Antonio Conte says he will need his entire squad to be on their toes if they are to take their first steps towards winning a “prestigious” trophy with a positive result in tomorrow night’s Europa League Round of 32 tie against Trabzonspor.
Speaking to the media this afternoon at Juventus Center in Vinovo, the manager outlined his desire to go all the way in the competition, but admitted he will have to freshen up his selection in order to keep his players in peak condition for the challenging run of fixtures that lies ahead.
The 44-year-old began: “In the next 52 days, including the international fixtures, our players will be involved in 16 games. The entire squad needs to be ready, because we want to honour the Europa League as best as we possibly can.
“We’ll rotate when the time is right, because it would be impossible to play every three days with the same starting line-up. The objective is always to do well in each game we face.”
The Bianconeri’s Europa League adventure begins with Thursday evening’s first leg clash against the Turkish Super Lig outfit, who earned their place in the knockout stages courtesy of a formidable unbeaten six-game run in Group J.
And despite their faltering domestic form resulting in this month’s departure of manager Mustafa Akcay, Conte believes the blend of quality and experience among their ranks makes them a threat to be taken seriously.
“We’re up against an opponent who finished above Lazio in their group. They have excellent players in forward areas, along with experienced performers such as Zokora, Bosingwa and Malouda. There’s also Olcan, a very strong individual who offers them flair. We’ll need to remain alert.”
A strong result in front of a passionate home crowd at Juventus Stadium would place the Bianconeri on course for a spot in the last 16 against the winners of Esbjerg FC or Fiorentina.
And with the same ground providing the venue for the competition’s final showdown, Conte insists his team will leave no stone unturned in their quest to make a triumphant return on Wednesday 14 May.
“We know that there’s a long road ahead, with nine games in Europe and 14 championship encounters to tackle. But we want to do well in every competition we’re involved in.
“The Europa League is a prestigious tournament and winning it in our second year back in Europe would represent an extraordinary achievement. We started our journey three years ago and nobody would have imagined that this team, with these players, would have come as far as it has.
“We got back in the Champions League last season and went out at the quarter-final stage, eliminated by eventual winners Bayern Munich. This year we’ve all got to accept the blame for how we fared in the group stage, but now we’ve got an opportunity each one of us needs to seize in the Europa League.”