13.03.2016 16:30 - in: Champions League S

    Bonucci: “Belief high ahead of Bayern”

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    Leonardo Bonucci looks ahead with optimism towards Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Bayern Munich: “We go there full of enthusiasm and determination to reach the next round”

    There are very rarely any easy games in the Champions League, but travelling to the home of one of the tournament favourites Bayern Munich is to be considered one of the toughest possible assignments going both in the competition and world football.

    As far as Juventus are concerned, however, where there is a lofty challenge there is also an even greater reason to stand up and be counted. That was the case in February’s first leg in Turin, when the Bianconeri fought back from two goals down to level the scores courtesy of a sensational second-half performance which provided just cause to approach this Wednesday’s return clash in Bavaria with optimism according to Leonardo Bonucci.

    Speaking to Jtv, the defender began: “It will be a tremendous battle and we go to Munich full of enthusiasm and determination to reach the next round. We’re fully aware of how strong Bayern are, but they also possess a few weak points which we’ll look to exploit.

    “No doubt about it, we started the first leg in completely the wrong fashion. It had nothing to do with what formation we were playing, we knew that we had to give more. We confronted one another face to face and took it upon ourselves to come out fighting and, from that point onwards, we saw the true Juventus once more.”

    Central to the Old Lady’s identity over the years has been a solid defence, no more so perhaps than this term, with Friday’s 1-0 win over Sassuolo marking a 10th consecutive clean sheet in the league. Meanwhile, Gianluigi Buffon is just four minutes away from breaking an all-time Serie A record for the length of time without conceding a goal (923).

    “Facts such as these fill us with pride and, furthermore, prove how Gigi is the number one goalkeeper in the history of football,” asserted Bonucci, who also reserved praise for the rest of the team’s ability to shield the rearguard and ensure the side stays compact and dangerous on the counter-attack.

    “We’re used to seeing our strikers win back possession on the edge of our penalty area to kick-start fresh attacks. This means that everyone is doing their part from a defensive perspective.”

    Staying on the topic of defence, Bonucci backed his team-mate Daniele Rugani to keep developing and become a regular fixture in the Bianconeri rearguard, the 21-year-old having put in a particularly assured display on Friday evening against Sassuolo.

    “Daniele can rest assured that he has the potential to become a key member of the backline in years to come. People criticised his performance in the Coppa Italia against Inter, but in truth it was the whole team that failed to turn up that day and we were fortunate to take the tie to a penalty shootout and ultimately reach the final. Now our objective is to go to Rome and defend our cup, as there’s still space in the trophy cabinet!”

    Besides aiming for an 11th Coppa Italia in the club’s history, Massimiliano Allegri’s men also have their sights firmly set on securing a fifth straight Scudetto title – one which Bonucci emphasised would represent the hardest-fought in some time, given the increased quality of their suitors this season.

    He concluded: “This year is undoubtedly more competitive, which is something that drives us on to play to the very best of our abilities. The teams in the chasing pack play very good football, especially Napoli, Fiorentina and Roma, who have improved markedly and regained self-belief since the return of Luciano Spalletti.”

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