Juventus have an opportunity to quickly bounce back from their weekend disaster at the Mapei when they take on Lecce tomorrow in midweek league action. The visitors are having an interesting start to the season, and actually sit ahead of Juve on the league table in a lofty third place, and are the only other unbeaten side in the league along with leaders Inter Milan.
Going back to Saturday though, the Bianconeri put in an error-riddled performance that saw off-days for too many key players in the squad, resulting in a 4-2 defeat to Sassuolo. Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was particularly culpable, though he did try to partly redeem himself with a couple of magnificent saves as well. Federico Gatti in front of him had a howler as well on the last goal for the hosts with his no-look back pass directly into the gaping Juve net.
Speaking during his pre-match press conference, coach Massimiliano Allegri did express a vote of confidence in both players.
“Gatti must remain calm and quiet, he has just started his career. Other mistakes will happen, maybe not like the one on Saturday but they will happen.
“Szczesny is the starting goalkeeper and he’ll play tomorrow, knowing however that Mattia Perin is an important goalkeeper.
“We must not think negatively and believe in what we do. The other night we paid with individual mistakes and Szczesny had a bad night.
“We have a little problem with Moise Kean, he has a tibia problem that has flared up. We’ll assess him today, the others are all fine.”
Was the Juventus’ squad’s mentality questionable, especially how they collapsed in the last ten minutes of that game?
“We have Danilo, there’s Szczesny and then Alex Sandro, even if he is injured now. Daniele Rugani himself has grown a lot. We’ve lost in experience compared to last year, but gained in speed and light-heartedness.
“We must continue to work with balance, knowing that difficult situations like Saturday can happen. But Saturday’s were individual situations rather than team situations.
“We can only grow, but it’s normal that if we don’t have internal balance, we start to go on a rollercoaster ride and this mustn’t happen.
“We must have the desire and the will to get maximum results. There is great pressure and a great sense of responsibility. The guys must remain calm, choices have been made for the present and the future of the club.”
What are his thoughts on Lecce who have taken full advantage of a relatively easier schedule to climb into the top spots in the table?
“Tomorrow, we challenge a solid team, Roberto D’Aversa is a very good coach and he is doing well with Lecce. They play very well, they have technical players and they are solid.
“Then they have Pantaleo Corvino who is very good, one of the most experienced directors who always manages to build good teams like last season.”
Allegri insisted again that for him Juventus’ mission this season needs to be a top four spot, and it will come from hitting some early season form.
“We hope to get it as soon as possible, we are working for it. Tomorrow’s match will be a tough one, with a team that has conceded few goals, good at playing. We must have the determination to overturn the negative incident.
“Inter, Napoli and AC Milan are the three teams above the others. Inter are proving that they deserve first place in the table, and we must be good to fight for the top four places, it would be an important result without setting ourselves limits.
“When you reopen a cycle playing in the Champions League is very important, getting into the top four is decisive from all points of view.”
Would tomorrow be an opportunity for some squad rotation, given that Juve don’t have too many midweek games this season?
“Kenan Yildiz comes back from a beautiful goal he scored with the Next Gen. I’m happy with their win, they came from three defeats, and it wasn’t easy. He is a very good guy to play, I like him a lot.
“Rugani is fine, Arkadiusz Milik the same. With Kean we’ll see if he’ll be in or out, I’ll have to evaluate Federico Chiesa and Dusan Vlahovic, they’ve played two important games.
“One of the two can start from the bench. After that there is another match in Bergamo.”
Chiesa has had a sparkling start to the season so far.
“He is doing very well, he is much more present in the game, I am happy. He can only improve, he is aware of the new role he has.
“I will have to evaluate, he spent a lot on Saturday as did Vlahovic. Tomorrow is intense, as always the changes will make the difference.”
Vlahovic has looked very determined and has been in the goals early on too.
“Dusan has to make a path that leads him to find the right balance. The important thing is to stay focused on the game, he is an important and extraordinary player and in a few years’ time he will be a completely different player.”
Clearly there is some room for improvement, what would that look like for the coach?
“It’s not that we improve if I say we raise the bar…. We improve on the pitch every day. We have to know our limitations and they have to be turned into strengths. The reality is that there are three teams, on paper favourites for the Scudetto.
“Then the pitch can overturn the hierarchies and this does not mean that we stop at fourth place, the goal is to get into the top four, then we’ll see. But AS Roma are also fighting for the top four positions, Atalanta are equal to us.
“There’s Lazio, Fiorentina, it’s not easy… When you start a new cycle, the dangers of being out of the Champions League are many. We have to stay good and focused, as we go along, we’ll see if we can stay ahead.
“With Sassuolo we could stay ahead for a night, and we didn’t manage it. Dreaming is nice but tighten up. To desire yes, but desire takes you somewhere. Dreaming is good to tell.”
Allegri again reiterated that he felt his side had taken it too easy after beating Lazio convincingly the previous weekend.
“It had been a week a bit like that, with the post-victory euphoria. We tried to remedy it, but football is not an exact science. We thought and reflected together on the negative evening.
“The team is motivated, especially sorry, and angry about what happened against Sassuolo. We will play a more careful game. We had a meeting yesterday to discuss what happened against Sassuolo. We didn’t play a bad game on a technical level, but we defended badly and made technical mistakes.”