04 January 2016
On the day that the Bianconeri completed an entire week of training following the festive period, Juan Cuadrado looked ahead to the first fixture of 2016, Wednesday’s visit of Hellas Verona at Juventus Stadium.
Despite the Gialloblu occupying bottom spot in the Serie A table after failing to win a single match so far this term, Cuadrado stressed that the match would be far from easy, given that it represents his side’s maiden outing after a 17-day break since the 3-2 success at Carpi on 20 December.
Speaking to the Sky and Mediaset microphones, the Colombian winger began: “It is perhaps the most difficult match out of those coming up, because it is the very first one after the Christmas holidays. We are fully aware, however, that we need to start the year on a positive note by sealing what would be three extremely important points.
“We’ve been working very hard over the past week, which has really benefited us, as the fixtures will come up thick and fast over the next five months and there’ll be less and less time to devote to the training field.
“We’re always looking to win games, whether in the league, Coppa Italia or Champions League. This is the Juventus way, to always be challenging for titles, but we’re aware of the extra competition from other teams this season.”
If the Bianconeri can now look at the table and find themselves just three points below leaders Inter, in many ways, they have Cuadrado to thank for netting a dramatic, injury-time winner against Torino on 31 October, since which the team has gone on to string together seven successive Serie A victories.
“It was a very important moment for me because I had been on a long barren run beforehand. It was also a real confidence-booster and a turning point for the side, as we knew that we needed to win and we believed until the very end that we would.
“From that game on, we’ve put together some excellent results and now we’re looking to continue in the same vein, playing every match as if it were a final.”
Six weeks later, Cuadrado found the target against his former club, Fiorentina, in what were arguably just as crucial circumstances. Trailing 1-0 courtesy of Josip Ilicic’s early penalty, he sent a looping header beyond Viola keeper Ciprian Tatarusanu to level the scores before second-half strikes from Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala eventually sunk one of the Bianconeri’s major challengers for the Scudetto.
Admitting to a degree of fortune with his own strike on the night, the 27-year-old said: “I was a bit lucky that the ball ended up in the back of the net, but it was very important that we equalised immediately. From that point onwards, we never looked back and thoroughly deserved the three points.”
Regarding the celebration, meanwhile, the Colombia international explained that he and Paul Pogba have had numerous occasions to fine-tune the dance that has greeted every goal scored by the pair this term.
“We’ve been rehearsing our moves almost everywhere, whether it be on the pitch, in training, in the hotel or during team trips.”
Looking further ahead to Juventus’ Champions League last 16 clash with Bayern Munich, Cuadrado echoed Sami Khedira’s words that, while the tie would be very difficult, they would stand a chance of progressing to the next round if they play to the best of their abilities over the two legs scheduled for 23 February and 16 March.
He concluded: “Playing Bayern is certainly a challenge, but any team can be beaten. We have to approach the matches with great intelligence and planning, as if the event were a World Cup final. We’ve plenty of time to prepare for it all and we hope that we’ll be completely on top of our game when the time arrives to face them.”