Massimiliano Allegri says Juventus will be gunning for a first-place finish when already-qualified La Liga holders Atletico Madrid travel to Turin for tomorrow night’s crucial Champions League Group A showdown.
Although a point would be enough to secure the Bianconeri’s safe passage through to the knockout stages, the Tuscan tactician has his sights set on going one step further, believing victory would enhance his men’s chances of continuing their European journey beyond the next round.
Speaking to the media in Vinovo, the 47-year-old began: “Reaching the knockout stages is our first target of the season. Topping the group would enable us to face the second-placed teams and we must do all we can to win by a two-goal margin. Having said that, it won’t be easy because Atletico limit you to very few chances.”
Having recovered from the disappointment of an opening day defeat to Olympiacos, Atletico approach the encounter in red-hot form, bolstered by four clean sheets in their subsequent European encounters as well as a hatful of goals at the other end.
And whilst acknowledging the strength of the opposition, Allegri remains confident in his side’s ability to stand up to the test of the La Liga giants, citing the performances in Madrid and Athens as examples of when the Bianconeri have not necessarily reaped the full rewards of positive displays.
“I have a strong side up to the task of playing such a game, something we’ve also shown in our other European matches. We didn’t deserve to lose in Madrid and Athens but have always turned in consistent displays.
“We’re up against a team who have won 10 of their last 11 games and done brilliantly in recent years, winning La Liga and narrowly missing out on lifting the Champions League. Simeone’s doing a great job, it’s not easy to beat Real and Barcelona and neither is going all the way in Europe.”
With all eyes of the world on Juventus Stadium tomorrow evening, Allegri is confident the game will live up to its box office billing and is backing a passionate home crowd to add extra spice to an already mouthwatering clash.
“It will be a great game in terms of intensity and from a technical standpoint. We made a mistake in Madrid and were punished, but tomorrow will be a different encounter entirely and our fans will help us out.”
The only doubt in Allegri’s mind remains over the selection of Fernando Llorente or Alvaro Morata as Carlos Tevez’s strike partner, with the manager admitting he will leave it until after this afternoon’s final workout before making his decision.
He concluded: “Llorente has scored important goals in Europe and Morata put in a fine performance in Greece. It’s the first year he feels an important player because in Madrid he was viewed as a youngster. Both players will get game time, but I still haven’t decided who will start tomorrow night.”