Juventus are fresh off clinching their record ninth Scudetto in a row but will now have to turn their focus to a challenge of a different nature tomorrow. The Champions League resumes action after the COVID-19 interruption, and Juve will have to overcome a 1-0 deficit from the first leg away at Lyon to continue their participation in a competition that has more often than not eluded their grasp despite domestic domination.
Speaking ahead of the game, manager Maurizio Sarri talked about what the Bianconeri will need to do to progress.
“We need a great performance, certainly. Lyon have evolved and become far more solid since moving to three at the back, playing with density in midfield and also pace on the counter.
“With the first leg result too, it’s a very tough game we need to approach with calm and focus,” said the coach in his press conference.
“Unfortunately, losing the first leg means we are forced to play a game that most suits their approach to the counter-attack. Memphis Depay is an important player to get back, so it’s very difficult, but still entirely possible.”
Sarri went on to add that despite playing in Turin, there was no real home advantage for his side.
“It’s impossible to play without pressure tomorrow, so what we need is sharpness, which is slightly different. We played the first leg with a crowd, the second behind closed doors, but these are the conditions we all have to deal with. It’s always a little sad to play without a crowd, but even more so in the Champions League, the best club competition in the world.
“We can only hope this won’t last too long, as it is also difficult for the players to always be without fans.”
Serie A Player of the Year Paulo Dybala picked up a muscle ailment late in the season, and it’s still not certain whether he will be fit for this clash or not.
“It’s still in the hands of the medics, although I saw he did something on the pitch in training. We’ll see what he can do tomorrow morning, then talk to him and the doctors about what he’s able to do.”
Cristiano Ronaldo is a player that has thrived in this competition in the past.
“Ronaldo is training well, I saw him score an absolutely stunning goal in training yesterday. He’s had many games in a short period of time, so quite rightly had a couple of days to rest, then resumed training with intensity and vigour. I think he’s approaching this appointment the right way.”
The manager went on to provide a squad update, starting with Juan Cuadrado who has been equally adept playing a couple of positions on the right.
“There are both options. I think Cuadrado will start, but we haven’t yet decided if he’ll be in the defence or the attack.
“Gonzalo Higuain and Miralem Pjanic are in my view growing. After a difficult period, Higuain managed to get some minutes under his belt and is therefore improving. Pjanic was tired physically and psychologically, but after a period of rest, he seems much sharper now.”
Juventus have been mostly underwhelming this season and Sarri was asked bluntly about the possibility of being sacked whenever Juve’s 2019-20 season ended.
“No, and I think this question is essentially calling our directors amateurish, which I don’t think they are. They will have made their evaluation based on the entire season as a whole, so if they’ve already decided to get a new coach, tomorrow won’t make any difference, nor will a victory.
“It’s an important match, but it’s also important to win the Scudetto and so we’ve had plenty of those already this season. It would be important to be part of Europe’s elite by reaching the Final Eight tournament in Portugal, so we care about it, but that makes it an important match, not anything else.”
What did Sarri feel about the general negativity that surrounded both his appointment and the months since.
“I am agnostic, in that I don’t read or listen to any of it. We are very happy to have won perhaps the most difficult Serie A season in the history of the league, due to the many issues that were around it.
“Juventus is a club accustomed to winning and therefore people can be a little blasé about it, but that is absolutely wrong in my opinion, because victory should always be treated as a wonderful and extraordinary event.”