Juventus host AC Milan on Sunday in what is a historically relevant fixture, even though the Bianconeri sit at the top of the table for the last decade while the Rossoneri continue to wallow in mid-table mediocrity embroiled in the muck of leadership and management woes.
However, Juve manager Maurizio Sarri paid homage to the teams of yesteryear that have lined up for Milan in his pre-match press conference.
“Milan are a good team, they haven’t done their best yet this season, but anything can happen in a one-off match.
“They are rebuilding and there are always going to be difficulties in that situation. They are laying the foundations. I don’t know how much it’ll help them get back to certain levels, but they do have good potential.
“We need more intensity, particularly when defending, compared to the game against Lokomotiv Moscow.”
Sarri was asked if Cristiano Ronaldo, who left the midweek Champions League game with a knee issue, would be fit to play.
“I don’t know if he can play yet, we’ll see what he is able to do today and also tomorrow morning. It’s nothing serious, just a pain in his knee that then leads him to unbalance his posture during games.
“Matthijs de Ligt had a positive response to tests on his ankle and we’ll see today, as he’ll train with the squad.”
Leonardo Bonucci has been a constant in defence with Giorgio Chiellini injured, de Ligt inconsistent, and the pair of Merih Demiral and Daniele Rugani on the fringes.
“My choices say it all. If I thought we could do without him right now, I’d have let him rest. He is needed for his experience, character and defensive organisation, so we are asking him for an enormous sacrifice. I hope he can rest in future.”
Will Douglas Costa start tomorrow after his match-winning act in Moscow, and even more importantly, will he line up out on the wing or as trequartista?
“He did well in Moscow and went a little wider because there was no space in the centre, but that too is the job of a trequartista, to find the space. I think Federico Bernardeschi’s performances in that role have been underestimated, as we need balance right now and cannot afford a purely attacking player there.”
Gonzalo Higuain did not enjoy his half season out on loan with Milan.
“Gonzalo’s history shows he needs strong motivation to give his best. He is currently in good shape both physically and psychologically, so he can and is giving the team a great contribution.
“He’s really helping in the build-up, I feel he can do a tiny bit more in the finishing, so should go for goal himself more.”
As a former Napoli manager, Sarri was asked his opinion of the circus that is currently playing at the Partenopei.
“I am outside of the situation, so do not presume to know what’s happening. There are strong characters like Carlo Ancelotti and Cristiano Giuntoli there, so I’m sure they’ll be able to resolve it.”