Antonio Conte has urged the Bianconeri to put any European thoughts to the backs of their minds and focus fully on claiming an important victory from Saturday night’s “crucial” encounter with Bologna.
With an eight-point lead at the top of the table and a mouthwatering Europa League semi-final against Benfica in the offing, the Juventus manager admitted that it’s an “exciting” stage of the season for fans and players alike.
But the duty felt by Conte to deliver the goods in both competitions means his players will be judging each game on its individual merits.
Speaking to the media in Vinovo, the 44-year-old began: “I feel the responsibility of achieving a historic third consecutive title and making progress in the Europa League, in spite of the difficult fixture that awaits us.
“It’s an exciting time for us because we’re in the running on two fronts. To reach both goals would be wonderful, but if it was to go the other way it would be a bitter disappointment. So we’ll take one game at a time, starting with tomorrow’s crucial clash with Bologna.”
Saturday’s visitors find themselves deeply embroiled in a relegation battle and travel to Turin in desperate need of points to prevent being sucked into the danger zone.
And while Conte believes the fans will have an important role to play in galvanising the hosts, Bologna will instead be looking to Davide Ballardini’s unbeaten record at Juventus Stadium as a source of inspiration.
“It will be tough against Bologna and I hope the fans will get the stadium rocking. They need to feel the importance of the game and the moment. We’re lucky in the sense that we don’t need to rely on results elsewhere and can focus solely on our task.
“We’ll have to be alert though: Ballardini has drawn twice in as many years at Juventus Stadium, with Cagliari and Genoa. We mustn’t take anything for granted.”
Conte then moved on to discuss his team’s injury situation, revealing that Andrea Barzagli, Carlos Tevez and Arturo Vidal are all available and edging closer to a return to action.
Whether the Bianconeri trio are deemed fit enough for a place in the starting line-up, however, remains to be seen.
“Barzagli is now available, but needs to get his full match fitness up and I don’t know if I’ll start him or bring him off the bench tomorrow. Carlos and Arturo sat out Udinese and we’re working to get them back to 100 per cent.”
The tactician concluded with a word of thanks for this season’s top scorer Tevez, who compared him to managerial great Sir Alex Ferguson during yesterday’s exclusive interview with Sky Sport Italia.
“It was very pleasing to hear and I thank Carlos for his words. It’s an important comparison with a manager who has made history. A coach can have thousands of ideas, but needs great players and great men. I’m lucky enough to have them.
“There was an instant rapport with Carlos when we first met to convince him to come here. The more things heat up, the more he comes into his own. Being able to improve established world-class players like Carlos is a real point of satisfaction.”