Antonio Conte has underlined the importance of gaining an early foothold in the Bianconeri’s two-legged Europa League quarter-final tie with Lyon.
Speaking to the media at the Stade de Gerland, the Juventus boss said a good result from Thursday night’s first leg in France will stand his men in good stead ahead of next week’s decisive return tie on home soil.
And following the disappointment of Sunday’s reverse against Napoli, he expressed his hope that the Bianconeri will summon a spirited response at the first time of asking.
“We’ll face them aware of the fact that the first game is very important as far as the destiny of the tie is concerned. I hope the Napoli defeat gives us the strength to face the final sprint in the best way possible and I’m expecting a great performance from the whole team.”
Squaring up with Serie A’s league leaders tomorrow night are a Lyon side whose qualities, particularly in the final third, the Bianconeri manager is well aware of.
“Lyon are one of France's most established sides. They've won lots of league titles in recent years and have plenty of fine players. I think the area where they have the most quality is up front. They also have a physical presence up top because Gomis and Lacazette are both very strong. We’ve done our homework, we know their strong points and think we may have also identified some weak areas.”
With his team flying the flag for Italy in Europe, Conte spoke of the need for all thoughts to be momentarily diverted away from this season’s championship campaign and fixed solely on the task at hand.
“We should be happy at being the only remaining Italian team in Europe and we do feel a bit of pressure on us to give the Italian game some of its prestige back. We’re fully focused on the Europa League and it’s only right that our minds are on Lyon, not anywhere else.”
Earlier in the afternoon, Conte’s counterpart Remi Garde, who has deemed the tie as a “mountain to climb”, also took the opportunity to talk up the merits of the Bianconeri, comparing them to French superpower Paris Saint-Germain.
Expressing his delight at the kind words received, the Juventus tactician concluded: “We’ll aim to make the mountain insurmountable. We’re proud about him comparing us to PSG, they’re one of the great sides in France and it’s nice to be respected by teams like Lyon who up until a few years ago were ahead of us.”