Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has warned his players to avoid becoming distracted by the upcoming meeting with Bayern Munich when they host Sassuolo in Serie A on Friday.
Last season’s Champions League finalists meet Pep Guardiola’s side in a huge last-16 second-leg clash next Wednesday with the tie evenly poised at 2-2, but first they have league business to attend to.
Juve lost 1-0 to Sassuolo in the reverse fixture in October, a result which left the champions 11th in the table with only 12 points from their first 10 games.
Since then, though, they have staged a magnificent revival, picking up 52 points from a possible 54 to lead the standings by three points over Napoli with 10 matches remaining.
But Sassuolo have also enjoyed an impressive campaign and sit seventh having won three consecutive league matches coming into the clash.
“For us the Champions League has to remain a dream, we have to try and do the business in Munich,” said Allegri after being named Serie A coach of 2014-15.
“It will be a beautiful game and we will do everything possible to qualify, but it won’t be easy. If we are good we will advance, if not we will have to think about the Coppa Italia final and a Scudetto which would be extraordinary to win.
“Now we have to think about Friday’s game, then we will think about Munich. We are in front and we have to maintain our consistency to win a fifth Scudetto which would allow us to write ourselves into the history of Juventus.
“We face Sassuolo who have beaten all the top teams and we hope to stop them.
“It’s an important point of the season where we have to win because the others are doing very well. This is the point where points really matter. You have to have clarity and calm.
“The team is handling the league the best of anyone, even if at points we have not played very well.
“Roma can win every game between now and the end of the season, as can Napoli. The points total for the Scudetto will be very high.”
In-form Juve are on a stunning run of nine consecutive clean sheets and another in this match would see them set a new Serie A record.
However, Nicola Sansone scored the Sassuolo winner in the clash earlier this season and he will not rule out his team recording a famous double, despite Juve’s form.
“The motivation is greater against big teams,” he told Corriere della Sera. “Can we get another good result against Juventus? Why not? In football anything is possible.
“The ‘unbeatable’ [Gianluigi] Buffon is not an extra problem for us, Juve is a very stimulating challenge for the whole team, to see where we are at.
“The goal I scored against Juventus was the most special of my career – I have never struck a free-kick so well.”
Juve defender Giorgio Chiellini is not expected to return from his calf problem with the Bayern game a more realistic target for his comeback, while the fitness of Stefano Sturaro (toe) will be checked ahead of kick-off.
Key Opta stats:
– Sassuolo won the reverse fixture – prior to this, they had taken only one point from their four Serie A meetings with Juventus.
– Sassuolo have 12 points more than last season after 28 matchdays – only Napoli and Inter have improved more compared to 2014-15 (both +14).
– Juve have won 20 of their 21 games this season in Serie A after taking the lead, dropping only two points from leading situations so far – a league-high.
– Nicola Sansone has been directly involved in a goal for Sassuolo in each of his last four appearances, scoring two and making also two assists.
– Gianluigi Buffon has not a conceded a goal for the last 836 minutes played in Serie A – he is now third in the all-time chart only behind Sebastiano Rossi and Dino Zoff.