Juventus go into the top of the table clash against Napoli with the club appearing to be in a bit of turmoil. The 2-0 loss away at Atletico Madrid appears to have brought this season’s Champions League campaign to a grinding halt and the fallout from that has been vocal among the fanbase, to the extent that the manager Massimiliano Allegri shut down his social media accounts on Twitter and Instagram this week.
“I’ve never been a big fan of social media and consider it normal to leave just as I went in to it. I don’t even know what I was talking about the other day at dinner, but I just said I’d close my social media accounts. It seems normal enough to me.
“I was frankly amazed there was all this clamour, wondering what strategy I was planning, what psychological war I was waging. I just send a message out after games, not much else. This is a return to normality.
“Social media is a valid tool, but not for everyone. You see so many issues and insults and people hiding behind their keyboards, but that’s nothing to do with me or with football. It’s society.”
Allegri is refusing to be disappointed at this time.
“We’ve got a marvellous Serie A match coming up (against Napoli), then SPAL and after that Atletico Madrid. In four years we’ve achieved great things, we’re still in the running for the Scudetto and Champions League. It’s a pity about the Coppa Italia, but we won four, so it can go wrong sometimes.
“I was disappointed by the reaction, because people had created some expectations Juventus had to go to Madrid and beat Atletico 3-0. It’s not an intelligent assumption, not one for people with their feet on the ground.
“These are expectations based on something that is entirely outside of reality. We were missing four important players. You can lose one game and make up for it in Serie A over the next 12 rounds, but in the Champions League you can lose once and that’s it, you’re out.
“I understand constructive criticism, but not when expectations are beyond reality. It is not normal to win, it is always extraordinary and must always be treated as such. If you don’t, then that’s not my problem.
“Let’s not forget in my tenure, Juventus lost only 11 games in the Champions League, including ones against Young Boys and Sevilla where we were already qualified, Manchester United in bizarre fashion, then Barcelona, Real Madrid and now Atletico. I am not a fan of statistics, but that’s an impressive statistic.
“I was angry with the way we lost to Atletico Madrid, but I was angry with myself, not with the critics. I am the Coach and set the example, but I also have to be accepted for who I am.”
The manager wants to look forward, especially with a clash that could pretty much decide the destination of the Scudetto this season coming up.
“We should focus on Napoli, a stadium packed with people eager to beat us. We must play with intelligence, sharpness, intensity, clear heads and knowing it’s never over at the San Paolo.
“Tomorrow is very important, as a victory would improve our chances of winning the Scudetto. It’s a big game for Napoli, as they have within them this incredibly strong desire to beat us and prove they are on our level. It’s a battle between two sides who have fought for the Scudetto in recent years.
“It’ll be a different game to some of our more recent ones, as Napoli play in a more open and attacking manner, so it won’t be as tactically static.
“We’re playing two thirds of the Scudetto tomorrow night. The strongest and most reliable team always wins at the end of the season.”
Cristiano Ronaldo has been nursing an ankle injury but will be back for the game the manager confirmed.
“Ronaldo trained with the team and will play tomorrow. Sami Khedira needs tests. We hope to get Douglas Costa back against Atletico Madrid, but Juan Cuadrado is still a long way off recovery.
“If we play Paulo Dybala and Federico Bernardeschi along with Mario Mandzukic and Ronaldo, then the only forward on the bench would be Moise Kean. So in that case, one out of Dybala or Bernardeschi would be on the bench and be an important option to come on as a substitute. Tomorrow either Emre Can or Rodrigo Bentancur will start in midfield.”
Of course conversation about the second leg of the Atletico game is never far, as have been questions about Allegri’s future with the Bianconeri.
“The team will reach the second leg against Atletico in great shape, because we’ll make the most of the time to improve our fitness levels. Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini had only played one game before the first leg, so will certainly improve, while Miralem Pjanic had flu in Madrid.
“We will certainly be ready for that game. People assumed we were dead and buried already in the Champions League, which sparked the usual rumours about whether Allegri would be leaving, etc, etc.
“At the end of the season, I will meet with the President, the same way I do every single year, and decide whether we want to continue together or each go our separate ways.
“I give my contribution and try to set the right tone. If a defeat prompts people to see total darkness, then something is wrong.”