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Pirlo: Watching Conte made me want to coach

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Juve travel to Inter Milan on Sunday for Derby D’Italia

Juventus v SSC Napoli - Serie A Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Twice a year this fixture comes around, and no matter what positions in the table the two participants sit at, it all gets forgotten when the referee blows the whistle at kickoff, and a pair of fearsome rivals go at it with everything they have until the indubitably contentious final whistle.

The Derby D’Italia is here, and Juventus travel to the San Siro to take on Inter Milan tomorrow in the feature game of the weekend. Antonio Conte’s side sit four points ahead of the Bianconeri who have a game in hand though. Speaking ahead of the clash, coach Andrea Pirlo spoke about what he expected on Sunday.

“I expect to see an aggressive Inter that wants to set the tempo for the game, but we are Juventus, so we want to go to San Siro with our style of football, free from pressure.

“There must be no fear, no timidity, even in such an important match. We must free our minds. We are Juventus and must be accustomed to people putting pressure on us.

“The victory would give us a real boost that goes beyond the three points. We might have different philosophies at this moment, but both teams will fight to the end for the title.”

Pirlo played under Conte when Juve’s current nine-year Championship streak started, and added that he was inspired by Conte’s example to become a coach himself.

“Conte and I have two very different personalities, which is probably why we have always got along really well. We did speak before the season began, there remains great respect and affection between us.

“He made Juventus history and I learned a lot from him, so will always be grateful. Conte is the first man who made me want to become a coach. He is a great person as well as a great coach, but tomorrow we will be opponents on the touchline.”

The threat of Inter right back Achraf Hakimi is well-known, what was Pirlo planning to keep him quiet, with Matthijs de Ligt, Alex Sandro and Juan Cuadrado still missing from COVID?

“We have Aaron Ramsey, Weston McKennie and other options too. We’ve studied a few different alternatives and tomorrow we’ll see.

“McKennie is not at 100 per cent, but it’s good to have him at our disposal. Ramsey trained all week, so he has no issues. Giorgio Chiellini is also doing well and an added bonus for this squad.”

FBL-ITA-SERIEA-INTER-JUVENTUS Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images

Conte meanwhile in his own comments insisted Juve remain the benchmark for Italian sides.

“Inevitably, Juventus represent a reference point for everyone, as they dominated in Italy in recent years. When a team wants to understand what level it is at, inevitably the only reference point in Italy is Juventus.

“I don’t want to point to favourites, we simply have to respect a side that has dominated for nine years and wants to dominate for another year. Respect is the least we can give Juventus for all they’ve done, especially as in recent years it’s been a foregone conclusion in Serie A.

“We closed the gap on them last season and hope we can do the same, because I remember times when Juve were 20-25 points in front of everyone and that was not good to see.

“No team in Italy can say they completely closed the gap with Juventus, but we’re getting closer. They dominated for nine years and also worked well off the field, bringing in the likes of Federico Chiesa, Alvaro Morata, Dejan Kulusevski and Weston McKennie. They deserve credit for improving every single year.”