13.12.2014 17:19 - in: Serie A S

    Allegri: "Now's not the time to let up"

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    Champions League qualification is in the bag but the manager expects his charges to push ahead at full steam: "We have three more big games before the Christmas break"

    After a successful week that saw Juventus book their place in the Champions League last 16, Massimiliano Allegri has warned there must be no easing off as the Bianconeri head into another important eight days.

    Reaching the knockout stage of Europe's premier tournament may well have been the first target of the campaign but there are six points and a trophy up for grabs before anyone can think about enjoying the festive season. That was the point the boss was keen to ram home when he spoke to journalists at a news conference this afternoon ahead of his side's tricky home fixture against Sampdoria.

    He began: "There must be no easing off whatsoever. A couple of days to enjoy qualifying is perhaps understandable but this squad is mature enough to realise what a crucial period this is for us. We mustn't undo all the good work we've done so far.

    "We deserved to go through in the Champions League because we played well over the course of the group stage. We had a good old tussle with Atletico in the first half and tried to make the breakthrough after the restart but couldn't. It was a good performance nonetheless. We didn't run any big risks and we achieved our objective. I'd have preferred to finish top but sadly we lost our way in Madrid and Athens.

    "The real hard work starts now because we have three big games coming up: two in the league to ensure we remain top of the table and then the Super Cup in Doha."

    The first of those three hurdles comes in the shape of Sinisa Mihajlovic's Sampdoria, who are riding high this year after a mid-table
    finish last term.

    Allegri said: "Sampdoria have really moved up a gear since least season. They have some quality individuals and a coach who's instilled enthusiasm. They play some decent stuff too, they're useful on set pieces and keep it tight at the back.

    "They are on a high, play at pace and are full of running. They're well drilled and have nothing to lose. If we're to beat them, we can't afford the slightest slip-up. We must be careful not to get caught on the counter and we have to be on top of our game.

    "Playing at 12.30 is another difficulty to factor in because it's always a strange time to play at."

    Allegri gave little away about his starting line-up: "Caceres isn't fit yet and Storari has a back problem. He'll sit this one out to make sure he's available for Cagliari and Doha. We also have Chiellini suspended and Ogbonna will come in for him: he's in good shape and he played well in the last quarter of an hour against Torino. Coman will return after missing Tuesday's game with a strain he picked up in Florence."

    Quizzed about whether Alvaro Morata was in line for a starting berth, Allegri replied. "Alvaro has got bags of ability but you have to remember that he's gone from being a prospect at Real to an important player here at Juve. He still has lots of things he can improve on. We also have other players like Tevez, Llorente, Giovinco and Coman. I haven't made up my mind yet on who will start tomorrow."

    The coach then discussed his defensive options: "Evra is on the up fitness-wise having got over his injury setback. He was always going to find it a bit hard on his return but he looked good on Tuesday and he's getting there.

    "I left out Padoin against Atletico. He's done very well and I know he's always a reliable option I can call on.

    "It's important that the players who aren't playing are capable of filling in for the starters."

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