Massimiliano Allegri says his league leaders will have to be on red alert when they line up against an in-form Fiorentina outfit at the Artemio Franchi tomorrow evening.
After enduring an indifferent start to the campaign, back-to-back away wins over Cagliari and Verona have hauled the Viola to within three points of the Champions League places, sending their confidence skywards in the process.
But while acknowledging the inevitable difficulties thrown up by an away day in Florence, Allegri remains confident his men can banish the ghosts of last year’s 4-2 reverse by coming away with all three points this time around.
“We’re up against a side who head into the game off the back of two away wins. They’re also a historic rival of ours, so it’s important we remain alert. They hit four in Cagliari and while it’s never easy to play in Florence, we must look to come away with a positive result. We’re in reasonably good shape from a physical point of view and we’ll tackle the game with great determination, against a side who play a good brand of football.”
A positive piece of news heading into the clash against the Viola is the return of Angelo Ogbonna, who will strengthen the Bianconeri’s options following the confirmed long-term absences of Kwadwo Asamoah and Romulo.
“Ogbonna’s back in the squad and could represent an important alternative. Evra’s in decent shape and needs minutes under his belt while we also have Padoin, who has performed well on the flank, and Mattiello, who is young but possesses a great engine. Barzagli is working his way back to fitness and Caceres should return for either Sampdoria or Cagliari.”
With Roma remaining three points behind in the pursuit for this year’s Scudetto honour, Allegri was asked about the positive noises coming out of the Giallorossi camp regarding their title chances.
“Roma say they can win the title? It wouldn’t be normal if they didn’t. They had a great season last term and, like Juventus, it’s their duty to win. We have a three-point advantage and hope to stay out in front. To do so we need to win tomorrow, knowing that both us and Roma will be fighting tooth and nail all the way through until the end of the season.”
A strong squad is required to mount a convincing push on several fronts, and Allegri says he is happy with the blend of youth and experience at his disposal, offering particular praise for the shining example of hunger displayed by the elder statesmen among his ranks.
“I think the team’s done well. We’ve brought in some youngsters who are developing alongside the so-called ‘old guard’, who are the spine of the team and possess the right mentality. They challenge themselves on a daily basis and what they’ve already won isn’t enough for them.”
In terms of improvement, the manager believes his team has what it takes to up their game on a technical level and will work hard on the training ground to ensure greater fluidity in their play.
“We can improve in terms of our play because I think we’ve got players with the characteristics to do so. As it stands we’ve conceded very few goals and barely allowed our opponents a shot, but we can improve from a technical point of view.”
With the decisive final Group A game against Atletico to follow after Friday’s trip to Florence, Allegri reiterated the team’s ambitions in the Champions League before concluding with a reflection on the unpredictable nature of the competition from the knockout stages onwards.
“The main target in Europe is to get to the last 16 and establish ourselves in the top eight. It’s difficult to go all the way in the Champions League because it’s a strange competition. I remember Chelsea losing a final when Terry slipped and missed his penalty and then winning one after spending 118 minutes in their own box.”