Claudio Marchisio believes the Bianconeri’s rediscovered defensive solidarity has proved key to recording three successive league victories and provided a timely boost of confidence ahead of a challenging double-header against Real Madrid and Napoli.
Assessing the team’s defensive showing in yesterday’s 1-0 triumph at the Tardini, the 27-year-old began: “Previously we gave very little away but conceded goals, now we’re not just keeping clean sheets, we’re also preventing our opponents from having shots on goal. It’s important.”
The midfielder, who recently returned to the starting line-up after recovering from an knee injury sustained in the Super Cup final triumph over Lazio, played 60 minutes of yesterday’s win in Emilio-Romagna as Antonio Conte continues to shuffle his pack in order to keep his troops fresh for European and domestic commitments.
“Rotating the starting line-up has been necessary given the heavy fixture schedule, but the team responded well and claimed three golden points.
“Nobody expected Roma to start so strongly. They’ve got a good squad and could also break a European record as well as the Serie A feat they’ve established. They have players who were no longer taken into consideration, but are now doing extremely well under the new manager.
“We mustn’t give in and need to be ready to pounce on any slip-ups. We’re perfectly calm as we’ve always responded positively and are enjoying an excellent championship season. We must look to continue this when we face Napoli next week.”
Conversation then turned to Tuesday’s mouthwatering showdown with Real Madrid, an encounter Marchisio believes the hosts should approach with plenty of confidence after matching their La Liga counterparts all the way during last month’s narrow loss in the Spanish capital.
Reflecting on the team’s performance at the Bernabeu, the midfielder pinpointed Giorgio Chiellini’s unfortunate sending off as the moment the balance tipped firmly in the favour of Carlo Ancelotti’s men.
But he is confident that with numerical parity and the vociferous backing provided by home supporters in Turin, Juventus will have every reason to fancy their chances of pulling off a famous victory.
“Chiellini’s sending off changed the game, but even when down to ten we played an excellent game in terms of our attention and chances created. We must do this again on Tuesday night, whilst being cautious of their threat on the counter through the likes of Di Maria, Ronaldo and Bale, who all break with extreme pace.
“Real have plenty of strong players up front who sometimes help out less in defensive areas, thus putting their backline under pressure. We managed to defend well in Spain, enjoy possession and cause them problems.
“Plus, in Turin, we’ll be able to count on the support of our fans, who will provide a red-hot atmosphere at the stadium. We haven’t had a great deal of time in which to prepare for the game, but encounters like these provide plenty of motivation by themselves.”
While Juventus will be fighting to boost their qualification chances by registering their first Champions League victory of the season, Group B leaders Real Madrid, under the stewardship of wily tactician Ancelotti, will not be lacking in motivation either.
In spite of a flawless start to this year’s European campaign, derby defeats against Atletico Madrid and Barcelona have left Los Blancos six points off top spot, causing the experienced Italian coach to come in for criticism from certain sections of the Spanish media.
Such weight of expectation comes as no surprise to Marchisio, a player who appreciates how high the stakes are at the top of professional football.
“It was the same with Mourinho and other managers they’ve had. It’s just like it is here at Juventus, if you’re off top spot, even after two back-to-back titles, people talk about problems.
“Real have great champions, can spend a great deal of money and are surrounded by huge expectations. Ancelotti is an excellent manager who has done well wherever he’s been. I wish him all the best in Madrid, but only domestically, not in the Champions League…”