Juventus boss Antonio Conte has played down the fact that Milan will be without Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Saturday’s blockbuster Serie A clash.
The Lega Calcio’s Disciplinary Committee announced on Thursday that it had rejected Milan’s appeal to have Ibrahimovic’s three-match ban reduced, meaning he will not be able to play against his former club at San Siro.
“One always wants to win, with or without Ibrahimovic,” Conte told reporters. “That has been our mentality since the start of the season.”
“Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we do not. For us, (Ibrahimovic’s absence) does not change our preparation and our desire, and I imagine the same can be said about Milan.”
“Ibra surely gives more points of reference, because he is a great player, but Milan are strong, with or without him.”
Juventus are one point behind Milan in second place, with one match in hand, and Conte believes that Saturday’s match will be decisive for the Turin side to prove they can go all the way in the competition.
“We have taken a decisive step, which was to become competitive again,” Conte said.
“This is a source of pride for me, for the team and for the club. We must now prove that we can continue at this level.”
Conte played down comments from former Italy coach Marcello Lippi, who stated on Thursday that Milan have stronger centre-backs than Juventus.
“I think that Milan have two great champions, two outstanding players in Alessandro Nesta and Thiago Silva,” Conte said.
“I played alongside Nesta and he is a great player. Thiago Silva is among the best in his position.”
“But I repeat that I would not trade my central defenders with Milan’s.”