Juventus are in Germany to take on Bayer Leverkusen tomorrow having already sealed top spot in Group D of the Champions League. While the Italian side will not have anything to play for really, the hosts will be looking for a win to overtake Atletico Madrid who sit just one point ahead of them but have the easier fixture on paper, at home against Lokomotiv Moscow.
Speaking during his pre-match press conference ahead of the game, manager Maurizio Sarri was questioned about what he’d previously said about possibly trying Fernando Bernardeschi in midfield with Sami Khedira, Aaron Ramsey, Rodrigo Bentancur, and Douglas Costa all out injured.
“It could happen, although I don’t know how many options I’d have in the trequartista role then, with Ramsey and Douglas Costa out.
“Adrien Rabiot showed in pre-season he could do well on the right side of midfield, so we’ll see. The only unknown is whether Adrien can play 90 minutes after such a long time out.”
The manager also talked about where he saw his side still needing some improvement.
“We know that we have to work to do better, but are calm because we are working. We need a spark nowadays, but that can be many things. We’ve got to move the ball quickly, otherwise possession becomes sterile, and not defend deep after we’ve taken the lead.
“It’s important that we always try to control the game. These are all things that represent a change of mentality at Juventus, so they do not come automatically. We’ve seen them in moments, for example the first half in Rome.”
Was he expecting full effort from his players with the group already won?
“The first time I was contacted by the Juventus hierarchy, I asked how come they only managed three points in the final Serie A games of the season. I said it would be a bad sign of their mentality if they justified it with the fact the Scudetto had already been won.
“We have the privilege and the honour of playing in the Champions League. I expect a strong and focused performance, because there are always objectives. I ask for a performance, then the result can come or not.
“I am unbeaten in 21 European games. I think I read somewhere that the longest run for a coach in Europe is 22, so if my lads don’t get a result tomorrow, I’ll kill them!
“Clearly, the match I remember with most fondness is the Europa League Final with Chelsea, but I hope the run can last so long that I end up in another Final.”
No press conference could be considered complete without the requisite question about him using the trio of Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain together.
“It’s an experiment, because we have used it during games, but also learned from that we cannot afford to keep it going for long periods.”