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Bonucci dismisses Napoli mind games

Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci believes Napoli are the team to beat in Serie A as the defending champions seek to win a fifth consecutive league title.

Maurizio Sarri’s men sit top of Serie A at the midway point of the campaign following a 5-1 hammering of Frosinone on Sunday, two points clear of holders Juve.

Bonucci and his team-mates endured a rocky start to their title defence but nine league wins in succession has seen them climb above early pacesetters Inter and Fiorentina into second.

Sarri has been keen to highlight Juve as favourites for the title in recent weeks but Bonucci has claimed that is an attempt to gain a psychological advantage.

“It’s a bit of mind games. It’s a way of releasing the pressure that builds up with a fanbase like Napoli’s, which comes when they’re around the top of the table,” he told Sky and Mediaset.

“So they try to put it on other teams, first it was Inter, now Juventus. It’s normal for us – we’re aware that this league is wide open until the last day.

“If I had to name our biggest rival for the Scudetto, I’d pick Napoli due to their convincing displays to date and the fact that they have a champion among their ranks in [Gonzalo] Higuain.”

Juve won three consecutive titles under former coach Antonio Conte before Massimiliano Allegri secured another Scudetto during his first campaign in charge last term.

With their early-season struggles behind them, Juve are eager to match the five consecutive title wins achieved by the Bianconeri side of the early 1930s.

“We’re aiming to rewrite the history books with a fifth Scudetto on the spin,” Bonucci said. “In the last three months, we’ve rediscovered an enormous appetite to win games, which is what links this Juve team with those of previous years.

“After that match, we all understood that we needed to step up our games, including the more experienced members of the team, as it’s our job to show the new arrivals what it means to play in Italy and wear this shirt.

“We knew that the comeback was on because the quality in this side is there to see. What we needed was to roll up our sleeves and generally to increase our work rate as a group.

“That tough patch was probably very useful in terms of forging stronger relationships within the group and helping us climb the table. We’re in no mood to stop this run that we’re on.”

Wed 13 Jan, 2016
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