Cagliari v Juventus: Preview
Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri believes his side are on course to achieve their targets following a satisfactory first half of the Serie A season.
Defending league champions Juventus travel to lowly Cagliari on Saturday for their opening fixture of 2018 – a final game before the Italian winter break – sitting a point and a place below leaders Napoli.
Allegri acknowledges there have been unexpected hiccups already this campaign as his team go in search of a seventh successive Scudetto.
However, he says they are on the right track and in contention for success in three competitions.
“I feel that we’ve had a good first half to the season, we’re just one point behind Napoli, we’re in the next round of the Champions League and in the semi-finals of the TIM Cup (Coppa Italia),” Allegri said.
“The goals for the start of the season were to be challenging on all three fronts come March and we’re still on course for that. Then we will see if we can go even better and win all three, but right now we are doing what we intended to do.
“We have experienced some setbacks that we were able to recover from, but then others such as losing the lead at Atalanta (a 2-2 draw) and at home against Lazio (a 2-1 defeat) where we made two mistakes and missed two penalties over both games and that would have definitely changed the results.
“We have to stay close to Napoli but we are also aware that Napoli will also drop points at some stage this season.”
Juventus will remain without veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon in Sardinia as he battles to return from the calf injury picked up against Napoli at the start of December.
Allegri said he would not take risks with the former Italy number one and expects him to be in contention for the next game, at home to Genoa on January 22.
The Bianconeri are unbeaten in six league games and will also be missing defender Mattia De Sciglio and winger Juan Cuadrado, while midfielders Claudio Marchisio and Stefano Sturaro face late fitness tests, along with striker Mario Mandzukic.
Cagliari have won just one of their last six, beating Atalanta last time out, but Allegri feels they are dangerous opponents.
Allegri added, quoted on juventus.com: “We will have to play with the right intensity because we can’t afford to drop any points.”
Despite winning their last game, Cagliari coach Luis Diego Lopez said his players need to perform better in order to avoid defeat against Juventus.
“We have to give 110 per cent,” the Uruguayan said on cagliaricalcio.com.
“We will have to do better than the last three games, in both phases, to try to score points.
“Against a team like Juventus you cannot afford to give gifts, otherwise they will punish you.”