Juventus’ continental campaign continues in the Europa League this week as they take on a side they are yet to meet in international competition - Freiburg from Germany. The Bianconeri stuttered in the first leg of the previous round against Nantes before comfortably winning the return leg in France, while their Bundesliga opponents had a bye in the previous round after winning Group G coming in ahead of Nantes, ironically.
Speaking ahead of this week’s first leg game in Turin, coach Massimiliano Allegri started by looking back at the disappointing defeat at AS Roma over the weekend in a game they should have won comfortably after hitting the woodwork thrice.
“After the match, it’s normal for there to be feelings of regret, dissatisfaction and disappointment. I said after the game, when there are these situations of instability after a goal goes in, everything seems to fall apart.
“Tomorrow we will have to react as a team. We have to win and not concede a goal.”
Moise Kean reacted badly to Gianluca Mancini grabbing him in that defeat by kicking out at the defender less than a minute after coming on.
“He knows that he made a mistake in Rome, he was the first to apologise. He will pay the fine that the club has given him but he is a Juventus player, an important player for us, who scores important goals.
“We have three months left in the season, everyone is needed regardless of the mistakes they make. He made one, he paid and he will come out of it more mature.”
The Bianconeri had failed to put Nantes away in the first leg of the previous round, and were stunned by a counter attack equalizer.
“Tomorrow we want to lay the foundations for the second leg. They are physically strong, they are fifth in Germany, they are unbeaten in Europe. We have to go back to winning at home.
“We’ll need to pay attention, otherwise we’ll have to do the same as against Nantes. We have to win tomorrow, whether it’s by one or two. It won’t be easy, it’ll be balanced, they’re physical, they score lots of goals, we’ll need focus.”
Striker Dusan Vlahovic has not been at his best in recent weeks, but the coach had words of support for him.
“I’m happy with Vlahovic, but being a Juventus centre-forward comes with different responsibilities. Dusan has grown, and he is growing, but like all players, there are moments when things go well and moments when things go less well.
“He has played badly when he has scored and on Sunday he played a good match without scoring. Tomorrow, maybe everything will be seen differently from the outside.”
Allegri also gave a fitness update on midfielder Paul Pogba who is still working his way back to fitness, and on key player Angel Di Maria who has been at the heart of just about everything positive Juve have done recently.
“Yesterday Pogba did a good workout, today he was rested, tomorrow morning we’ll know if he’s available. He didn’t work with the team today: I think he’s available but we’ll see.
“Angel is extraordinary but we win as a team. He’s fine physically, he will start tomorrow. We’ll see during the game whether he can play until the end or not”.
Wide man Filip Kostic, who spent eight seasons in the Bundesliga, joined Allegri for the pre-match press conference, speaking about his experiences going up against Freiburg.
“I’ve played against Freiburg several times. They’re a compact and solid team. We have to take control of the game because they adapt very well. We have to start tomorrow with a good performance. I know the Europa League well, having already won it. Our aim is to win the competition. It’s one of our objectives.”
On his partnership with his Serbian teammate Dusan Vlahovic -
“Juve have great quality. We are above average based on skills. We’ve always worked together and we believe in ourselves. As for Dušan, I have know him for a long time. We talk often. I think every player experiences some periods like this, but I’m not worried because he is showing a lot of hunger. I’m sure he just needs one goal to get over this period, and I hope he scores it tomorrow.”
What did he have to say about his usage and his time so far at Turin, where he has racked up a team-leading nine assists so far to go along with a pair of goals in all competitions.
“My goal is always to give 100%, no matter the competition. I listen to what the coach asks of me and I always adapt. I’m happy here. All my teammates have helped me settle in and understand the level of expectations at Juve.”