Juventus kick off their Champions League campaign with a difficult trip to Paris St Germain, who have perennially underwhelmed at the continental showcase much like Juve in recent years.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s game in Paris, coach Massimiliano Allegri talked about Angel Di Maria who will miss the game with his former side, and his squad selections.
“Di Maria was available on Saturday, so he played. I didn’t want to take any risk [for the match with PSG], there are many games and it would have been useless.
“Tomorrow, Bonucci, Rabiot and Vlahovic return. Perin will start. These four will surely be on the pitch. I must decide on the others. I have to assess Alex Sandro and Paredes.”
Regarding the challenge tomorrow, Allegri laid out what would be required for Juve.
“Tomorrow, we begin the group stage, we need 10 points to qualify. We face an extraordinary team, the No.1 favourite to win [the Champions League]. Our target is to be at their level, Juventus will play a great game technically, it will be an entertaining match.
“We must take a step at a time, we must work and improve. You don’t win titles now, it’s time to work to improve.”
Was Allegri conceding that Juve were only fighting for second place in the group?
“I didn’t say I don’t want to win [against PSG]. Tomorrow we face a strong team and it will be crucial to handle the ball well. They have so much technique that we must work well.
“Neymar, Mbappé and Messi are so strong that they find the position easily. We must be able to stop them when we don’t have the ball, but also when we have it and we’ll do it.”
Club captain Leonardo Bonucci was also asked what he thought about Allegri saying on Sunday that Juventus’ real battle in the Champions League Group H would be with Benfica.
“I smile because we all know the coach, he said that to ease the pressure. The most important game is tomorrow, but we’ll have to face Benfica for the qualification. It’s so good to play against these champions.”
On what he and his defensive partners would need to do against the phalanx of superstars PSG will put on the pitch tomorrow.
“Mbappé is a stratospheric footballer, he has everything to become the best in the world. I am sure that he has the right mentality. You see it from how he speaks, he wants to improve. It will be hard to face him, Messi and Neymar, we need a team effort to stop them.
“Tomorrow’s game will tell us where to improve, it takes patience when you have new signings who have to settle in, but on Champions League nights, something changes, you’ll see a great Juventus tomorrow.
“It’s going to be a nice game but very difficult. We should not forget that it’s one of those games where we must have fun, we dreamed of playing these games as kids. We must keep the ball and run behind opponents like when we were kids.”
Paul Pogba’s season appears to be in jeopardy with news that he is now going to undergo surgery for his knee issue.
“Paul is an international star; off-the-pitch issues don’t concern me. Paul is focused on his recovery, there was this problem today, but we hope to have him back soon.”
“Di Maria is a considerable loss, he is an important player, crucial inside the dressing room. Paredes has arrived recently, but he has personality and you can see that. He adds more international experience.”
On the rebuilding project going on at the Bianconeri this season, Bonucci struck a confident note.
“We have a lot of new players, and getting the Juventus mentality isn’t easy or quick. The coach is doing a great job, making them understand what it means to play for Juventus.
“I am convinced that we’ll bring Juventus back to the top. We are doing something different compared to the past and I trust this team so much.”