Massimiliano Allegri says his men will have to be on red alert when they come up against a useful Udinese outfit determined to upset the odds and treat their supporters to a first home win since October.
In spite of their recent difficulties at the Stadio Friuli, the well-drilled Zebrette possess a positive overall record in front of their own fans and can count on the attacking threat of an evergreen Antonio Di Natale.
These are all points that Allegri is certain to be reiterating in the dressing room come Sunday afternoon, when the league leaders go in search of a fourth successive Serie A triumph.
Speaking to the media in Vinovo, the 47-year-old began: “It will be no simple task tomorrow. Udinese won at a tough venue in Empoli and know how to plug the gaps and stop you from playing. They can also count on a top rate player in Di Natale, who always scores. We need to tackle it with great focus, with the aim of coming away with all three points.”
Seven points ahead of nearest rivals Roma, Juventus will be out to put further breathing space between themselves and the Giallorossi in this latest round of league action.
And with the head-to-head encounter at the Stadio Olimpico closing in on the horizon, Allegri insists it is fundamental his men keep racking up the wins if they are to approach the crunch clash in the best possible state of mind.
“Our seven point advantage is nothing. We’re getting closer to the head-to-head with Roma and need to reach it in the best possible form, without throwing away the lead we’ve earned so far.
“I told the players that we’re now playing in a league with 18 games where every team sits on zero points. We need to be motivated by the final target and getting there will require great performances, but also digging deep to come away with a result from games in which we’ve played less well.”
The Bianconeri travel to Udine minus the suspended Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal, with the Chilean remaining behind in Turin for treatment after taking a knock in Wednesday’s Coppa Italia quarter-final win over Parma.
Despite their absences, Allegri believes he is well stocked in central midfield and hinted he could tweak his formation in order to best accommodate those coming in.
“We might continue with the same formation we've been using. We could bring Padoin into midfield and go on as we have been. Alternatively we could go with three midfielders and two up top, with no one in the hole. I'll look at that today, considering that we're short on numbers in the middle right now.”
On Vidal’s reaction to being substituted in midweek, he added: “A player coming off, going into the dressing room, attending to his knee and then returning to watch the game isn’t a problem. Being angry after coming off is part and parcel of football.
“You also have to take into account that Vidal’s had a particular year. He had a knee operation and a month later was playing in the World Cup. In Parma he took a knock to the ankle which provoked a light twist in his knee. He’ll be out for a short time and could be ready for Milan.”