Juventus are at home this weekend against bottom side Salernitana looking to keep the pressure up on the top three while attempting to stretch the distance between themselves and the chasing pack of Lazio, Atalanta and AS Roma. At the time of writing, Napoli had beaten Udinese to go second while Inter Milan play Fiorentina later today and AC Milan are at Cagliari.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference, coach Massimiliano Allegri warned is side to be careful in tomorrow’s clash.
“Salernitana are different to the first meeting, they’ve done well and are playing better. We must immediately erase the Champions League exit and close this period in the best possible way to try to stay three points behind Inter and play the direct match at home.”
With Manuel Locatelli testing positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, the coach is going to be forced to make changes again.
“I have to evaluate and choose, this morning we tried some solutions. Giorgio Chiellini, Paulo Dybala and Federico Bernardeschi are better but they don’t have 90 minutes in their legs.”
Italian media is rife with rumours about an argument between Allegri and Dybala, especially in the context of the player possibly walking away for nothing at the end of this season, related to the player asking for more time off before Sunday’s game along with Juan Cuadrado.
“They made a request and I said no. Nothing happened, they understood and they were good. After this morning’s training session we’ll stay in the camp because tomorrow is a delicate game and we’ll all stay together, rest and be calm. No discussions.
“An inappropriate request? I’ve been a player myself, every now and then we need a bit of a fuss otherwise we stay flat. The other evening I thought we were too flat.”
The coach was adamant this season was not a failure, lambasting the press for their comments immediately after the loss on Wednesday against Villarreal.
“I have nothing to clarify, together with the club we’re on a path and we’ve laid a good foundation. I think we’re on the right track and we’ve also found a shortcut. it doesn’t take much to destroy things, so you have to be very careful.
“We went from a very dangerous situation when in January we were 10 points behind Atalanta and we were good and lucky there, something that didn’t happen against Villarreal. On Tuesday we weren’t the team that could win the Champions League, on Thursday it’s all over again, it’s failure.
“You have to write these things, we have to keep a clear head. It’s not that Tuesday is one thing and Thursday is another. We played well in a Round of 16, how many goals do you want to create in a Round of 16? Donuts don’t always come with a hole.
“Of course no one expected a 3-0 defeat, but that’s football. Like what happened in Madrid with PSG. The positive thing is that after the break we’ll have all the players available, except for Federico Chiesa and Weston McKennie.”
After Sporting Director Maurizio Arrivabene’s comments about Juve’s goals of the Round of 16 and 4th place, would he be satisfied with ending up behind the leading trio?
“To me those who judge know little. Together with the club I have to look at the construction of a four-year project. We’ve shortened the time frame a little thanks to the January market and now we’ll evaluate how to improve further.
“If for you fourth place is a failure, you are right to write it down. There’s an old saying in football: whoever wins is a good guy, whoever loses… You don’t have to smash the atom, you have to win games based on an assessment of what you have available.
“Now let’s try to beat Salernitana, which isn’t easy. Above all, to have the ambition of playing the direct match against Inter being only three points behind.”
The coach was asked if he was thinking ahead to next season with what he has in current squad.
“The club and myself know very well what to do, we have clear ideas and the same line. But this doesn’t matter now, I have these players and I’m proud of them. We have ten games in which to do our best and then see where we are.
“But I’m not changing my evaluations, maybe we can do better one year and worse the next. The players have all made themselves available and woe betide anyone who touches them. Now we have to put everything aside and think about these games, first of all tomorrow because I don’t want to ruin my break.
“After being eliminated from the Champions League, you guys were out of the Champions League too, you liked that too… Going away, having two days. We’re sorry for you too. Tomorrow must be good.”
Allegri went on to allude that the media and the fans were expecting too much from Juve to immediately turn things around and become champions again.
“I believe that, as the president has often said, it takes time to build. With the January market and the work we have shortened the time needed to build. I’m happy with the way we’re working, then it’s normal that every year the team has to be fixed, it has to be done with focus.
“You mustn’t get caught up in gut feelings, you lose against Villarreal and everything is no longer good. No, it’s not like that.”
What were his goals for the remainder of the season?
“At the start of the season we had difficulties, then gradually we regained confidence. We must continue to take it one step at a time, there are still many points to be made to get into the top four.”