After two tough away tests against potential title contenders, Sunday will signal a welcome return to home comforts for Antonio Conte’s men. Relegation-threatened Cesena provide the opposition at Juventus Stadium, and the manager insists his side won’t be resting on their laurels.
Speaking from a morning press conference, Conte said: “When I became Juventus manager I mapped out a selection of steps. The first was to get back to being competitive, to having credibility in the eyes of supporters and opponents. We’ve now reached this and it hasn’t been easy. Now there’s the second: maintain competitiveness, something not managed over previous years. Determination, desire and concentration are required to achieve this. We must continue to develop.”
Following an indifferent start to the campaign, Milan are now in full flow and claimed top spot last night with a 2-0 win over Genoa. Rossoneri manager Massimiliano Allegri recently raised the stakes by commenting that Juventus were favourites for the Scudetto. A comment that was instantly refuted by Conte: “Milan won the Scudetto last year and that’s their starting base. Instead, we’re coming off the back of two consecutive seventh-placed finishes. But for the club’s name it’s right that Juventus should be among the favourites.”
Simone Pepe’s dramatic equaliser in Naples extended the Bianconeri’s unbeaten start to the season and served as a further confirmation of the never say die attitude championed by Conte. Juventus looked an entirely different prospect after the break, and the 42-year-old revealed the secret behind his team’s astonishing second half revival. “I just spoke to the players at half time. There was nothing wrong with the system or the personnel and the second half proved this, contested by the same eleven players. We ran more despite not possessing a physical advantage, we had the same time as Napoli to prepare for the game.”
Andrea Pirlo’s yellow card at the San Paolo will see this season’s ever-present sit out Sunday’s game. While Conte admits the midfield general will be missed, he is able to count on the return of Claudio Marchisio, who completed a one-match ban on Tuesday. He concluded: “Pirlo won’t feature, but I’ve got faith in whoever plays, also because I’m sure that the team will give 120% to compensate for his absence.”