Massimiliano Allegri is convinced Italy will make it to the World Cup – but that is the least of his worries as he looks to guide Juventus back into the Scudetto picture.
Juve head coach Allegri takes his side to Lazio on Saturday for what already feels like a highly important game in the context of the season.
Defeats to Sassuolo and Hellas Verona in late October look to have almost scrubbed Juve out of the title frame, and they sit eighth heading into the weekend, already 14 points behind Napoli and Milan. It will take a sharp upturn for them to trouble the early pace-setters.
Lazio are three points better off than Juventus too, and their boss is former Juve head coach Maurizio Sarri, the man who was given the flick by the Turin giants in August 2020 after just one season.
Sarri won the Serie A title in that campaign, but a lack of European success cost him dearly. His successor, Andrea Pirlo, delivered neither, which is why Allegri was summoned to return to the Allianz Stadium top job, having won five league championships in his previous stint.
Italy is consumed by the travails of the Azzurri, with Roberto Mancini’s team falling to Earth with a bump after their Euro 2020 success as they failed to earn automatic qualification for the World Cup, with Jorginho’s costly missed penalty against Switzerland followed by a draw with Northern Ireland.
They still have a play-off to fall back on, so may well still feature at Qatar 2022, and Allegri spoke about Italy while addressing the focus on putting points on the board.
“Football is good because you can have opinions, you can talk, but in the end it all boils down to the results,” he told a news conference on Friday.
“For a missed penalty, they’ve been massacring them for a week now. We need balance, there are unforeseen events that must be managed, and I believe that in the end they will go to the World Cup.”
He is waiting to learn whether Paulo Dybala is available for the trip to Rome, with the Argentine keen to be involved after international duty. Allegri described the forward’s calf as “problematic” but did not rule him out.
“It’s a nice challenge, two teams that are floating on the edge of fourth place,” Allegri said. “It will be a difficult match.”
A sketchy 1-0 victory over Fiorentina, secured by Juan Cuadrado’s stoppage-time goal after their visitors were reduced to 10 men, sent Juventus into the international break with a win.
“Right now, here you just have to do and not think. We are behind in the standings, talking is of no use at all,” Allegri added.
“We just have to think about what to do to try slowly to improve in the attacking and defensive phases, as well as in the standings.”
Juve have lost only two of their last 33 Serie A games against Lazio, both since 2017 (W24 D7).
Lazio have conceded at least once in their last 16 Serie A home games against the Bianconceri, their longest streak without a clean sheet at home against a single opponent in the top flight.
Sarri has previously spoken of his difficulty in bringing new elements to Juventus’ play during his short tenure, but Allegri feels the current crop are malleable enough.
“Maurizio is an excellent coach and here he won a championship,” Allegri said. “You’d have to ask him, he said it and not me. For me the teams are all trainable, it depends on the players you have.”
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