Juventus travel to the Marassi tomorrow night to play their second consecutive Monday game. Hosts Sampdoria had opened the season with a 2-0 loss away at Atalanta while Juve had cantered to a 3-0 win against Sassuolo.
Speaking ahead of the game, coach Massimiliano Allegri insisted he would not underestimate Samp.
“We’ll face a team that played well against Atalanta, creating chances and hitting the post twice, scoring one goal [disallowed]. It’s never easy to play at Marassi. There will be moments during the game where we’ll have to defend well. When the fans push them, it’s the most difficult time in the game.”
The coach was asked about the spate of early season injuries and if there was something at Continassa that seemed to be the problem with Leonardo Bonucci the latest to have picked up a knock in training.
“There’s a lot of noise when there is a muscle injury for Juventus. Angel Di Maria has had an adductor problem, he will be out for a week, maybe ten days. Or he could be back earlier. I can do nothing for Paul Pogba’s meniscus or Weston McKennie’s shoulder injury.
“Wojciech Szczesny had an adductor problem which can be solved. Mattia Perin is reliable, but injuries are part of the season. I am not worried. We are working with intensity, we played three important games, and the rest of the team feels well. We have to work quietly to improve our shape and take a step at a time.”
While Bonucci will travel with the squad tomorrow, he will not start the game, leaving a decision for ALlegri to make between veteran Daniele Rugani and giving Federico Gatti a debut start.
“I am happy with Gatti, tomorrow one between him and Rugani will play. I’ll flip a coin, Gatti [cat in English] will play if a cat comes up. If it’s a dog, then it’s Rugani!
“Leo [Bonucci] had issues with his flexor during the break against Sassuolo on Monday. We’ve managed him this week, but I had already decided that he would not play tomorrow. He will travel with us and is available.”
Allegri also updated the return timeline of Federico Chiesa,
“Chiesa is progressing well. I’d be happy if he returns before the World Cup break. We can’t dream. I am pragmatic and realistic. Right now, I can’t rely on him and it’s normal.”
Midfielder Adrien Rabiot’s highly publicized move to Manchester United fell through this week, but Allegri said he would be in the lineup to start tomorrow, as would new signing Filip Kostic.
“Rabiot plays tomorrow. Of course, players who could leave have chances in the market, but Rabiot had an excellent season last term. He was suspended last week, so he didn’t play. We have two ‘new’ signings tomorrow, Rabiot and Kean, who were suspended against Sassuolo.
“I am happy with Kean, he is doing well and scored against Barcelona and the Primavera Team. From next Saturday, we’ll play a game every three days, there will be space for everyone and subs will be crucial. Reserves did well against Sassuolo, so we must keep working.
“Kostic should start. He is a smart guy so he settling in well. He must learn his teammates, but he has important qualities and is a very good crosser. The ball always comes through, so we must attack the space well. He plays football well, he passes the ball quickly and reminds me of Douglas Costa.”
There’s been some chatter that with Rabiot now not being sold it would be Denis Zakaria who could exit instead with Monaco interested.
“Zakaria is ok, he played well against Sassuolo and I am happy. I don’t talk about transfers, ten days are remaining before the end of the transfer window, anything can happen, so we must only focus on the pitch and the club will do the rest.”
As happens often, Allegri was asked who he was tipping to win the Scudetto.
“We have to work hard, there are eight top teams: Milan, Inter, Napoli, Juventus, Lazio, Roma, Atalanta and Fiorentina.
“Milan are favourites on paper, Inter have brought in reinforcements, the season is long, and the next three months are important, but we must think about ourselves and improve our score. We can’t be favourites right now. We must work hard, be quiet and know that in order to win games, we have to suffer and don’t think that we’ll win easily only because we are Juventus.
“I watched Inter yesterday, they were strong last season and even stronger this year. But we should not think about others, we must think about improving and keeping this humility that we have. We need passion, sacrifice and technique, which is needed to play football.”