Juventus take on league leaders Inter Milan (what an abstract statement, doesn’t even roll off the tongue right) in a top of the table Derby d’Italia contest on Sunday. The hype for this clash is bigger than it has been in a few years, and Maurizio Sarri addressed the media hordes today.
First off he was asked how he would keep Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain happy while one sits when the other plays.
“I don’t need to convince players, I need to make decisions. It’s only fair that players are angry if they don’t play and I consider that a positive rather than a negative reaction.
“It is my job to make decisions, I can’t worry about how the players react. Their irritation might make your headlines, but I see it as a positive show of ambition.”
On tomorrow’s opponents Inter, who are two points ahead of the Bianconeri.
“We are up against a strong side, in good shape, as proved with their excellent performance against Barcelona. You cannot say one or the other is the favourite in a one-off match, especially as Inter-Juventus is one of those wonderful experiences that everyone wants to be a part of. It’ll be followed all over the world, so I can only see the positives.
“It’s a strong team, solid and when taking control of the game is dangerous, whereas out of possession they are good on the counter and defend well. I’ve seen a strong Inter play this season.”
Sarri was also asked his opinion of Antonio Conte, the former Juve player and manager who turned traitor joining the hated enemy.
“Conte is one of the best Coaches in the world and proved himself all over. If you want to see tomorrow as Conte v Sarri rather than Inter v Juventus, then I don’t understand your approach.
“I’d say the importance of this game in the title race is close to zero. It’s too early, it makes little difference when there are another 31 rounds to go.
“It’s about the growth process of the team, more important to prove we can emerge from San Siro with a good performance and the mentality of a strong team. It’d be a huge error to think the table is decided at the start of October.”
He went on to add that his side was still a work in progress.
“We changed a few players, our style of football, and are up against an Inter side who have improved radically compared to previous seasons.
“Our focus is on raising the level of the performances, as that will make it easier for us to get results. We have to be concentrated on the performances and adapting to the different style of football. I have great desire to experience this fixture. It is a wide open match and any result is possible.
“We each evaluate a performance based on the kind of football we want to see. We intend to go there and play our football. People talk so much about desire, determination, hunger, but these are surely natural elements of a professional. I prefer to focus on quality and style.”
Sarri wouldn’t let on Juve’s approach to this game or what tactics he would employ.
“We’ll see if we are able to adapt to the situations and opponents that we face. I like to see teams with a very precise way of playing that they carry on with consistently.
“We know that a Coach has 100 different decisions to make in a day, so we inevitably get some wrong. The ability to keep errors to a minimum is a great quality for a Coach.
“The statistics show that Inter have the strongest defence in Serie A right now, both for the quality of the individuals, but also because the entire team is solid and works hard to defend as a team. They are a solid side.
“We’ll see which of our forwards are in the best shape and how best to attack Inter, but it certainly won’t be easy.”
The manager was also asked a valid question if a win or defeat in the Derby would be a bigger ego blow to either side than actually making a difference in the points table.
“If a result at the start of October damages us psychologically, that means we are not ready to do great things.”
Aaron Ramsey should return tomorrow as the trequartista after Federico Bernardeschi filled that role midweek.
“Unfortunately, I struggled to use Bernardeschi in the role that best suits him. I think what he did against Bayer Leverkusen is most suited to him, he did well and has been improving in training too.
“Whether he plays tomorrow or not, I’d prefer to tell him in person rather than let him learn it from the media. That’s a form of respect that every Coach owes his players.”