Massimiliano Allegri says Juventus are all set for Saturday evening’s much-anticipated Serie A opener against Chievo in Verona.
With just one defeat in their last 22 fixtures against the Gialloblu, the reigning champions are the bookmakers’ strong favourites to get their title defence off to a winning start when they run out at the Bentegodi tomorrow evening.
But a summer of change in Verona, coupled with a midweek Coppa Italia elimination at the hands of Pescara, means Allegri will be taking nothing for granted when sending his team into battle against a Chievo side with a point to prove.
Speaking to the media in Vinovo, the 47-year-old began: “We’re in good shape and ready for a difficult game. Chievo have got plenty of new faces, approach the fixture after being knocked out of the Coppa Italia and will want to bounce back against us. We’ll look to make a strong start to the season as a good result would allow us to work well during the international break.”
With yesterday’s MRI scan confirming Andrea Pirlo’s absence for a month, Allegri revealed that Claudio Marchisio will operate in front of the defence and is to be joined in midfield by a fit again Arturo Vidal.
“Vidal’s trained well this week and his knee is good shape. Obviously we’ll keep an eye on his condition, but he will be in the starting line-up.”
He also confirmed that recent flu victims Sebastian Giovinco and Fernando Llorente will take their place among the substitutes, but remained tight-lipped when quizzed on his potential defensive strategy against the Gialloblu.
“They have several options available to them in attack and I’ll need to think them through before deciding how we line up at the back.”
Tomorrow’s opener signals the start of this year’s title race and Allegri took the opportunity to run the rule over the “seven or eight” teams who will look to bring an end to the Bianconeri’s three-year supremacy at the summit of Serie A.
“Inter have done some excellent business in the transfer window and are a solid side. Napoli have gone out of the Champions League, but that doesn’t make them less of a threat. Fiorentina have Rossi and Gomez back from injury and Cuadrado has stayed put – these are like three new signings for them.
“Milan missed out on the Europa League in an unfortunate year for them and will be up there fighting because it’s in the club’s DNA. In addition, I’m sure Galliani will come up with something in the last few days of the transfer window.
“Lazio have also done well in the transfer market. Roma have important players and are one of the favourites for the title. Garcia is a smart coach who has quickly understood Italian football. It’s a tough league featuring seven to eight high quality teams.”
As far as the Champions League is concerned, Allegri believes Group A qualification is within the Bianconeri’s reach but was quick to warn against the perils of underestimating any of their three opponents.
“It’s certainly not an easy group. It features four teams who are reigning champions in their respective countries. Malmo are in a more advanced physical condition, Atletico are as potent as they were last year and Olympiacos got through to the knockout stages last season.
“We have a good chance of qualifying, but it’s not a given. Getting through the group stages is our first target of the season and must be achieved at all costs. The gap between the big European sides exists, but it doesn’t mean that Juventus and Roma can’t enjoy a strong Champions League campaign.”