Antonio Conte admits that Juventus are battling fatigue ahead of Thursday’s visit to Lyon in the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals.
The Serie A leaders suffered only their second league defeat of the campaign on Sunday as the Turin club fell to a 2-0 reverse at the hands of Napoli, ending their 14-match unbeaten run in all competitions.
Coach Conte’s men are still very much on course for the title, but the 44-year-old concedes that Juve’s congested fixture schedule has taken its toll on his players.
“We were off-colour,” Conte told Gazzetta dello Sport after the loss to Napoli. “We are playing so many games right now and always with the same players due to injuries.
“Most of my players are tired as they haven’t had a chance to rest.”
Juve’s poor performance came just four days after a 2-1 win over Parma and Conte will again have to manage his resources as they prepare to face a Lyon side who have only lost one game in the Europa League this season.
The visitors will be boosted by the return of top scorer Carlos Tevez for the first-leg clash after he missed the Napoli match due to suspension, but a number of first-team players remain on the sidelines through injury.
Defender Andrea Barzagli is expected to miss out with a calf injury, while Angelo Ogbonna and Federico Peluso (both thigh) also miss out.
Lyon’s performance in the competition this season has been impressive, with the 2-1 last-16 second-leg loss to Viktoria Plzen marking their solitary defeat so far.
And that mattered little as Remi Garde’s men progressed 5-3 on aggregate thanks to an impressive 4-1 success in the first leg at the Stade de Gerland.
However, Garde’s side approach their first competitive meeting with Juventus on the back of a local derby loss to Saint-Etienne that severely dented their prospects of securing UEFA Champions League football for next season.
Lyon are now nine points adrift of third-placed Lille – who occupy the final Champions League spot – but can secure a European return via the Coupe de la Ligue, where they meet Paris Saint-Germain in the final later this month.
But Lyon’s hopes of claiming continental silverware this year have been hampered by a number of injuries, with midfield playmaker Clement Grenier missing the last six games due to an infection in his groin.
Defender Miguel Lopes is set to be absent for the rest of the season with a broken leg, while Gueida Fofana (groin), Mouhamadou Dabo and Milan Bisevac (both hamstring) are all doubtful.
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