Juventus travel to Atletico Madrid to kick off their annual Champions League campaign, facing what is likely to be their toughest game of the group stages right off the bat.
A disappointing 0-0 draw at Fiorentina marred by injuries was not apt preparation for this clash, but manager Maurizio Sarri started with the good news about midfielder Miralem Pjanic.
“Miralem Pjanic is available, he trained regularly with the group today and we’ll see if he starts or not.”
The Champions League title is becoming a bit of an obsession for this generation of fans, players and leadership alike, but Sarri sought to defuse that expectation.
“We don’t feel this pressure. We are Juventus, every time we step on to the pitch, the objective is to win, but we also know full well there are 10-12 other teams who feel the same way and have the same resources as we do.
“At this moment, I don’t see Italian football as the favourites going into the Champions League, as over the last 20 years we’ve lost ground. The fault for that goes to everyone, from Presidents to journalists, everything that surrounds the sport.
“I think we need to face this competition with exceptional determination, but also a relaxed mind. We’ve got to get back to enjoying our football, without this illogical phobia.”
Tomorrow’s opponents Atletico have become perennial contenders for the trophy too, and seem to kick it up a notch in this competition.
“Atletico Madrid are one of the teams who can win the Champions League. It’s difficult to fight against the Premier League sides, as they have so much money in the sport.
“Atletico lost an extraordinary player in Antoine Griezmann, but brought in one just as extraordinary in Joao Felix. Saul Niguez has made huge leaps forward and I consider him one of the best in Europe right now.
“Atleti have the players to beat anyone, but unfortunately at this level, you need mental strength, technique, tactics AND a bit of luck.”