Simone Pepe says he is gradually putting last year’s injury nightmare behind him as he edges closer to a long-awaited return to first-team action following a productive pre-season.
The winger weighed in with a goal and an assist in the Primavera’s weekend triumph over Spezia and claims his condition is improving with every workout he gets under his belt.
Speaking exclusively to JTV, Pepe began: “I feel good and everything’s going very well at present. We’ll keep assessing my condition with the backroom staff on a daily basis, but I’m training well and that’s the most important thing.”
The 29-year-old cited the arrival of daughter Rebecca and the support offered by all connected with Juventus as significant driving forces during an otherwise difficult term on the sidelines.
“Last year wasn’t easy. The birth of my daughter was a great joy and helped me overcome the most difficult moments. In addition, Juventus were like a second family to me and now I want to return to action and repay the extraordinary affection the club and fans have shown me.”
Pepe’s last first-team appearance for Antonio Conte’s side came against this weekend’s opposition Lazio on 11 November 2012, when he entered the fray as a second-half substitute in place of Mauricio Isla.
Since then, Juventus have locked horns with the Biancocelesti on four further occasions, with this month’s resounding 4-0 Super Cup triumph tipping the balance firmly in the favour of the reigning champions.
But the Rome-born midfielder is adamant his team-mates must maintain their concentration if they are to complete an early season double over Vladimir Petkovic’s men on Saturday night.
“The team put on a perfect performance in the Super Cup and when they play like that it’s tough for the others. However, last year’s games against Lazio were always difficult encounters and our other opponents will also have the bit between their teeth, so we must remain alert.
“Looking elsewhere, I would name Napoli, Milan and Fiorentina as our main rivals, but if we possess the right mentality, they’ll be ones that need to worry.”
With the Champions League group stages draw set to take place in Monte Carlo tomorrow afternoon, Pepe took the opportunity to provide his thoughts on the Bianconeri’s hopes of progression in Europe’s elite club competition.
“It will be tough against whoever we play in the Champions League, even though there are clearly top teams such as Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid who have that little bit extra. It won’t be easy, but we’ve got the strength to give it a good go against anybody.”
Juventus’ aim of improving on last year’s quarter-final placing will be enhanced by the arrival of Carlos Tevez, a talent who appears to have already earned Pepe’s seal of approval.
“He’s an extraordinary, complete player who can perform very well in any system. He’s immediately settled into the group – I’ve also brought him along to play golf with me, the problem is he’s also great at that!”