Antonio Conte has warned his men to brace themselves for a “battle” when they line up against Torino in Sunday afternoon’s 186th Derby della Mole at the Stadio Olimpico.
With Juventus boasting an undefeated Turin derby record stretching back to 1995 and in search of points to wrap up their second successive Scudetto, many pundits have tipped them as clear favourites to complete a seasonal double over their inter-city rivals.
But Conte is fully aware that the lethal combination of local pride and Torino’s hunger to preserve their top-flight status means tomorrow’s clash will be anything but straightforward for his high-flying side.
The 43-year-old: “Tomorrow’s meeting with Torino will be a battle. It will involve two teams who look to dictate the game and control possession. Having said that, the derby is always a special kind of game in which motivation is an important factor. Torino will be ruthlessly competitive and we’ll have to match them from that point of view.”
Conte, who featured in plenty of derby day encounters throughout his long playing career with the Bianconeri, appreciates the unique atmosphere on offer whenever the city’s two sides lock horns.
And he cited two previous meetings with the Granata – both contested in the 1994/95 season - to illustrate his belief that form counts for nothing when local supremacy is at stake.
“I remember two encounters in particular. It was a season in which we won the title and Torino went down, but we lost both derbies. The form book goes out the window in these types of games. Both teams are after points and could achieve their respective targets.
“The derby will never be a game like the others. It’s nice to have this rivalry in the city and two teams competing in the same league. Torino are enjoying an excellent season and are pushing for survival. We know that we’ll be up against an excellent side and we’ll need to be fully alert.”
Ever since arriving in Turin from his native Lecce back in 1991, Conte has always spoken highly of the city and maintained a healthy respect for neighbours Torino.
And it is the manager's hope that rival supporters are able to enjoy the occasion without tarnishing the reputation of both clubs and Italian football as whole.
“I’ve had a house here for some time now and consider myself an adopted ‘Torinese’. I’ve also got plenty of friends who are Torino die-hard fans. I’ve always had plenty of respect for their supporters, Torino’s history and for what the club represents.
“To think that a game of football might be a cause for skirmishes is a disgrace. I’ve been saying it for a while now, wherever we go, we’re greeted by stones, clubs and insults.
“And now, if we were to win the Scudetto tomorrow, we might need to worry about clashes between the fans. The fact we’re even asking ourselves the question is something that should embarrass us.”
Juventus could mathematically clinch their 31st Scudetto title this weekend if they overcome Torino and Napoli fail to beat Pescara in tonight’s clash at the Stadio Adriatico.
Contemplating the prospect, Conte concluded: “It would be an extraordinary Scudetto. It’s not easy to reclaim the title in Italy, especially when you start out as favourites. If we were to win the Scudetto, I think it would have come thanks to our ferocity, determination, desire and consistency. These are the aspects we’ve had over the others.”