Juventus had new signing Dusan Vlahovic to thank as he grabbed his first brace for the Bianconeri to lead them to a much-needed 3-2 win even as teams ahead of the Bianconeri in the table continue to drop points.
Speaking after the game, coach Massimiliano Allegri praised the striker who answered his critics with now three very well-taken goals in the last two games.
“Vlahovic is an important player, he has character as well as quality and has the kind of characteristics we didn’t have in the squad.
“You could tell straight away this lad has character, wants to win and is eager to learn. He moved a lot more today, didn’t just stay central, and that was a big advantage for him and for Juventus.”
It was inevitable that comparisons with the former wearer of the No. 7 shirt, Cristiano Ronaldo.
“I don’t think you can compare them, the previous No. 7 won the Ballon d’Or four times, whereas Vlahovic is at the beginning of his career. A good game isn’t enough, you need immense mental strength and he is at the start of his journey.”
Allegri had warned that this game would not be a cakewalk, especially after Empoli had upset Juve at home earlier in the season.
“We knew it would be difficult, because Empoli pass it around well, they can stretch you out and they never stop, which is why at 3-1 they risked getting it back to 3-3.
“I am glad we are back to suffering when we need to suffer in order to bring home the result as a team.”
With eight players already missing, Allegri watched forlornly as another new signing Denis Zakaria went off injured in the first half while he was trying to rest players.
“We’ve got more injuries and that means it is not really possible to rotate the squad or let someone rest. It’s never easy to win in Empoli, we need to improve our passing and some of our decisions in possession, but I liked the spirit.”
Allegri explained his thinking in giving Moise Kean a rare league start.
“Kean struggles with his back to goal and coming back to connect with the midfield, but he does well when wide and attacking the box. Alvaro Morata is the same, he gave a great pass to Vlahovic for the third goal.
“Football is very simple, you just have to put players in roles where they can work to their characteristics. We couldn’t do that for four or five months, so we had to adapt, but we stayed in range of the top four and now we’ll see what happens.”
Juve are now seven points behind league leaders AC Milan, though both Inter Milan and Napoli can go top if they win their games in hand. Is Allegri still convinced the Scudetto is lost?
“I remain fully convinced it will take 84-85 points minimum to win the Scudetto. Our objective is to finish in the top four and we need to be consistent, because there’s Atalanta, Fiorentina, Lazio are coming up too, the title will be a battle between those three up there.”
Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny said earlier today that he would not play for Poland if their World Cup playoff game against Russia will go ahead as a protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. What did Allegri have to say about it?
“All we feel is sadness at these poor families forced to flee their homes. It is always the weakest who are made to pay the heaviest price for war.”