Massimiliano Allegri predicts that sparks will fly when Serie A’s top two go head-to-head on Saturday night at Juventus Stadium, but does not believe the encounter will be a decisive one in the overall context of this season’s Scudetto race.
Fourteen wins on the bounce have enabled the Bianconeri to climb firmly back into the title hunt and victory tomorrow would see them leapfrog the high-flying Partenopei into pole position for the first time this term.
But while a win would undoubtedly send out an important message to the rest of the division, Allegri is adamant there is plenty of room for added twists and turns in the 13 games that remain ahead of the 2015/16 campaign’s conclusion.
Speaking to the media in Vinovo, Allegri began: “It’s not going to be decisive as far as the title race is concerned. We have a series of crucial games ahead of us and there are still 13 to play after tomorrow’s one. We’ll be in for an entertaining encounter, both from a tactical and technical perspective, and it’s important we adopt a controlled approach.
“We lost this season’s first meeting due to a few defensive mistakes but had chances to find the equaliser. Tomorrow we’ll be in for a different game entirely, featuring two sides in decent form who will battle all the way for the title. We shouldn’t, however, rule out a chasing pack that can still catch up.”
Much of the pre-match talk has focused on how an injury-hit Bianconeri rearguard, deprived of the services of Giorgio Chiellini and Martin Caceres, will cope with the threat of Serie A top scorer Gonzalo Higuain.
And whilst Allegri was quick to acknowledge the talents of the Argentine assassin, he claimed he will be placing greater emphasis on stopping the collective unit led by Maurizio Sarri.
“Napoli have 56 points on the board and are in fine form. They possess great individuals such as Higuain, who is perhaps enjoying the best season of his career. It’s not all about Higuain though, Napoli have the league’s second sternest defence and best attack and we’ll need to cut their supply line.
“I don’t know if we’ll play with three or four at the back tomorrow. I’ll have a good think about it in the two training sessions that remain. Regardless, the numbers make little difference because we’ve always defended as a four anyway.”
Understandably tight-lipped over his defensive strategy, Allegri was more open when talking about a potential return for Sami Khedira and the race for a second striking berth alongside Paulo Dybala.
“I’ll need to check on Khedira, while Zaza and Morata are both in contention to partner Dybala. As far as injuries are concerned, we’re unfortunately without Caceres for the rest of the season. Chiellini and Mandzukic will continue to be monitored and Asamoah’s on the road to recovery.
“Pereyra? He still hasn’t got 90 minutes in his legs but remains an important player for us. I was pleased with how he performed in Frosinone.”