Juventus will take a narrow single goal advantage to Freiburg tomorrow for the second leg of their Europa League Round of 16 clash, knowing that a draw or a win would be enough to secure passage through to the quarterfinals of the second tier continental competition.
Both Angel Di Maria and Federico Chiesa missed last weekend’s win over Sampdoria nursing injuries, and coach Massimiliano Allegri speaking during his pre-match press conference did not rule out starting either player.
“It is very unlikely they will be there from the start, as we only recovered them this morning, but they could be of use during the match. I will evaluate Chiesa and Di Maria tomorrow morning and from there I can make my decision on the starting line-up.
“Unfortunately, Di Maria had this injury after the first leg with Freiburg and had to miss quite a few training sessions. The test went well today, that doesn’t mean he has a lot of minutes in his legs, but there is the risk we could lose him for 40 days, seeing as that is what happened in September. Tomorrow is important, but we also have many more matches to play this season.”
Striker Dusan Vlahovic cut a frustrated figure in that Sampdoria game on Sunday as he did pretty much everything but score.
“Vlahovic was very sad that he hasn’t scored recently, but is fine physically. I am relaxed and certain that he’ll soon be back on the scoresheet.”
Allegri indicated that he thought Freiburg would be quite different tomorrow given that they will be chasing the game.
“We want to score here, because just trying to defend for 0-0 is really not a good idea. Freiburg are good on set plays, we need to be very organised and concentrated for the full 100 minutes.”
On talk about Juventus being one of the favorites to win the Europa League.
“We need to take it one step at a time. Let’s reach the quarter-finals first, then on Sunday evening there’s Juventus - Inter Milan, which is always the Derby d’Italia. Progressing in the Europa League also means filling out the fixture list. We’ll enjoy ourselves more on the pitch, but have far fewer training sessions.”
Both Milan clubs are in the quarter finals and expected to be joined by runaway leaders Napoli, while Juve, AS Roma and Fiorentina could all make it to that same stage in the Europa League and Europa Conference League. Is Italian football finally reawakening?
“The trouble in Italy is there is no balance. We go from saying someone is a Ballon d’Or winner to a week later calling him a flop.
“There are also difficulties outside of the pitch in Italy, the Premier League financially has a 5-1 advantage in that sense, we are economically weak in comparison.
“The fact we do get good results means we have good people working here, from coaches to directors. I hope all the Italians go through and then we’ll see what the draw says.”