Maurizio Sarri has challenged his Juventus side to fight against the Champions League hangovers that threaten to derail their bid for a ninth consecutive Serie A title.
Juve have dropped points in four of their 15 league games this season, two of which came immediately after midweek Champions League fixtures.
They drew 1-1 with Lecce in October following a win over Lokomotiv Moscow and were held to a shock 2-2 home draw by Sassuolo this month after beating Atletico Madrid, before losing 3-1 to Lazio a week later.
Those results have left them trailing leaders Inter by two points and Sarri has demanded they do not suffer a similar fate against Udinese on Sunday after the 2-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen that concluded their Group D campaign in midweek.
“The risks of dropping the intensity levels and dropping points after Champions League games is visible in the statistics,” he told a media conference. “You can’t argue when it happens two or three times.
“We’ve got to find out why it keeps happening and fix it. There are differences playing in Serie A to the Champions League, but it’s not true to say the European opponents are more open. Bayer Leverkusen focus mainly on possession, while Lokomotiv Moscow tend to clam up.
#Sarri: To be competitive in Europe, we need to win in Italy!
This ends Maurizio Sarri’s #JuveUdinese press conference!
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— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) December 14, 2019
“Perhaps subconsciously our minds can drift to other targets after so many Scudetto titles in a row, but that is something we must absolutely fight against. If we are to be competitive in the Champions League, we need to be competitive in Italy, too.”
Udinese are led by caretaker coach Luca Gotti, who was part of Sarri’s staff at Chelsea last season.
They have failed to win any of their past four Serie A games, but Sarri is expecting a tough match at the Allianz Stadium.
“Gotti is very talented,” he said. “Udinese can transform any long ball into a scoring opportunity, so we’ve got to be wary of that.
“They are a dangerous team that knows how to close down well and make the game tight. They have strikers who work well and can be dangerous in different circumstances.”
Midfielders Adrien Rabiot and Emre Can have struggled for game time this season, with the pair starting only five times between them in Serie A, while Can was omitted from the Champions League squad for the group stage.
Sarri says both can expect to feature against Udinese and has suggested Rabiot – a free transfer following his departure from Paris Saint-Germain during the off-season – has not yet adjusted to life at the club.
“He has struggled to settle into our football, but that is normal,” he explained. “He also came off an injury and struggled more in the first half in Germany [against Leverkusen], but he came out towards the end. He is also quite introverted, which doesn’t help him to settle.
“Can was immensely disappointed [at being left out of the Champions League squad]. Either Can or Rabiot will certainly play and both of them may well be on the pitch for a portion of the game.”
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