Juventus take on Young Boys in the last game of the group stages of the Champions League, with the group title yet to be confirmed. The Bianconeri sit two points ahead of Manchester United and will need to match or improve on the Red Devils’ result to make that a certainty.
Speaking ahead of the game, manager Massimiliano Allegri spoke about his squad selection choices, especially with the artificial turf the Zurich side play on which many players have attributed to potentially cause injuries when you’re not used to it.
“It’s more important than [the game against] Inter because we’re playing for first place, and more difficult because we’re playing a team who have created a lot at home.
“It’s very important for us to finish first. As for the changes, Daniele Rugani will play instead of Giorgio Chiellini, alongside Leonardo Bonucci. Rodrigo Bentancur will play because he’s suspended against Torino. Up-front Ronaldo will play, then I need to decide on the rest.
“Alex Sandro is with us, but it’s hard to see him playing. He is available but putting him on the synthetic surface right away seemed risky, so he’ll be ready for Saturday.
“I’m keeping Chiellini out because the synthetic pitches hurt him - I told him not to walk on it too much!
“There are no excuses tomorrow though, we need to bring a victory home.
“A two man-midfield? I’ve got two-and-a-half, playing with three is almost impossible. Blaise Matuidi will start from the bench, Bentancur will play and I think I’ll give Emre Can a few minutes. The only other one is Miralem Pjanic, who I think will play.”
Allegri is putting a lot of importance on this game.
“We have to play a serious game and Juventus will do that because this is a responsible squad which knows the importance of the game.
“A negative result would have a bad effect on us and we can’t afford that because we play Torino afterward, and that’s a derby in which we need to get a result.
“We cannot think this will be easy, if you go into games without the proper respect for the opponent, even a technically inferior one, then you’ll leave with broken bones.
“It’ll be cold in the evening, and we’ll be playing on a synthetic surface.”
The manager admitted that Juve are being considered one of the favourites.
“Juventus are among the favourites, but then avoiding the teams who finish first is very important. There’s Barcelona, Manchester City, Real Madrid, perhaps Paris Saint-Germain…
“That doesn’t mean we’ll have an easy Last 16, but certainly a less tough one. It’s certainly more competitive [this year], I think the level is always rising. This year there are many teams that can get to the end: Juve, Barcelona, PSG, Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Liverpool…
“This year the Last 16 will only be less tough if we finish first, otherwise we’ll have a tie against one of these teams. From the quarter-finals onward it’ll be a really difficult Champions League, and it’ll be impossible to find a soft quarter-final or semi-final.”