juventus and Fiorentina means these two clashes are always highly anticipated whenever the Serie A schedule is released. This year is no different, and the trip to the Artemio Franchi is going to be no less challenging despite the Viola sitting in 11th place in the table.
Speaking ahead of the trip to Florence, manager Massimiliano Allegri spoke of the difficulty of this tie -
“More than a pitfall it’s a difficult game, because Fiorentina are a good team. They’re well coached, with young, strong players who are doing well. They haven’t lost at home yet, they’ve scored 14 goals and only conceded three, while for them this is the most important game of the year.
“For ourselves it’ll be like a lot of other games, we’ll find a team that will do everything to beat us, but it’ll be an important game for us because all of the top three are playing away to difficult teams.
“It’ll be a long game, because games in Florence never end and we’ll be facing a team who will be pushed by the whole city.
“We will have to have the same enthusiasm and play with personality and great technique.”
Asked if the coming month will be the most difficult for his side, Allegri added -
“When we arrive in April we’ll be able to say what the most difficult month is, now let’s think about tomorrow, then on Friday we’ll have another head-to-head game with Inter.
“Then we need to go to Switzerland to secure first place [in the Champions League group], because at this point that becomes important. Then we’ll have the other games.
“The most important thing now is Florence, because of the difficulties with the game and the atmosphere. It’s always been difficult for Juventus in Florence.”
Allegri provided a squad update as well, but first commended midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur -
“He can still play some games and tomorrow he’ll play, then we’ll see Miralem Pjanic and Blaise Matuidi. Then there’s Juan Cuadrado who can play on the right.
“Let’s see who has recovered, because Tuesday [against Valencia] was a tough game. Federico Bernardeschi is back, Mattia De Sciglio will be there.
“It’s difficult for Alex Sandro, Sami Khedira will be out. Emre Can did part of the training session with the squad yesterday, so we’ll see if he can make the bench. From next week he’ll do more intense training, and he could be available against Inter.”
The manager is expecting there will be changes to the starting lineup, but no drop off in performances -
”I don’t think it’ll be the same team, because we played Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday. Afterward we’ll have a week where we can recover our energies.
”That doesn’t mean that those who will be on the bench tomorrow will stay there for the whole game, but there could be some changes tomorrow.
”It could be Leonardo Bonucci, Mario Mandzukic or Pjanic [who rests]. We’ll see.
”In midfield I don’t have many options, so all I can do is take one out. At the back it’s all good, because Daniele Rugani had a good game against SPAL and Medhi Benatia played a great game against Milan.
”Occasionally I like to give Giorgio Chiellini a little rest, Leo has played a lot and he could also rest tomorrow.
“The important thing tomorrow is to be aware of the difficulties of the match. It will be a beautiful day of sport and football because playing in Florence in front of a wonderful crowd is always nice.”
Cristiano Ronaldo and Mandzukic are starting to combined well but Paulo Dybala seems to be having an up-and-down season, but Allegri spoke out in support of him -
“They did well on Tuesday. Those two, but Dybala too. He’s scoring less, but he links the play and he often gets us out of difficult situations because he has a a lot of technique.
“He’s improving in that respect, and he’s very important for us. It’s just a question of characteristics. Ronaldo and Mandzukic need space further forward, then a third has to move into the space they leave, whether that’s Paulo or a midfielder.
“As for his growth, I’ve always said that he has to be an all-round player in certain games. He’s not scoring like last year, but in terms of the team’s play he’s crucial. It’s not that his role has changed, it’s just that before we only had one up-front, which was Gonzalo Higuain.
“Now we have two. With the characteristics of those two players, it’s normal we need someone to link things. Paulo always plays the same way, but now we have one more striker and one less in the middle of the pitch.
“Then Ronaldo’s characteristics mean he sometimes approaches the goal in a different way.”
With the Serie A playing past Christmas Day this year, how will he have his team ready on Boxing Day?
“The thing that’s a bit strange is that we’ll go to Bergamo on December 25. We’ll be training on the 24th and 25th, so we’ll try to eat as little pandoro* as possible.
“Not least because it’s cold in Bergamo on December 26 and we risk stuffing ourselves. So we’ll try to avoid it, for the sake our our health.
Juve have been criticized for not being sharp enough in front of goal and killing games off this season.
“I don’t think it’s a question of being clinical, I think we have the best attack in the league. Until now we haven’t managed to win a game 4-0, if that’s what perfection is. Aside from that, perfection doesn’t exist and I don’t want it.
“The team must continue to improve because we need to raise the bar, every day each and every one of us must ask more from himself, because you can’t just maintain your level, if you try to you just get worse.
“We need to improve and be aware that up to now we haven’t done anything. Then we’ll see the truth later.
“Scudetti are won in May, the Champions League in June. We need to keep going with balance, without getting carried away by these results, so we can arrive in March in the best physical and, above all, mental condition.
“We know Napoli and Inter are always there, because we still need to play Inter twice and Napoli once. There’s a big difference between three points and one point, and it’s in those moments you can throw away a lead.
“We work, and we’re aware that tomorrow is an important round because we, Napoli and Inter are playing difficult games.
“Then the next one will be important too, because to win the league you need a certain number of wins. Our objective is to be top of the table on December 29, hopefully with a big points advantage.”
Abusive supporters have been in the spotlight lately, and tomorrow will be no different as Juve are quite hated in Florence.
“It’s something that’s found generally in Italy. Carlo Ancelotti has spoken about it, I’ve spoken about it and other Coaches have spoken about it. It’s a matter of sporting education. Sport in general is wonderful, football even more so because it attracts millions and millions of people.
“Rivalry is essential, but it has to be a healthy rivalry and that’s what we need to improve on in Italy. It’s right to cheer for your team, the lads need it, but everything else must be lived in another way. Maybe we’re getting there slowly, we’ve certainly improved, but rules are needed.”
*pandoro - popular traditional Italian sweet yeast bread, commonly eaten around Christmas and New Year