Holding a three-point advantage over second-placed Napoli with just eight games left is an advantage but by no means a guarantee of the league title, even if five of the remaining matches are to be contested at Juventus Stadium.
This was exactly the view shared by Bianconeri boss Massimiliano Allegri when previewing his side’s long-awaited return to Serie A action against Empoli on Saturday night at the club’s Vinovo training base this afternoon.
And, as the 33-time champions enter the final straight of a heart-stopping campaign, the Tuscan took the opportunity in today’s press conference to call on his men to redouble their focus ahead of a season-defining run of fixtures, kicking off of course tomorrow evening.
“Saturday’s encounter marks the beginning of a mini eight-match championship for us,” he began. “We have an important but nonetheless slender lead over Napoli at the moment and we must ensure that it stays that way between now and May. Needless to say, it is a must-win game.
“We’re expecting a tough encounter against what is a very well-organised Empoli side that has nothing to lose. As has been the case for the majority of the campaign, we need to focus only on keeping our cool, finishing the year in style and most importantly ignoring what goes on around us.
“The hard work starts now. We’ve been excellent so far this term but with eight league games to go and a Coppa Italia final after that, we still have so much to play for.”
As anticipated, Allegri will not be able to call on the services of key men Paulo Dybala and Leonardo Bonucci tomorrow evening, the Argentine afforded a well-earned break and Bonucci suspended, with Daniele Rugani expected to continue in defence against his old employers.
The aforementioned pair remain the only two certain absentees, however, with the likes of Giorgio Chiellini, Claudio Marchisio and Roberto Pereyra back in first-team training having missed a handful of games between them in recent weeks through injury.
“Rugani is in the frame to start in place of Bonucci who, despite picking up a minor knock for Italy, would not have played anyway due to suspension.
“Dybala on the other hand is very unlikely to feature tomorrow. Chiellini is back in training and has been working well with the rest of the group, as has Marchisio. As for Pereyra, staying here in Vinovo over the international break has done him a world of good and his job now is to make a telling difference for us between now and the end of the campaign.”
There was to be a final word too on Fabio Grosso’s Primavera, the newly crowned Viareggio Cup champions.
He concluded: “First and foremost I would like to congratulate the boys, the coaches and everyone involved in our youth setup for winning what is a very prestigious piece of silverware.
"The key for the players now is to continue improving and with (Fabio) Grosso at the helm and the quality of the staff around him, they are in the very safest of hands."