Sami Khedira says tactical improvements have spread confidence throughout Juventus’ ranks as they approach a return to Serie A action against Verona on Wednesday.
Following the departures of key players such as Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Carlos Tevez, the defending champions endured a sluggish start to the season, winning just three of their opening 10 fixtures and sitting 11 points off Roma in pole position.
However, a run of seven straight victories has put Massimiliano Allegri’s side back in the hunt for a fifth successive Scudetto.
They start the year in fourth position, just three points adrift of leaders Inter, and Khedira believes increased solidity has been key to restoring Juve’s self-esteem and making them a formidable opponent once again.
“The most important thing now is that the team keeps pushing on to win more matches,” he told Juventus’ official website.
“As we have seen in recent games in the league, we are all playing with more confidence, we’re set up better tactically, we score more goals and concede less.
“I think it’s normal that we took a bit of time to get going, after changing so many players, but now we’ve all settled in, we’re performing well and getting results regardless of who is on the pitch.”
“We’ve trained very hard since returning from our holidays. We’ve done a lot of running and tactical work which will stand us in good stead for the second part of the season.
“On Wednesday we have a tough match, as it’s the first one after the Christmas break, but it’s one which we need to win in order to keep up the pressure on Inter at the top of the table.
“We’re also at home which perhaps makes victory even more important, but we’ve had a good week’s training, we’re very focused on the task at hand and so I’m optimistic about our chances of taking maximum points.”
Verona are still winless in the top flight this season with Luigi Delneri’s only victory since replacing Andrea Mandorlini in December coming in the last-gasp 1-0 triumph over Pavia in the Coppa Italia.
Historically, Verona have struggled at Juventus, failing to beat them in 26 Serie A trips to Turin.
They have been boosted by forward Juanito Gomez’s return to training after he missed the 1-1 draw with Sassuolo last time out, but Jacopo Sala will be absent as the midfielder serves a suspension.
Juventus duo Mario Mandzukic and Andrea Barzagli are lacking fitness, while Leonardo Bonucci trained separately from the group on Sunday after overcoming an illness.
Key Opta stats:
– Juventus are unbeaten in their last eight league games against Verona, but were held to a draw in two of the last three.
– Verona have never won at Juve’s ground in the top flight (L22 D4).
– Juve ended 2015 with seven consecutive wins in the league – the best run for Allegri as a manager.
– Verona have drawn four games from leading positions – more than any other Serie A side this term.
– Paulo Dybala has found the back of the net in four of his last five appearances at the Juventus Stadium in the league.