Antonio Conte has called for full focus as the Bianconeri aim to strengthen their grip on first place in Serie A with a win over Udinese at Juventus Stadium on Sunday evening.
Last weekend’s commanding 2-0 triumph over Livorno, coupled with Roma’s goalless home draw with Cagliari on Monday, saw the reigning champions of Italy climb back into top spot for the first time since May.
And Conte believes his men will have to fight tooth and nail if they are to retain their supremacy over the course of a testing run of fixtures between now and the winter break.
The first of these pits Juventus against Udinese, a side they have beaten on each of the last three occasions, but nonetheless one to watch out for.
Speaking to reporters in Vinovo, the 44-year-old began: “We’ve got a difficult game ahead of us against Udinese. Guidolin and Pozzo deserve plenty of credit for working miracles over the past few years, enabling them to enjoy Europa and Champions League campaigns. They’ve got excellent players and are strong on the counter attack.
“We’ve just reclaimed top spot and we want to remain there. From now until Christmas we’ll face fierce opposition who will try and play the game of their lives against us. This is an important moment of the season and we’ll need to remain alert to the potential banana skins that could lie around any corner.”
On Sunday, Juventus will be greeted by a unique atmosphere following the club’s decision to invite over 12,000 local children to occupy the north and south stands.
And, whilst praising the “positive” initiative, Conte expressed his hope that his players won’t be affected by the enforced absence of their most vociferous backers.
“It’s a shame we won’t be able to count on our fans, they’re a huge loss for us and I hope we’re not affected by their absence. Rules are there to be respected, but there are other incidents that should carry the same sanctions. For example insulting the dead of Heysel and Superga or wrecking part of the stadium is more serious than some boorish chants that, may I add, are quite rightly condemned.
“Having children in the stadium can only be a positive and I hope that one day we can see many of them standing alongside the ultras. It would encourage greater responsibility for everyone.”
Conte concluded with an update from the treatment room, where Stephan Lichtsteiner, Mauricio Isla and Sebastian Giovinco appear to be making good progress in their bids to regain full fitness.
“I’m particularly happy about how the injury situation is progressing. Lichtsteiner worked with the group on Thursday, while Isla and Giovinco should return to the squad next week. I expect to have everyone available at that point, with only Pepe left to come back.”