All season long whenever Massimiliano Allegri has been asked about Juventus’ ambitions for the season he’s always said that it would all be dependent on the ‘decisive phase of the season’.
Well, now we’re there.
Juventus beat Atalanta 2-0 earlier today to go four points clear of Napoli in the Scudetto race with ten games left to play. After the game Allegri wanted to make sure his charges kept their eyes on the prize ahead.
“We must not start thinking the Scudetto is suddenly in the bag. We are top of the table with a four-point advantage. It’s a decisive stage of the season but we must take things one step at a time, keep our heads and replenish our mental energy.
“You have to keep raising the bar in every game. Napoli are right up there behind us and we need lots of points to win the title.
”Now we have to play SPAL and it’s never easy to win in Ferrara. We’re expecting a real battle.”
Is he happy with where Juve are right now?
“The objective of the club was to reach the Champions League quarter-finals and be in the Scudetto race in March, so we’ve done that.
“We had to be wary today, as Atalanta are a team strong both technically and tactically. We finished the game with a crescendo and earned the three points.
“The most important thing is that on Sunday we changed five or six players and did it again today. The objective is to go all the way and we need everyone for that, which means resting and rotating to ensure everybody is ready.”
Gonzalo Higuain scored the opener and setup the killer second goal for Blaise Matuidi.
“Higuain has grown a great deal in his confidence, but also took on more of a creative role so he is not just a centre-forward or a hitman.
“Douglas Costa is in a good period of form, Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala did good work today. I am glad that we end the games in better shape, as that means our fitness levels are excellent.
“I was pleased to see Gianluigi Buffon and Giorgio Chiellini, after all they have won, celebrate a defensive clearance or a save. This team has pleasure in defending and that’s a crucial part of the sport.”
Defender Medhi Benatia was involved in some pushing and shoving with Marten De Roon during the second goal and the exchanges continued after the game.
“There was a moment of anger, but he calmed down. As well as being a good player, he is a lovely lad, but at times when the blood boils, he becomes difficult to control. I told him to just stay quiet, because he risked a yellow card for that reaction.
“When you are 2-0 up and near the end, you have to use your brain.”
The Champions League quarterfinals draw will be held on Friday, who is he hoping for?
“There are two teams I would not like to face: one is Barcelona. I’ve seen Barcelona for eight seasons and now I’ve had enough, even if we know how to beat them. The other is Real Madrid, who are clear favourites to win the tournament again. They took a few months off and now they are starting to play seriously.”