Juventus take on second-from-bottom Cagliari tomorrow to round out the first half of a tumultuous 2021-22 Serie A season, knowing they can’t go into the winter break higher than 5th or lower than 8th place in the table.
Coach Massimiliano Allegri however warned his squad to not take this game lightly though.
“It’s a difficult game because holidays begin after the game, so everyone’s busy preparing luggage and presents, but we must focus on the game against Cagliari.
“They don’t deserve this position in the table for their technical values. They have Keita, Joao Pedro and Pavoletti and I believe they are among the best strikers in the second part of the table.
“Cagliari have good players in midfield. If we think that tomorrow’s game will be easy, we are wrong. We need full commitment because we can no longer make errors at home. The only thing we can do is try to win as many games as possible.
“We must be more clinical and continue to work hard. We played well at Bologna, it wasn’t an easy game. I’m happy with what we’ve done, but tomorrow we start from the beginning.”
Allegri’s squad injury update wasn’t a good one, with no players having recovered as yet.
“Those who travelled to Bologna will be available tomorrow. Paulo Dybala, Danilo, Federico Chiesa and Giorgio Chiellini will train with us on the 30th. Danilo will be a bit behind, but the others will be available. Then we’ll see Aaron Ramsey, who is still out of action.
“Juan Cuadrado is one yellow card away from suspension, so I will decide who plays tomorrow. Substitutions will be crucial.”
Defending Scudetto champions Inter Milan are also this season’s ‘winter champions’ as Allegri had correctly predicted at the beginning of this campaign.
“It wasn’t so difficult to guess that Inter were the favourites to win the title. We have to win tomorrow and then see where we can get.
“On February 28, we’ll be able to know if we are in the race for the top four. There’s a lot of work to do over the next two months, but the rest of the season depends on tomorrow’s game. If we don’t win, the victory against Bologna will be useless.”
In that two month period the Bianconeri have a number of difficult clashes against the top sides including Napoli, AS Roma, AC Milan and Atalanta but question marks continue to swirl around the futures of two top players.
Dybala’s agent has left town without a new contract being signed and now the player will be able to sign a pre-contract starting January 1st with his current deal set to expire at the end of the season.
“He didn’t train with the team this morning and it makes no sense to take another risk.
“I haven’t talked to the club about his contract extension. I know there was a meeting with his agent a few days ago, I don’t know the latest developments. I think they are in talks and it’s normal at this stage. It’s a big contract, Juventus have invested a lot on Dybala.”
Meanwhile Matthijs De Ligt’s ‘super’ agent Mino Raiola continues to rock the boat claiming that his client could leave this coming summer. Allegri was asked if that was seemly behaviour from Raiola.
“What do I have to say? Repeat the question? Or not answer?
“The next step for Matthijs is in the next game. He has to score a goal.
“I haven’t heard what Raiola said. Matthijs is improving, he played really well in Bologna, he is 22 and has great quality, he can only improve as any other player, from Dejan Kulusevski to Chiesa and Adrien Rabiot.
“The growth must be our target, then we’ll see what happens in the market.”