17 February 2016
If there’s a man whose calm, composure and determination personifies Massimiliano Allegri’s record breakers, then it’s long-serving midfielder Claudio Marchisio.
With vital fixtures coming thick and fast both domestically and in Europe, as indicated by the Italy international in today’s appointment with Sky, it will take collective cool heads and unshakeable focus to ensure the Bianconeri extend their stellar winning run and push for as many honours as possible this season.
Whether travelling to Bologna to maintain a grasp on Serie A top spot or hosting Bayern Munich in one of the most eagerly anticipated encounters of the season, the secret to success for Marchisio is the ability to take one game at a time.
Sure enough, Juventus’ number eight expects to see the required level of discipline and mental strength from his team on Friday night at the Stadio Dall’Ara against an in-form Rossoblu outfit.
“We can’t afford to think about the Champions League yet, not after the energy we have put in returning to the top of Serie A,” he began. “It took a huge effort to get there and it will take an even bigger one to stay there.
“Roberto Donadoni has completely overhauled the way Bologna play and they are very good at making things difficult for the opposition. Friday’s game won’t be easy by any stretch of the imagination.”
Indeed, there will be an added motivation for the Bianconeri to redouble their efforts and resharpen their focus in two days’ time as they approach a matchday on top of the standings for the very first time this campaign.
While the victory that took them to the pinnacle over Napoli was undoubtedly crucial, Claudio was keen to stress that its after effects have long since been sidelined by the champions.
He continued: “Napoli was a huge win not only because it was against a title rival but also for our confidence and momentum for the rest of the season. There are still plenty of games yet to play though.
“You are always on a high after important wins but never for more than a couple of days. With the games coming thick and fast at the moment, you can’t afford to dwell on the past.
“I imagine it’s the same for Napoli. We are only one point ahead of them. Before returning to domestic action they have a testing Europa League tie and I’m sure they will look to win on Thursday night to get themselves back on track.”
As it happens, the midfielder was not alone in spotting the natural comparisons between last weekend’s success and the heart-stopping 3-2 victory over Roma last October, sealed by Leonardo Bonucci’s unforgettable late volley.
“For massive fixtures like that, you don’t need help motivating yourself. The desire to never give in and to play right to the final whistle is part of this team’s DNA.
“Even the guys that arrived in the summer know that now. You don’t win league titles by throwing in the towel when you are losing or if you are a long way behind your rivals in the league.”
For all of Juve’s concentration on their immediately upcoming domestic commitments, there was still to be an inevitable final word from Il Principino on next week’s European date with Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich at Juventus Stadium.
Typically, Marchisio’s assessment of the tie was as measured, composed and precise as his own recent showings in the heart of the Bianconeri’s midfield.
He concluded: “The first thing to remember is that neither team will be entering the game at full strength. That said, both we and Bayern have very talented and versatile players in our respective squads who are capable of deputising in different positions when required.
“Bayern are among the top three teams in the world and can cause plenty of problems for us. We’ve grown a lot ourselves in Europe in the last year and a half and I think we’ve earned the respect of the teams still in this year’s competition.
“Both legs will be very tight and we’ll need to dig as deep as possible to make the most of this great opportunity to reach the quarter-finals again.”