Champions League not beyond Juve, insists Allegri

Coach Massimiliano Allegri insisted the Champions League is not a step too far for Juventus as it prepares to meet Olympiakos in a crucial Group A clash in Turin on Tuesday.

The Italian champion’s last-16 chances are hanging in the balance after dropping to third in the group, three points adrift of Atletico Madrid and Olympiakos, following respective away defeats to the pair in the past month.

With a tricky away trip to Swedish champions Malmoe and a home clash against Atletico still to come, the Serie A champion realistically needs a win, preferably with a two-goal cushion, against the Greeks if it is to keep its knockout phase hopes alive.

Juve last made it past the last-16 stage in 2013 when former coach Antonio Conte led the ‘Old Lady’ to the quarter-finals where it fell to eventual winners Bayern Munich.

Allegri, who has injury concerns over midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah and defender Angelo Ogbonna, played down talk of Juventus suffering a Champions League complex.

“To progress in the Champions League you have to keep your wits about you and not get carried away by what is being said,» Allegri told media on Monday.

“I’ve heard talk of us having some kind of complex at international level, but I don’t agree.

“We’ve had some solid games, it’s just unfortunate that after away trips to Atletico and Athens weve found ourselves sitting on three points.

“Tomorrow will be an important test against a team that plays good soccer. It will be crucial for our group qualification chances.

“Ideally, we have to win by two clear goals and that won’t be easy.”

Olympiakos’s 1-0 win a fortnight ago was down to Pajtim Kasami’s clinical 36th-minute finish, although much of the credit after the game went to Spanish goalkeeper Roberto for repelling a second-half onslaught from Juventus.

Allegri added: «I expect Olympiakos to have the same approach as it did in Athens, but we have to put together an altogether different performance.

“In Greece we missed a lot of opportunities. Now we have to play with more intensity but without hurrying things.”

Allegri said he would only decide on his starting line-up once Asamoah and Ogbonna come through fitness tests later in the day.

Ghanaian international Asamoah limped off late in Juve’s 2-0 win over Empoli on Saturday which sent the champion three points clear of Roma, who suffered a 2-0 defeat away to Napoli. He could eventually be replaced by Simone Padoin, said Allegri: «Let’s see how they come through today. If they’re both missing then I can use Padoin on the outside left position. Right now, it’s impossible to say who will play tomorrow.”

Italian midfield star Andrea Pirlo, meanwhile, appears to be hitting peak form in time for the visit of Michel’s Greek champion.

The 35-year-old has been steadily rebuilding form since returning from a long injury lay-off in time for a bad-tempered 3-2 win over Roma on October 5, and broke his league drought with the opener in the 2-0 win over Empoli.

“I’m improving, doing well during the week and I feel better with every game I play. I hope to be back in peak condition as soon as possible,» said Pirlo.

Juve midfielder Arturo Vidal, meanwhile, underlined the need for an early goal on Tuesday.

“They played their game in our first meeting, scoring from one of the two moves they strung together. This time we need to score quickly and put in a really good performance,» he said.[AFP]

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