Maurizio Sarri updated on Matthijs De Ligt’s status and weighed in on Gonzalo Higuain and their journey up to this point in the pre-game presser ahead of the tilt against Lokomotiv Moscow.
“Seeing some growth out of the team and reaching the next stage are goals that go hand-in-hand. You do not collect points in Europe if you do not play well. It will be a difficult game, they gave us fits it the first contest. We want to secure the qualification, then aim at the first place in the following one, but they are still in the running. We have to focus on our performance to get the result we want.”
His assessment of the first few months at Juventus: “It has gone very well results-wise, both domestically and in Champions League. We have some room for improvement, but you can see some changes in our playing style. The stats about the center of gravity of the squad, shots made and conceded are different from previous years. They are not necessarily better, but they are diverse, so we are going in a different direction. Luckily, I feel that so many single players can improve, which would raise the bar collectively as well.”
On the subpar finishing: “There are not easy fixes, it is something that it is hard to solve, especially if you do not score early. Usually, it is up to the player to step up, as there is not a direct tactical adjustment. We have so many individuals with great quality, if we have a proactive attitude we will be able to solve the game. I think they will play differently as well, they might be more aggressive. They will take the best shot at us.”
On the duel up front: “I do not have to talk them into being out, I just give the formation. They were aware of this situation from the get-go, they decided to remove themselves from the market and stay put. They knew they would have rarely played together, so I am happy for that. Then I will be the happiest one if I will manage to field them both at the same time.” In a separate interview, he added that Dybala is not feeling particularly well do to a stomach bug.
On Matthijs De Ligt’s injury: “He is unable to play due to a messy ankle, he needs few days to let it heal properly. It does not look serious, but he could not kick today, so he is out. We have Daniele Rugani and Merih Demiral who can fill in for him. The staff and I will decide tomorrow.”
On the free kicks: “It feels weird to me that they are debating that in Russia, anyway Miralem Pjanic and Cristiano Ronaldo are our takers and they decide whose turn it is on the pitch. Mario Mandzukic has been frozen out due to a decision by the management. I have not spoken to him so I do not know what he will do in January.”
“Changes always bring out new interests and motivations, the players have been very invested so far. We might run into some difficulties when they will believe they fully grasp the system while they do not. Douglas Costa might start but he can not play 90 minutes yet. He might be used for a chuck of the game.”
On Higuain: “He is more helpful compared to the rest of the team now, he was more selfish in the past, he played to finish and score. He was not as involved defensively, he was not looking to set up his teammates. He is maybe a little less dangerous in the box now, but he works a lot in the other areas. His character changed well, he struggled last year due to the break-up with Juventus. He lived that as a personal defeat, he was unable to find new motivations out of this environment, which brought him back here.”
The recent racist incidents: “I laugh a little when they debate racism in football because it not like these people live in a different world, they conduct a regular life, there is racism in our society and it spills in the stadia, which are not very different compared to the rest of the society. We have the technological instruments to arrest those who are responsible in few hours, but I do not know if the laws allow that. The ones in charge should rectify that. It is no longer tolerable to talk about racism in 2020: there is only one race, the human one. I would like for the disqualifications against the stadia and the sectors to stop, because there are 10k people in there and maybe the racist ones are 200: they should be the ones to pay.”
Wojciech Szczesny preceded his coach with a quick presser: “I feel fine working alongisde Gianluigi Buffon, he is a great goalie and a great man. Spending another year with him is a fantastic experience and brings me a lot of joy. He is on form and doing very well, we are all very happy to have him. When he debuted with the national team in Moscow in 1997 I was not a footballer yet, I was playing tennis but I was not very good.”
On Grzegorz Krychowiak: “We are close friends, we met each other in 2004 and started together with the U-14 national team on very rough pitches, now we face each other in Champions League. It is a nice story, but I want to beat him tomorrow.”
On the defensive solidity: “It is important to avoid conceding because you can become streaky there. We had few games in a row where we allowed a goal, we did not over the weekend, now we want to forge ahead.”
On the best goalies in the world: “Alisson, Marc-André Ter Stegen and Jan Oblak, I do not feel like I am world-class player, I am part of one of the best teams in Europe. I do not judge myself, I just focus on working and doing my best for the team.”
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