Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon hailed coach Massimiliano Allegri ahead of Saturday’s trip to Sampdoria, where they need just a draw to clinch their fourth successive Serie A title.
Allegri – sacked by Milan in January of last year – was given the tough ask of trying to replace Antonio Conte in July when the latter stepped down to coach Italy.
Conte had led Juventus to a hat-trick of Serie A crowns and Allegri’s appointment was met with widespread scepticism, as 300 fans protested against the decision at the club’s training complex.
But all is forgotten with the club’s supporters after another stunning season, which could see Juventus win a historic treble. They open a UEFA Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid on Tuesday and face Lazio in June’s Coppa Italia showpiece.
Juve lead second-placed Lazio by 14 points with five games remaining and have a better head-to-head record than their rivals. That means a draw or win would clinch the Scudetto this weekend.
That is the ideal scenario for Juve, who can then focus all their energies into the clash against Real, and before the road trip, Buffon took time out to praise Allegri.
“We’re extremely close to crossing the finish line,” he said. “We’ve done well up until now.
“Allegri’s been a big factor behind our season. He guides us, gives us ideas and manages the group.
“He inherited a strong squad, but whoever replaced Conte would have had a tough task ahead of them.”
Juventus responded to a shock derby defeat to Torino by coming from behind to see off Fiorentina 3-2 on Wednesday, largely thanks to Carlos Tevez’s double.
The Argentina forward now has 20 Serie A goals – two more than any other player.
Juve have failed to win any of their last three away matches in all competitions, with a gutsy goalless draw at Monaco – that secured their progression to the last four of the Champions League – sandwiched by Serie A defeats at Parma and Torino.
Paul Pogba (hamstring) is on the comeback trail but this match will come too soon for the France midfielder.
Sampdoria boss Sinisa Mihajlovic has seen his side enjoy a strong campaign but they have dropped to fifth after a winless run of five.
They threw away a lead in a 4-2 loss at Napoli on Sunday and repeated the dose in a 1-1 stalemate against Hellas Verona on Wednesday.
Mihajlovic could also see a record of his own fall. The Serbian scored 28 Serie A free-kicks during an excellent career at Roma, Sampdoria, Lazio and Inter. Juventus’ Andrea Pirlo is hot on his heels with 27, though.
Sampdoria did the double over Juventus during the 2012-13 campaign, but have not won since, with the earlier meeting this season ending in a 1-1 draw in Turin. Manolo Gabbiadini’s 51st-minute effort cancelled out Patrice Evra’s opener in December.