Juventus take on Empoli this weekend, looking to get back to winning ways after dropping points at home against Bologna last Sunday.
Speaking during his pre-match press conference coach Massimiliano Allegri warned his side not to underestimate tomorrow’s opponents, who sit bottom of the table after losing both their opening fixtures.
“Tomorrow’s pitfalls are those of all matches, we’ll find a team that plays, it’s in Empoli’s DNA. We’ll have to play a solid, technical game, without underestimating their team.”
What players would he define as his defensive starters?
“There is no starting defence. I have six defenders, all starters. Bremer and Danilo will play tomorrow, I have a doubt between Alex Sandro and Gatti.”
After the final whistle last weekend Allegri went straight to the dressing room and it was assistant coach Marco Landucci who handled the media responsibilities.
“I wasn’t so well, Landucci came, which is like me speaking, no problem. It was, I think, the first time in 20 years, I wasn’t well, and I was coming from a week in which I was battered. It happened, I was sorry, it won’t happen again.”
Young midfielder Nicolo Fagioli is still returning to full fitness from a long-term injury and wasn’t at his best last weekend.
“He is a player who is improving in condition, with the fracture he missed the preparation with us and couldn’t play all the time. He can become a good regista, but for now Locatelli is the starter.
“We can play Rabiot, we can play Miretti. Then maybe we could also play with a two-man midfield.
“He’s doing well and I’m sorry for the boos on Sunday, as well as Alex Sandro. They are two reliable players, who like everyone can do more or less well.”
Allegri’s thoughts on the transfer market that is now closed?
“At least it’s closed, and we can think about tomorrow’s game…. We have shared everything that has been done, both outgoing and incoming possibilities.
“Changing players just to change faces didn’t make sense, there was no chance of taking someone who would improve the team. The input was to maintain a team that was competitive and at the same time sustainable. Many players left and in this a very good market was made.”
How did he feel about the side he has right now?
“Now we have a competitive team, with the prospect of believing that Vlahovic is doing much better than last year, that it’s a new year for Chiesa, that Pogba is to be managed as much as possible and let him play until he reaches an optimal condition, that the boys are still growing.
“The goal this year is to get to December 30, after the Roma game at home if I’m not mistaken, to be able to draw a line and see where we are in the table. The objective is to stay in the top four or attached to the top four, to play our cards in the second half of the season.
“The goal is to be in the top four again, as happened last year, and to play in the Champions League next year.”
Who in his mind were the outright favourites to top the league?
“I think we need 86 to 90 points to win the Scudetto this year. Predications are difficult, what’s valid today is not valid tomorrow.
“Napoli are favourites because they won the Scudetto, Milan also played a great game yesterday. But we are only at the beginning, we have to concentrate on what we have to do, knowing that it will be tough.
“There are also Inter, Lazio, AS Roma, Atalanta and Fiorentina. The top four will come out of these teams.”
Do Juve have a squad that can contend for the top four?
“It’s competitive, we work every day to improve our performance and then there are the opponents. I think it will be a very balanced season and it will be very difficult to get into the top four. If the Scudetto quota is what I say it is, for fourth place you have to score 76 points.”
Dusan Vlahovic was widely expected to leave this summer, but has two goals already.
“I see him more serene, he’s better physically. Then forwards are always better when they score goals, he managed it in the first two games and, as I told you at the start of pre-season, I believe that Vlahovic, who wasn’t well last year and still scored 10-12 goals, will score.
“I’m very calm about his season, as well as Federico, Kean, Milik. It’s difficult, having one game a week we have players who might not play for two to three weeks, but we have a common goal.”
Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny is still injured and will not play tomorrow, but Filip Kostic is yet to feature and was also expected to leave late in the transfer window.
“Related to the market, absolutely not. With Udinese I explained why I played Cambiaso, who I proposed again in Bologna.
“Maybe tomorrow Kostic will play as a starter, he is a player who has provided many assists and will improve in front of goal. I’m happy with him, then I’ll repeat myself, with one game a week, there will be players who will play less. But I’m calm.”
Was Paul Pogba back to full fitness yet.
“At the moment I have to give him a few, he is a player who is coming off an injury, but the other day he made an important play, Iling’s assist came from him.
“He is a player who is already 70% different from all the others, we try to keep him as the holy stuff.”