Antonio Conte has called on his players to view the current injury and suspension situation as an “added motivation” to claim all three points from a “testing” trip to Livorno on Sunday afternoon.
The Bianconeri have been ravaged by recent injury difficulties which, coupled with the suspensions to be observed by Leonardo Bonucci and Angelo Ogbonna, will almost certainly result in the deployment of a makeshift backline the Stadio Armando Picchi.
The defensive conundrum, along with the international contingent’s staggered returns from their respective duties, means it has been a challenging week for all concerned in Vinovo.
But Conte remains confident in his players’ ability to overcome the issue by showing the heart and determination which have become synonymous with his team over the past two seasons.
Speaking to the media at Juventus Center, the 44-year-old began: “It hasn’t been a straightforward week. Those on international duty have come back at different times and we’ve had to put them each through specific training programmes.
“Caceres returned at one o’clock yesterday and was immediately thrown back into action. It’s not easy for me nor the other managers who have international players in their squads. It becomes difficult to prepare for games, but we’ll take it on the chin and use it as an added motivation to do well.”
“Injury wise, Barzagli won’t be available tomorrow and I think Copenhagen might also come too soon for him as well. Injured players need time to train in order to make a full recovery. We’re a bit stretched due to various absences, but we’ve worked on several solutions in training and I’m perfectly relaxed about my players’ ability to handle the situation.”
Looking to halt the Bianconeri’s four-match Serie A winning streak on Sunday afternoon will be Livorno, a newly-promoted team who have won plenty of admirers for their positive displays under the management of Davide Nicola.
Previewing the test in Tuscany, Conte continued: “We’ll go there for the win, but we know it won’t be easy. We’re up against a side playing with plenty of enthusiasm, managed by a young, bright coach who has done a great job so far – hats off to him. We know we’ll run into difficulties tomorrow, any team who faces us plays the game of their lives.”
The discussion then turned to the meteoric rise of midfielder Paul Pogba. Since trading Manchester for Turin in the summer of 2012, the Frenchman has cemented his place in the Bianconeri’s starting line-up and also become a focal point of Didier Deschamps’ international revolution.
In the build-up to Les Bleus’ crucial World Cup playoff with Ukraine, Pogba expressed his gratitude for the role Conte has played in enabling him to realise his potential with Juventus.
The manager, however, views it differently: “First of all, Paul needs to thank himself for deciding to follow a path that has brought him to Juventus. He joined a team with role models to learn from and we as a club always try to support him as much as we can.
“He’s got the qualities required to become a great player, and the desire to do so is fundamental. When I was younger I saw plenty of players potentially better than me end up playing amateur football - while I managed to stay here for 13 years. The right mentality is required along with talent. Paul’s got both.”
After taking on Livorno and hosting Copenhagen in the Champions League, Juventus will return to Serie A duties with a home fixture against Udinese on Sunday 1 December.
For the visit of Francesco Guidolin’s men, the hosts will be unable to rely on the backing of their most vociferous supporters in the ‘curva’ after its closure was ordered by the sporting body.
And whilst expressing the need to respect the rules in place, Conte revealed his desire for a solution that would enable both adults and children to show their support for the team in a responsible environment.
“I’m sorry that the most passionate section of our supporters, the beating heart of the stadium, won’t be there. It’s a loss for the team, but rules are there to be respected and we’ll take heed of the situation. Children in the curva? One day it would be nice to see children and fans cheering the team on together.”
All of this weekend’s Serie A action will be preceded by a minute’s silence in remembrance of the victims of the recent tragedy to have struck the island of Sardinia.
Conte concluded by reiterating the club’s desire to support those affected by the natural disaster: “The club, team and I are all very close to the people of Sardinia at this moment in time. If there’s anything we can do to help out, we’re ready to show our support.”