Juventus will be looking to go into the upcoming international break in a positive frame of mind with a home game against Cagliari on Saturday. Six clean sheets in a row since that disastrous defeat to Sassuolo have seen the Bianconeri settle into second place just two points behind leaders Inter Milan, with the two sides set to battle in the Derby d’Italia on the other side of the international break.
Speaking during his pre-match press conference, coach Massimiliano Allegri insisted on the importance of not taking 17th placed Cagliari lightly.
“It’s important from all points of view, for the table and to close this cycle. Tomorrow’s points will at least help us maintain our points lead over fifth place.
“Tomorrow will be difficult, we will need to have a lot of patience. We will need to play a game of technique and above all not to lose the most important thing which is the unity of the team. The mistake around the corner is to overdo it. Tomorrow there is no need to overdo it, but to do the normal. When the match ends, we need to bring home the three points.
“The match against Cagliari is difficult, not so much because we have Inter and the break first. We have a period of important results, it can lower our attention and energy. They must be faced with serenity, humility and respect, without thinking about that, which will be in 15 days.
“Tomorrow’s match is important, otherwise we’ll throw away what we’ve done in the last few matches.”
Allegri also provided a squad update, starting with who would be in goal tomorrow.
“Szczesny will play. Unfortunately this year by not playing the cups we have fewer games, and it will be a more difficult year for Perin because he will play a little less.
“[Captain] will be Locatelli, fresh from [contract] renewal, and we will give him a nice prize.
“Gatti will be out tomorrow, we can’t take any risks. Tomorrow is the most important match. Cagliari are very dangerous, Ranieri on the bench doesn’t give you any advantages. They have players up front who have speed and technique, Petagna and Pavoletti who provide physicality.”
Juve’s defence has been somewhat surprisingly stout, and Allegri commended their performances this season.
“Football is not an exact science, every year it’s different from the others. I see that they’re a group of extraordinary guys, the objective is at the end of the season, and we need to continue working with a low profile.
“Alex Sandro and Weah will return after the break, I don’t think Danilo will. I haven’t talked about the transfer market with the club, we are a cohesive group and the strength of this group are those who don’t play who keep the intensity very high.”
Who would replace Rabiot in the lineup with the midfielder serving a suspension?
“We have Locatelli, McKennie, Miretti, Nicolussi and Nonge. They’re all doing well, it’s not easy. The fact that those who play and then those who come on to make their contribution is an important factor. We need to put personal objectives aside and put ourselves at the service of the team.”
How about Danilo, what was the latest on the veteran defender?
“We have to be very careful with Danilo, what he had was not a big thing but a profound one.
“Let’s take one step at a time, if he were to return for Inter it would be a lot better but otherwise, I prefer not to risk him.”
What has changed for him in the 15 years since he last took charge of Cagliari?
“I have certainly changed, I was lucky enough to coach a Cagliari with very good players, we had a lot of fun. I made some leaps forward training for four years at Milan, this is the eighth at Juve.
“It’s normal for one to grow and try to improve, I believe that in twenty years of career there has never been one year the same as another. I have extraordinary memories in Cagliari, I have friends.”
The coach was also asked what he thought of how have the Italian sides that are in Europe are performing.
“I don’t know what happened in Europe. In Italy there is a tendency to belittle the value we have. The Italian teams have always done well in Europe, then it can go better or worse. The Italians are doing well.
“This is why we must have the objective of returning to the Champions League, which is a motivation and an important 360-degree showcase.”