Massimiliano Allegri accepts that Juventus need to step up a gear to defend their Serie A title as they attempt to fend off credible challenges from their main rivals.
Ahead of Saturday night’s Derby d’Italia clash with traditional foes Inter Milan, Juve sit in third place behind Napoli and the Nerazzurri, who reside in first place for the first time since January 2016.
Juve have recovered from the shock of defeat at Sampdoria to record back-to-back wins against Crotone and then Napoli, but boss Allegri knows a seventh straight title will not land in his lap.
At Friday’s pre-match press conference he said: “Tomorrow’s match may not decide who wins the Scudetto, but Juve and Inter are two teams who will fight for the title until the very end of the season.
“Our main Scudetto rivals have upped their games this season and we need to do the same in order to win the Scudetto this year.
“This season the head-to-head battles will make the difference. Winning against Napoli was a step in the right direction but tomorrow’s match is also of the utmost importance.
“We’re taking on the league leaders, who are top of the table and going extremely well.”
Allegri may have to deploy Wojciech Szczesny in goal instead of Gianluigi Buffon as the veteran stopper struggles to shake off a calf injury, while there are doubts over Paulo Dybala and Miralem Pjanic. Croatian forward Mario Mandzukic is still working his way back to full fitness.
Inter head coach Luciano Spalletti, whose side are unbeaten in the league, preferred to keep his counsel on team selection but he teased the inclusion of teenage striker Yann Karamoh.
Of the on-loan Caen player, Spalletti said: “Karamoh is young with real prospects. He has the ability to go past a player and also pace to help him in the final third. He can use this in every game.
“It’s clear that experience is another quality needed to play in matches like this.”
Whoever starts in Turin, Spalletti wants the correct mentality to be on display in a key derby.
“We will try to do our best for ourselves and for those who care about Inter,” he said at a pre-match press conference. “We must believe that Juve v Inter is open to any result.
“I want that attitude to be shown right from the start.
“We have everything we need to go and play this match and get the best possible result. We want to secure as many points as possible.
“But it is not a match that will alter our thoughts and objectives – the road is still long.
“We must keep steady nerves, while also maintaining balance and professionalism.”