Juventus are in France for the second leg of their Europa League knockout round playoff game, with their clash against Nantes finely balanced after last week’s 1-1 draw in Turin. With no away goals rule in place any more, the Bianconeri will need to win the game outright, whether it’s in regulation time, extra time or on a penalty shootout to advance to the next round.
The injury bug has not loosened it’s grip on Massimiliano Allegri’s squad, with Federico Chiesa the latest addition to the absentees list, joining Paul Pogba, Arkadiusz Milik and Fabio Miretti back at home.
“Unfortunately, Chiesa is out, but that is natural when you have been out for 10 months for knee surgery, it takes a while to reach full fitness.”
Allegri might have tipped off his formation when asked if Juve were going to have to rely on World Cup winners Angel Di Maria and Leandro Paredes to pull them through?
“It doesn’t just depend on Di Maria and Paredes. The whole team has to play with the right approach, we must not allow Nantes to play the way we did in the first leg. We must also remember this tie could go to extra time, so we cannot play with three upfront. We will need players who can come off the bench and change the game.”
His opposite number Antoine Kombouaré had mentioned during his pre-match press conference that Juve failing to go through would be humiliating for the Italian giants, but Allegri refused to get drawn into making a comment.
“We need to go through because in the last three years we went out in the Champions League Round of 16.
“I see tomorrow as a Final, a one-off, because away goals no longer count double. We will play it on their turf and fight it out on level terms for passage to the next phase. It’s 50-50 for qualification.
“It won’t be easy, as Nantes have some good players like Blas, who is left-footed, and the strikers tend to track back to help the defence. They are dangerous on the counter-attack.
“Winning away from home in Europe is never easy. We know the atmosphere we’ll face at the start of the game and we must shake it off. We must prepare for 90 minutes and hope that will be enough, that is our objective.”
Commenting on his pensive appearance for the press conference or if Juve need to play differently when in Europe, Allegri added -
“(I’m) just serious, I was listening. I have the lights on and it looks like a first-degree interrogation, I have to dodge the lights. We are serene, we face the match as it should be, also knowing that it won’t be easy. We have to get ready to play for 90 minutes, let’s hope enough, that’s our goal.
“Last Thursday we played a good match, we conceded on one of the two occasions conceded. And we’ll have to be good because they’re good on the counterattack.”
Pressed on his squad selection for the game tomorrow, Allegri said he was yet to decide who start on the right between Juan Cuadrado and Mattia De Sciglio, while it is expected that Manuel Locatelli will play as he is suspended for this weekend’s game against Torino.
“He’s better than in Spezia, he came from the flu and hadn’t recovered well. It’s him and De Sciglio, I think I’ll try to manage them during the match, I haven’t decided yet who will start between the two.
“Aside from his technical qualities, Manuel also has moral qualities that make him a real Juventus player, now and in the future. He has the specific DNA of a player who can spend many years at Juventus.”
Earlier this week we heard that Juventus had started the paperwork to finalize Locatelli’s loan into a permanent purchase. For his segment of the presser, the midfielder was asked if he was ready to be a leader for Juve.
“I felt like a Juventus player from the very beginning. The move was a loan but the rest is bureaucracy that isn’t up to me.
“Leader? I try to be an example, but there are many leaders in this team and it’s an important thing. And then I don’t have to be recognized as one, it’s the team that recognizes a leader.”
On Juve’s poor form in Europe this season and what it would take to advance tomorrow -
“It will take intelligence, the stadium will be full, they are the best matches to play.
“We didn’t have a great run in Europe. We’re aware of this, we’re here to go through and have a great race tomorrow. We’ll have to be smart and not get the wrong attitude.”