Massimiliano Allegri believes the upcoming away fixtures against Sampdoria and Udinese could have a major bearing on his side’s Scudetto ambitions this season.
Eight Serie A wins in a row have catapulted the Bianconeri back into title contention but with Inter continuing to set the pace, Allegri is mindful his men will need to come away from both encounters unscathed if they are to keep up the heat on the league leaders.
Previewing tomorrow’s meeting against Sampdoria, Allegri began: “This is the most important period of the season for us now that we've caught up because these two away matches, while I’m not saying they’ll be decisive, will be really significant.
“By the time we play Udinese, we’ll have been away five times and home just twice in seven games so rounding off this spell with two big results would be no bad thing. After that game we have a lot more matches at home than we do on the road.”
The first hurdle lies in the form of a Blucerchiati side who have enjoyed a recent upturn in fortunes under the guidance of new boss Vincenzo Montella, stringing together a three-match unbeaten run that included Tuesday’s morale-boosting triumph over Genoa in the derby.
And with a noteworthy scalp of Juventus next in their sights, Allegri knows his men will have to be on their game if they are to dampen the enthusiasm of the home support.
“Sampdoria had a good derby – a great derby, in fact, and they had two good performances before that against Palermo and Lazio. They’re going to be on a high because the derby win will have given them lots of enthusiasm. They’ve scored 27 goals this season, just four less than Juventus.
“At home they are a quality side with good players like Eder, Muriel, Carbonero and Soriano. Then they have Cassano, who is in good shape. He dictates the play and allows his team-mates to score. It will be a complicated game, like all the matches we play, because Sampdoria are a good technical side.”
With Claudio Marchisio missing through suspension, Allegri will have to make an enforced change in midfield, while Simone Zaza and Alvaro Morata are both vying for the chance to partner Paulo Dybala up front.
Discussing the options available to him, the Tuscan tactician added: “I’ll look at who will operate in front of the defence. I’ll certainly pick someone who knows how to play there, I'm not going to play anyone out of position. Alternatively, if I decide to set us up differently we can play without anyone in front of the defence.
“In terms of who will play up front, Mandzukic has trained separately but seems OK to me. The decision is probably between Zaza and Morata – they’re both doing well. Despite the fact that Morata didn’t score on Wednesday, he still put in a good performance both in attack and in defence, where he worked hard for the team. He’ll definitely get back to scoring.
“Rugani? He may start tomorrow. He’s a young and talented player, but let’s not forget about the quality of the defenders we have here: Chiellini, Bonucci, Barzagli and Caceres. Martin has come back strongly, he’s a fine player, a great lad and deserved to play on Wednesday. He’s one of the best defenders around and having him back in peak form will represent an important addition for us.”