It’s been a dramatic week in Italian football, not least because of an additional schedule of holiday fixtures around the Christmas period. Aside from the latest example of racism to rear its ugly head, Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri has also been linked with English side Manchester United who sacked Jose Mourinho recently as well.
Speaking today before the clash against Sampdoria, Allegri dismissed that talk first.
“I’m very happy at Juventus. We’re doing great things, along with the club, and we continue like this. Not least because we’re only in December and there are a lot of matches between now and June.”
The manager also gave a squad update with the games coming so close together.
“Blaise Matuidi had a cold so I left him at home for the trip to Bergamo and Medhi Benatia had a slight inflammation - both are definitely in contention.
“Everyone is available tomorrow, and that includes Federico Bernardeschi. We have a difficult game tomorrow, Sampdoria are in great form and are even fighting for the Champions League.
“Tomorrow Daniele Rugani will play, Leonardo Bonucci will rest. The doubt is between Alex Sandro and Leonardo Spinazzola, but I’m happy with what Spinazzola is doing. Giorgio Chiellini is fine, I sent him to bed and tucked him in.
“Paulo Dybala is fine, as is Mario Mandzukic, and Cristiano Ronaldo is back. I have important options on the bench, tomorrow will be a long day and if we don’t unlock things in the first part of the game it will be another match.”
The players will get a shortened break after tomorrow’s fixture, returning in the second week of January.
“We need to get three points tomorrow though so we can close the year well, take a bit step forward and go into our holiday with serenity.
“We’ll need to drag out the last of our energy before the winter break, and we’ll need the stadium to push the team too. Tomorrow we’ll need the fans more than ever, though always in the right way.
“At the moment, taking out tomorrow’s match because I don’t know how it’ll end, the team has 16 wins and two draws - that’s not nothing. And we finished first in our Champions League group.
“So if I hear about a Juve in crisis then maybe the panettone went off. If you’re joking then maybe I can accept it…
“There’s pride and satisfaction with what we’ve done, I’m happy with how we’re working but that’s not enough for what we want to go on and win. So we need to keep our heads down, not talk, and win which is the most important thing.
“Tomorrow we have to win to get to 53 points, which would be a great thing. Not for the record [100 points in a calendar year] but because it would take us closer to an eighth Scudetto.
Regarding the abuse faced by Kalidou Koulibaly midweek, the manager added -
“I absolutely will not tolerate racism or any insult against the dead or tragedies that have happened.
“Unfortunately something is lacking in Italy, we’ve lost a bit of education and respect. It’s not just football, to really have a new start we need to impress these things upon people when they’re young children.
“We need to go into schools, sport is educational and we’d do well to get involved in schools because out of 100 people 70 or 80 will be on the right path, but this is something all of us need to do together.
“It’s easy to talk now, say things, only for everyone to forget about it the day after tomorrow. There are bodies responsible, then we as Presidents, Coaches and players must know that our words carry weight and can influence adults and people who are less adult.
“We must be more responsible and have a shred of intelligence not to feed what’s already there, because in Italy we no longer accept defeats or victories. So we need to do that, otherwise it’s useless.
“I’m sorry, because on the 26th the stadiums had so many people: families, children, the future of Italy. Those of a certain age have chosen how to live their lives, but the children are the future and if we don’t educate them nothing will change.”