Juventus turned it up in the second half to beat Sassuolo 2-1 and move into the Coppa Italia semi-finals where they will take on Fiorentina over two legs starting in early March. The visitors threatened for a large part of the first half finding an equalizer after going down early, but they had no answer as the Bianconeri poured forward searching for the lead in the second stanza.
Speaking after the game, Massimiliano Allegri commented on the impact the new additions in January have made.
“We are happy with Dusan Vlahovic and Denis Zakaria, who are very good players and settled in quickly. Juve had been playing better recently, so these players bring characteristics we didn’t have before.
“We are happy to have Vlahovic, he needs to improve, be cleaner in the way he plays, attack the space more, but that’s the normal process for any player.”
The Bianconeri player with a renewed vigor looking for the winner but 40-year-old goalkeeper Gianluca Pegolo was in inspired form repelling Juve time after time, getting additional help from the woodwork too.
“It was practically over, but we were lucky with that late chance. It’s also true that we created many chances in the second half and did well.
“We rather fell asleep after our opening goal and Sassuolo pushed us further and further back until they equalized. There were already signs of recovery by half-time and then we poured forward.”
Despite speculation that his time at Juventus was at an end with the arrival of Vlahovic, Alvaro Morata appears to be reinventing himself with success out wide in a dangerous trio with Dybala and the newly-signed striker. Was his future like that of another warrior of Allegri’s previous era, Mario Mandzukic?
“Alvaro always did play with a centre-forward and moved around behind him. He doesn’t always express the best of himself that way, but he came on with the right attitude this evening.
“We had the right spirit in the second half, we were more aggressive, won back the ball quickly with duels and that makes the difference, especially against a side like Sassuolo.”
Allegri has insisted that the Scudetto is a three-horse race with his side out of it, and was asked if he believed they could still enter the fray.
“We are potentially 11 points off Inter, so no, we have to focus on Atalanta. They are a physical side with a lot of quality, they will be fired up by their Coppa Italia elimination [to Fiorentina], so we need to give it our all on Sunday and see what happens. The other teams are too far away.”