This is the last matchweek of group action in the Champions League, and for Juventus in Group G the task is clear, but not simple. A win by two or more goals at Barcelona should seal top spot and avoid some trickier opponents when the draw for the knockout stages is made.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference today, coach Andrea Pirlo started off with the somewhat surprising news that not only was club legend Gianluigi Buffon was fit again, but was in contention to start tomorrow.
“Gigi is better, he has recovered from the injury. He could be in the game tomorrow because he deserves such an important stage and could play.”
Barca are wallowing in La Liga and have picked up more points in the Champions League with five wins on the trot than they have in their domestic league in double the number of games, but Pirlo is not concerned by that.
“I don’t believe in the Barcelona crisis; they have a new coach who is putting together his ideas. We know that they’re a great team.”
Despite Juve’s own domestic struggles and coming up flat against Barcelona in the home leg of this fixture, Pirlo remains confident the Bianconeri can win.
“Yes, we have to believe it. It will be a difficult match and in part, we must suffer.
“We know we will get opportunities and must exploit them. We should just play openly; we have nothing to lose. Knowing the mistakes in the first leg, but also the good things we have done.
“We are calm and convinced that anything can happen.”
When asked if Aaron Ramsey could play a key part in the game, the coach agreed.
“Yes, he can be very useful. He feels a bit better and can put a few minutes in his legs. He has strength.
“I’ve said I didn’t think he was that smart on the pitch, he knows how to find the right move. He can come in handy in the spaces tomorrow.”
Both the coach and much of his inexperienced side could use some big-game experience.
“These are games to play to grow and see what we must improve. Apart from the ranking, finishing first gives you something different in the draw.
“But it’s more important what we put on the pitch tomorrow and what we will find at the end of the match, if we have an excellent game.”
Was the late win in the Derby della Mole over the weekend a turning point for an inconsistent Juventus side?
“We watched and reviewed the first leg. Defeats improve the games you have to play and can help you for the future. We definitely need to improve the non-possession phase compared to the first leg. They bring many players up the pitch.
“We must be tight and try to make them play sideways, where we will have more space to attack them.
“I don’t think we can talk about a turning point [against Torino]. To change the attitude. We had a completely different attitude in the first and the second half, where we won all the duels. The DNA must never be missing.”
Fans have noticed a disconnect between what Pirlo talks about and what his players are doing on the pitch, and the coach added he was displeased by some attitudes he has seen.
“I don’t especially like it when some players approach the match and aren’t at 100 per cent. But it’s also given by the number of games they play and the mental fatigue.
“Maybe a spark is needed to make them perform at their best. It shouldn’t happen but it’s normal because we are in a particular period.
“It’s difficult with many trips and this can happen. For matches like the one tomorrow night, however, it will certainly not happen.”
Adrien Rabiot had a turbulent first season in Turin but has settled in well this campaign.
“I’m very satisfied with Adrien. He’s having a good season. I didn’t know him that well. He’s a hard worker.
“You have to think that he’s at 70 per cent of his potential and can do more. He can become a great midfielder at world level.”
Despite the Barcelona Instagram account trolling Cristiano Ronaldo by calling Lionel Messi the ‘GOAT’ (greatest of all time), Pirlo agreed with Ronald Koeman that there was no need to compare or declare one better than the other.
“Koeman is right to say that it’s not fair to say who is better. They have put on a show and have been doing it for 15 years.
“They have shared the Ballon d’Or for the last 15 years. It’s a shame to say if one is better than the other. They are phenomena that make millions of fans rejoice every time they take to the pitch.
“It’s not fair to say who’s better. We must thank them both because they are good for football.”