Juventus return to league action tomorrow with a trip to Lecce, looking to at least keep their domestic run after a fourth loss in five Champions League games put paid to any chance of moving to the knockout rounds.
The Bianconeri’s early-season injury woes had started abating about a month ago, but those have come back with a vengeance now, with only nineteen first team players named for the away game this weekend, and that includes two players from the youth side in Samuel-Iling Junior and Mattia Compagnon.
Speaking during his pre-match press conference today coach Massimiliano Allegri added two names to make it now ten players injured for Juve, starting with Dusan Vlahovic and midfielder Manuel Locatelli.
“He [Vlahovic] still has problems at his adductor, so, in the last minute, he didn’t recover.
“Locatelli is out for personal reasons, the others are available.”
While long-term injured Federico Chiesa and Paul Pogba have started training again, they are still nowhere near to a competitive return, with Allegri saying they will not be available for next Wednesday’s final Champions League group stage game against Paris St Germain or against Inter Milan the following weekend.
“We have enough players for tomorrow’s game. Lecce are an organised team with fast strikers. It is never easy to play against them, we need to react and bring the rage we have until the end of the season.
“There will be 19 players available, 16 outfield and three goalkeepers. They are enough. We are ready to play this game. In these situations, the team becomes united and everyone will do more to gain a result.
“It is important to play as a team tomorrow and be solid. We need to have self-belief, we can’t go backward, and only the next game will give us a different perception of things. Now we have 12 days and then everyone will be available [in 2023] helping those who have played more to rest.”
Moise Kean has been more involved in the last couple of games and Allegri will start him alongside Arkadiusz Milik tomorrow.
“Kean played some good games, he is in good form.”
Asked if he still thinks a title charge is possible, Allegri was dismissive of the question.
“We’ve only played 11 games; talking about the Scudetto is quite useless. Now we must react and we have a chance to do so tomorrow. Napoli are doing extraordinary things, the same as AC Milan. Lazio, Inter and AS Roma are all doing important things.
“We are behind. The target is to close the gap, 27 games are remaining; tomorrow’s is the first one. Tomorrow’s game will be challenging, we must be on the same level as them and run as much as they do. If needed, we must be ready to do the work.”
How about the Europa League, did he think Juve had a chance at it?
“It is useless to think about Europa League now, we must switch and focus on Serie A. It’s going to be a complicated game tomorrow. Lecce picked up draws against Fiorentina and Salernitana, they are well-organised and can be dangerous with counter-attacks.
“We need an important signal, we must come out of this situation, but we won’t do it in just one game. These players have great moral values and I strongly rely on this.”
What is Allegri’s explanation for how poorly the season has gone so far?
“These things happen, I can’t find an appropriate word, it is up to you to find it.
“I focus on training with commitment and desire. Some clubs remained out of the Champions League for eight years or were eliminated. We don’t need frustration, otherwise, we won’t get out of this situation. We know how important tomorrow’s game is, it’s complicated regardless of the Champions League and we need to play it as a unit.”