Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has paid tribute to Napoli and Roma as his side closes in on a seventh straight Italian title.
Juve need just a point from their remaining two matches to seal the title ahead of Napoli, and Allegri says their achievement this year will be more significant because of the stiff competition they have faced.
“Napoli improved a great deal this year, winning games that they wouldn’t have won last year,” Allegri told a news conference. “They’ve just come up against a Juventus side whose statistics have been remarkable, but they must be complimented.
“We just did really well to remain calm after losing the head-to-head [with Napoli].”
Roma, who Juve face on Sunday, need one point to ensure they will join Juve and Napoli in the Champions League next season and Allegri says coach Eusebio Di Francesco must be credited for their great season.
“It was not easy to have a season like this after they had got 87 points under [Luciano] Spalletti last year,” Allegri said. “This year, they’ve made it to a remarkable semifinal in the Champions League and Eusebio is one of the best and most interesting emerging coaches.
“This is still a Roma-Juventus game and it will be a great game. I’ve told the lads to go out and win it if they want an extra week’s holiday.”
Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala will start with Allegri suggesting that if Mario Mandzukic isn’t selected in the XI he won’t feature at all.
“Either he starts or he stays the full 90 minutes watching on from the bench because when Mario comes on as a sub, he’s awful,” Allegri said, adding that Giorgio Chiellini and Benedikt Howedes miss out injured and Wojciech Szczesny will play in goal, with Gianluigi Buffon rested ahead of what could be the final game of his career at the Juventus Stadium against Hellas Verona next weekend.
That game should be followed by Buffon lifting the Serie A trophy aloft for the seventh year running, although Allegri is not taking anything for granted.
“All we can talk about having won is the Coppa Italia,” he said. “We deserved that in a game which was even for 55-60 minutes. Juve did not concede a single goal in five Coppa Italia matches, which only Torino did before in 1942-43.
“I’m still trying to get my voice back which I’ve lost for the past month. Before we reflect on the season, though, we need to wait.”
Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.