Juventus host Paris St Germain tomorrow with little to play for but pride in the final round of games of the group stage of this season’s Champions league. The Bianconeri have been eliminated from the tournament’s latter stages, but will still need to match or better the result of Maccabi Haifa against Benfica to ensure their European adventure continues in the Europa League.
PSG for their part will be looking to win to stay ahead of the Portuguese side and will field a strong lineup while Massimiliano Allegri is struggling to even pick a full matchday squad due to the raft of injuries that have struck his side.
“Apart from Manuel Locatelli we won’t recover anyone. Players for such an important match are there. Some guys who played in Lecce will play, some youngsters, it will be a good test for them too. Tomorrow is important.
“Weston McKennie has an edema that we can’t tell if it’s from a blow or a strain. I have Locatelli, Adrien Rabiot, Nicolo Fagioli and Fabio Miretti in midfield. Locatelli is fine.”
Midfielder Paul Pogba’s faint hopes of making France’s World Cup squad were dashed earlier this week with reports of a new injury.
“I spoke to him earlier. It’s pointless repeating what has already been said, once the decision was made not to have surgery at the start of the season, it was normal that hopes that he could return with Juventus and France were slim.
“He’s sorry for Juventus and the World Cup, it’s normal, we were penalised for not having him available.”
Regarding the game tomorrow against the French juggernauts, Allegri was understandably subdued.
“Today is a strange press conference, it’s the first in many years where we play without it being decisive for the Champions League. Now in the Europa League we try to go there, it’s still Europe, we have to play a fair match, we face one of the strongest in Europe.
“We will have to play an intelligent match, technically good. In Paris we gave away two goals, on two avoidable situations. We’ll need confidence as we had in Lecce, in view of what we’ll do tomorrow night.”
On his disappointment after failing to make the knockout rounds of the Champions League for the very first time with Juventus.
“I am angry, not comparing ourselves from March onwards with the best creates anger for us. It has to give us motivation, it has to create a reaction but we’ll think about the league after the matches with Inter Milan, Verona and Lazio.
“It’s normal that the matches in the Champions League, as results, are very bad and this makes us see the results in the league in a more negative way. But we’ll think about the league from the day after tomorrow.”
How did he feel playing in a second tier competition like the Europa League?
“Everything is an opportunity. We’ll see the result, whether we’ll be good enough to go but I don’t even want to think about it. We have to think about tomorrow’s match and do the best.”
While one French midfielder has been a disappointment, another one is a genuine early candidate for Juve’s player of the season in Adrien Rabiot.
“He went from scoring two goals with great insertions to an intelligent match against Lecce. He’s improving as a player, he’s reached a very good maturity, he’s good for Juventus and for the French national team.”
Juventus started the season plagued with injuries and now things seem even worse, what is going on at the training grounds?
“The average has risen this season. When you start in a league with three players out of competition, you face 21 games with players who have to play more.
“McKennie has played 15 in a row plus the national team, on Iling there was an injury that fortunately was less serious than expected otherwise he would have been risking a tibia and fibula.
“We have had injuries that were not only muscular, we must surely have done something wrong, but there have been traumatic injuries. But, having said that, let’s just talk about the present.
“On Monday for Inter we will have Angel Di Maria and Bremer available, from next Monday I think also Leandro Paredes if everything goes well. With the others we’ll see in January. Dusan Vlahovic is not available tomorrow, I hope he will be there against Inter, it’s just that there are so many out… Some age, some the list, I forget.”
Juventus’ struggles this season have been symbolized by their rapidly-aging core making key mistakes game after game, none more so than veteran Juan Cuadrado. Speaking at the same pre-match press conference, the Colombian wide man talked about the game tomorrow and the impact the youngsters are having on the team.
“We are a great team, we must take to the pitch with desire and determination, with anger for not having reached the goal. This match will give us the strength to find a place in the Europa League, it’s important for us.
“They try to do the best for the team, they help us, in the last game their entrance on the pitch was important. I hope they can keep their feet on the ground, keep working, that they can do the best for the team.”
What in his mind has gone wrong for Juve this season?
“We are having some good games, in some we missed something, now we are working on the pitch. We have to see what we can improve on, trying to have that hunger and determination that we have always had.
“Sometimes you try to give 100% and things don’t come, we give our best in every match, little by little we will rediscover the Juventus spirit which is to fight and battle until the end. It’s already positive that in the last league games the results have been good, this is the way.
“We know that the absent players are very important for us, we know their quality. If everyone was well they could give us a hand, we hope to have them with us as soon as possible, all together we can give us a hand to take Juventus to where they’ve always been.”
On his personal performances and travails -
“When you are used to being an important player, you feel responsibility. Sometimes things don’t go well, you forget the things you do.
“My strength is in this, I don’t listen to what they say but I make myself available to do the best for the team, to help my teammates. We work for this, I can give even more with work.”
The 34-year-old is in the last year of his contract with the Bianconeri, what does the future hold for him?
“I’m happy to be here, I feel this team like my family. I have done almost my entire career as a professional here, I am grateful to Juventus. I try to move forward to do the best for the team and the future will show.”