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Allegri: Juventus-Napoli is important, but not decisive

Manager’s comments ahead of the big game on Sunday.

SSC Napoli v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

Juventus have come from behind Napoli to overhaul them in the last couple of months of the Scudetto race, but recent dropped points mean that just there four points now separating the two sides at the top when they clash tomorrow.

Speaking ahead of the game, manager Massimiliano Allegri insisted that he felt good about Juve’s chances.

“We’re in better psychological shape than Napoli. It’s very simple, tomorrow a mini-league begins of five games, we have a four-point advantage.

“There are other points available to win the title. It’ll certainly be important for Serie A, but it won’t be decisive.”

Rumours have circulated about Paulo Dybala’s starting status for this game -

“I haven’t yet decided the line-up. Dybala is in good shape, I don’t understand why he shouldn’t be. We’ve recovered almost everyone, so we are ready to take on tomorrow’s wonderful evening of sport with two teams who are creating a great title race and at the end of May, the best team will win.

“I have to decide whether to play with Dybala, without Dybala, or maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow morning and have some other idea out of nowhere. I have some ideas, but there’s a long way to go before tomorrow.”

On his approach to tomorrow’s game -

“If Juventus are the best, we’ll finish first. If Napoli are the best, we’ll finish second and tip our hats to them.

“Juventus are having a very good season, we have 85 points and there are five rounds to go. On the other side, Napoli are having an equally important campaign, as they are on 81 points and can reach 96.

“It’s a football match, we’ll play it calmly. We know that we are facing a side that has been up there for the whole season. It’ll be very decisive for them, but we have a four-point advantage, so we know that we can get points elsewhere without problems.

“I have two or three doubts, but not just for the starting XI. It’s a long game, it’s important to have one or two options who can come off the bench and change the game.”

Speaking of the starting lineup, he updated the squad status -

“I have to see how Andrea Barzagli is doing. Medhi Benatia played two games. The important thing is that everyone is at our disposal and I hope to choose the right players to have a good game.

“Gonzalo Higuain has these peaks and troughs over a season. He’s in great shape and I think tomorrow he will be decisive. Miralem Pjanic has recovered. Everyone is fine, except for Stefano Sturaro who has this tendon issue and Mattia De Sciglio with the sole of his foot, but otherwise everyone is ready for this wonderful evening of sport.

“We must be prepared not so much for tomorrow’s game, but these final few weeks of the season. It’s a big opportunity for us, as it will be against Inter, Roma and Bologna too. We’ve then got the Coppa Italia Final against Milan.

“It’s a wonderful end to the campaign and we must play with calm, as this team is accustomed to important matches, albeit aware we are facing a Napoli side that has picked up 81 points and had a series of great campaigns.

“We must play with cool heads, because it is far more decisive for Napoli than it is for us.”

On the media hoopla that surrounds Napoli manager Maurizio Sarri -

“I speak of objective facts. The facts state Juventus have 85 points and Napoli 81. I hear a lot of talk, I listen and I have fun. I keep my opinions to myself, or you can go to the bar in Livorno and ask my friends what I think.

“Sarri has done extraordinary work. He inherited a team from Rafa Benitez and moved Marek Hamsik to wide midfield, that’s the main difference. He builds his games on defence, as he only has Arkadiusz Milik who is tall and good in the air, the others are all little.

“He put together a team that is beautiful to watch, but also got some very good results over the years. He has improved a lot from his time in Lega Pro and is proving his worth.

“Over the last six years, Napoli have changed about one player, as far as I can tell. I think that’s an advantage. Over the last four years, Juventus changed many players and did extraordinary work on the market, bringing in players with different characteristics to those we had.”

Juve have had a couple of big games recently, and some extraordinary goals go against them.

“It’s wonderful to play these games, whether in Madrid, the Coppa Italia Final or a Champions League Final. We’ve got some great fixtures coming up and should go into them with great enthusiasm.

“If Napoli finish ahead of us come May 20, we’ll tip our hats to them, but for now we are ahead. Right now all we have to do is do. There’s no distraction, there’s no calculations. When the fixture list came out, as always, I looked at the final six rounds and I said the Scudetto would certainly be decided in these final weeks.

“The fact Juve and Napoli reach the last five with a four-point gap was improbable, because we can both reach at least 96 points. In any case, regardless of how our season went, we could not mathematically be safe winning the title with five games to go.

“Juventus have the points we deserve. There’s no reason to say oh what if we’d won at SPAL or Crotone. We can’t win all the time. Juventus put in a lot of effort in Madrid and it was natural we’d leave something behind afterwards, as that’s physiological.

“At Crotone we conceded another goal with a bicycle kick. This year, we’re having trouble with bicycle kicks… Hopefully there won’t be another tomorrow!”