If yesterday all eyes were trained on Monaco for the Champions League group stage draw, which confirmed Juventus’ impending outings against Sevilla, Olympique Lyon and Dinamo Zagreb, Massimiliano Allegri stressed that the Bianconeri had invested their undivided attention in a different location and indeed competition for the time being: “The only draw that is of interest to us right now is that which took place in July for the Serie A, which has pitted us against Lazio this weekend,” the Tuscan tactician opened.
“The Biancocelesti have started strongly, winning away against Atalanta in Bergamo, which is never an easy place to go, scoring four goals and showing a very good physical condition. Tomorrow we’re playing at 18.00 CEST, so it’s going to be very hot and a tough match, but we need to do everything to bring three points back to Turin.”
Regarding his line-up for tomorrow’s contest in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, Allegri revealed a few high-profile absences from the trip to the capital: “There are three players who won’t be on the plane, namely Zaza, who’s in London and has the possibility of joining West Ham, Marrone, who’s also departing the club, and Bonucci, who’s missing for personal reasons.
“Even with Leo out, I’ll start with three at the back tomorrow, which could change during the course of the match. My main doubt is who out of Pjanic and Lemina starts in front of the defence. Miralem has returned to training and is in decent shape.
“Meanwhile up front, Higuain is getting very close to peak condition, even if he had to take things a bit easier for two days this week due to fatigue. Mandzukic will play from the first minute tomorrow.”
Allegri takes the impressive record into tomorrow’s fixture of having won all seven of his previous matches against Lazio as manager of Juventus, but he nonetheless acknowledged the standout strengths of Simone Inzaghi’s side.
“Lazio is fundamentally a team that plays on the counter-attack as that certainly suits the likes of Lulic, Felipe Anderson, Kishna, Lombardi and Immobile.
“It’s very important that we don’t allow the match to become fragmented because Lazio are very dangerous when hitting on the break. They’re a good side who had mixed fortunes last term, but impressed on finishing third the season beforehand. Inzaghi has assembled a strong team with talented youngsters and this time around they’ll be competing for a top-six berth.”
Villar Perosa aside, Juventus conceded in every pre-season friendly over the summer, with the unwanted trend continuing last Saturday when Nikola Kalinic netted for Fiorentina, but Allegri was optimistic regarding his side’s chances of securing an upturn in their fortunes at the back.
“There are times in a league season when you concede more often than others. For example, early on last term we let in quite a few goals, but then at the turn of the year we kept clean sheets when on another day we might not have.
“The unpredictable nature of football is what it makes it so beautiful, but nonetheless we need to be on our guard more often during games, especially when the opposition are taking set pieces.”