Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Allegri demands improvement for quarters

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Juventus’ coach Massimiliano Allegri gestures during the Italian Serie A football match between Juventus and Inter Milan on February 5, 2017 at the Juventus Stadium in Turin. / AFP PHOTO / Marco BERTORELLO

Scoring more goals and shoring up in defence will be key if Juventus are to avoid another Champions League quarter-final exit after cruising past Porto and into the last eight, said coach Massimiliano Allegri.

Beaten 2015 finalists Juventus put one foot into the last eight of Europe’s premier club competition last month with a 2-0 win away to 10-man Porto.

And the Turin giants were impervious Tuesday on their way to stretching their unbeaten run in European competition to 21 games despite failing to build on their numerical superiority after Porto, as they did in the first leg, lost a man before the half-time interval.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s visitors failed to pose any real threat, and any hope of an upset was ended on 40 minutes when Paulo Dybala drilled past Iker Casillas from the penalty spot after Maxi Pereira’s expulsion for handball.

Juventus cruised through 3-0 on aggregate, but Allegri was less than satisfied after the hosts failed to make their advantage pay in a listless second half that saw Gonzalo Higuain and Mark Pjaca fire wide of the target.

“In the Champions League we are scoring less goals on average than other sides with respect to the number of chances we create,” said the 49-year-old Italian, who has reportedly held talks with Premier League giants Arsenal.

“In defence, we also have to improve. In the second half, despite our numerical advantage, we did the opposite of what we did in Porto.

“In these situations you either up the rhythm and pressure and attack, or you sit back and pass the ball around till it gets boring for everybody.

“We didn’t do either. We were very good in the first half, but less so in the second. Thankfully, we had our last eight ticket practically assured, but we’ll have to work on this for the future.”

– ‘We have to be very good’ –
Although Juventus remain on course for a third consecutive league and Cup double, their real focus this season is on making amends for a 3-1 final defeat to Barcelona in 2015.

And with Barcelona, 11-times champions Real Madrid and Bayern Munich all possible future opponents following Friday’s quarter-final draw, Allegri has reason for concern.

Juventus beat Real on aggregate in the last four to reach the 2015 final, although the Spaniards recently showed their class with a 6-2 aggregate win over Napoli.

Allegri’s men have fared less well against Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

The Germans were the last team to beat Juventus at home in European competition, ending their campaign in 2013 when the Turin giants were under the helm of current Chelsea manager Antonio Conte.

Allegri has already surpassed Conte’s feats with the Italian champions in Europe, but he says improving on the pitch might not be enough.

“We have to be very good over our next two games if we’re to make it all the way to the final. Although a little bit of luck would help as well,” he said.

When asked his preference, Dybala was unequivocal — although the Argentine starlet was looking further ahead to the final.

“With the squad we have, and for how well we’re doing in all three competitions, how can we not think about winning the Champions League?” said Dybala, who began his career in Italy with Serie A strugglers Palermo.

“For the final, I’d like to replay the one from two years ago, even though I wasn’t there.”

As Nuno looks ahead to an improved campaign with Porto next time around, the Portuguese coach gave Allegri, and Juventus, his backing when he said: “Allegri has done a great job, Juventus are one of the best sides in Europe. For me they’re among the top four or five.”

Allegri added: “We’ll have to wait and see who we get in the draw, but from here on in all the games get difficult.”

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