Clubs, Italian Serie A, Juventus, Story

Juventus legend Alessandro Del Piero weighs in on the Serie A title race and highlights the strides Napoli have made.
Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri has insisted that Napoli are favourites to win Serie A ahead of their match in Naples.
Relive the best goals from the weekend in Serie A, featuring Mattia De Sciglio’s first goal for Juventus.
Relive the best goals from the weekend in Serie A, featuring Mattia De Sciglio’s first goal for Juventus.

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has denied reports of a rift in the dressing room, although he says he would not mind some more passion from his players as he prepares them for their top-of-the-table Serie A clash at Napoli on Friday night.

It was claimed by Dagospia on Wednesday that an argument had broken out between some of Juve’s veterans and a group of three foreign players in the dressing room prior to the 3-2 defeat at Sampdoria.

It reports that the trio have asked to be sold in January, but Allegri says the whole story has been fabricated in a bid to unsettle his club, who trail Napoli by four points ahead of Friday night’s clash at the Stadio San Paolo.

“As if!” Allegri said at a news conference on Thursday when asked about the reported argument. “I would have liked it if they really had come to blows because sometimes a bit of a scandal now and again does you good, but unfortunately nothing happened.”

Massimiliano Allegri has Juventus in contention to win a seventh successive Serie A title.

Allegri’s argument with Leonardo Bonucci last February is considered by the Juve coach as the main turning point in the Bianconeri‘s 2016-17 season, as they went on to win a Serie A and Coppa Italia double and reach the Champions League final.

He denies there has been a similar spark behind the scenes now as he names Napoli as favourites for the Serie A title this season.

“They’re doing extraordinary things,” he said. “They’re two points ahead of Inter Milan and we’re four points behind them. They are top and favourites to win the Scudetto, going at an impressive rate of knots.

“This is going to be an important game for us, but it won’t be decisive. I hope it’s a good test ahead of the trip to Olympiakos, which will be our first real decisive game of the season. In Athens, our place in the last 16 of the Champions League will be on the line, and that is our first objective of the season.”

Gonzalo Higuain could be able to help either on Friday night or next Tuesday, when Juve need a win to be sure of reaching the knockout stages of the Champions League, and Allegri says he is recovering quickly from an operation on a broken finger earlier this week.

“Gonzalo’s hand is a bit painful, but he could be available,” Allegri said. “Let’s say that I’m optimistic about him being in the squad. Let’s see how his hand is and how much pain he feels. It wouldn’t make sense risking him now, with a further 30 games of the season ahead of us.”

Higuain joined Juve from Napoli for €90 million 18 months ago after he scored 36 goals in 35 games in 2015-16, setting a new Serie A scoring record.

The Argentine, who upset Napoli fans by turning his back on them to join their fiercest rivals, faced his former club four times last season — twice in the league and twice in the Coppa Italia — scoring four goals. Furthermore, he has scored five in his past four Serie A appearances for Juve.

Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.

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