Juventus will play Lazio tomorrow in their last game of the year, with an earlier than usual winter break coming up thanks to the 2022 World Cup being held in Qatar. Napoli have clear daylight behind them after yet another win, but if the Bianconeri win in Turin and AC Milan draw or lose at home to Fiorentina tomorrow, Massimiliano Allegri could find his faltering Bianconeri side improbably in second place.
Speaking during his pre-match press conference, Allegri gave a squad fitness update.
“I will only know tomorrow morning if Manuel Locatelli and Juan Cuadrado are available, and I will make my choices after that. Dusan Vlahovic will not be there, he doesn’t feel that he’s at 100 per cent. Federico Chiesa is available.
“The most important thing we’ve seen during this period is the return of that team spirit we had lost, but after that, obviously there are also things we need to improve. In order to bring home results and defend well, we needed a little more focus and attention on the details. We still have to do better in possession.”
When asked how close this current side was to his ideal Bianconeri side, Allegri was curt -
“My ideal is a team that wins.”
Argentines Angel Di Maria and Leandro Paredes are both still recovering match fitness ahead of the upcoming World Cup.
“I have to decide how many minutes to give Di Maria. It’s a dangerous game anyway, due to the quality of our opponents, and even more so because it’s the last one going into a long break. We’re on a strong run of results and want to build on that.”
While Juventus have the best defensive record in the league, Lazio are not far behind them in second place.
“I expect a difficult match because Lazio are a strong side who are doing very well. It will be a different type of game to the one with Verona. Having said that, if there’s a goal after 10 minutes then everything could change.
“Maurizio Sarri is a great coach who knows how to organise his teams defensively and has a lot of quality players who can create situations both with passing moves and on the counter. We both won the Serie A title at Juve, but in terms of personality, Sarri and I are polar opposites.”
On that note, while Sarri was critical of the World Cup being played in Qatar which has meant the global showcase has to be held in winter rather than the summer, Allegri didn’t want to get drawn into the debate.
“I am a coach. When they tell me to play, we play, when they tell me to stop, we stop. It’s not for us to decide, we just have to get the best out of the squad.”
Gleison Bremer has played very well this season, pushing club captain Leonardo Bonucci out of the starting lineup.
“They have the same position, but with different characteristics. Leo is better at passing out from the back, while Gleison covers the space.”