Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has called for fans to back him as he prepares for the Serie A champions’ first home game of the season against Udinese today.
Juventus surprised many fans by choosing Allegri, sacked by struggling AC Milan halfway through last season, to succeed Antonio Conte after the latter’s decision to accept the Italy manager’s job.
Conte steered Juve to three successive league titles, meaning this season Allegri – who endured three mercurial seasons with Milan before being replaced by Clarence Seedorf in January – has a lot to live up to.
The 47-year-old said: “It will be a special night, I’ve only been to Juventus Stadium as part of a visiting team so it will be a completely different experience for me as Juventus manager.
“As always, we need the fans to give us their backing. The atmosphere at Juventus Stadium can give us a huge boost in that respect.”
Unpredictable Udinese often punch above their weight, especially at their Friuli Stadium. But with former Inter coach Andrea Stramaccioni now at the helm, Allegri is taking nothing for granted when the northerners visit the Old Lady of Turin.
“They’re always a tough side. It won’t be an easy game by any stretch of the imagination,” added Allegri.
Juve newcomers Patrice Evra and Roberto Pereyra are both expected to play, added Allegri, although Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal (thigh) and Andrea Pirlo, who is still on the recovery table, will be missing.
“Vidal played constantly last season, underwent a meniscus operation and then played in the World Cup 30 days later,” explained Allegri.
“He returned from international duty with a strain so we’ve left him out as a precaution.”
A win for Juve coupled with a Roma defeat at Empoli would see the champions go top provisionally, three days ahead of hosting Swedes Malmo in their Champions League Group A opener.
Elsewhere, Roma go into today’s match at Empoli with one eye on next week’s Champions League game against CSKA Moscow.
The Giallorossi host the Russian giants on Wednesday looking to make an immediate impact on their return to Europe’s elite club competition after a three-year wait.
The Eternal City outfit will also have to face Bayern Munich and Manchester City in Group E.
“I believe this season we can achieve great things and not just in the domestic campaign but also in the Champions League,” said Roma forward Juan Iturbe, who joined the Giallorossi from Hellas Verona this summer. “We will go into every game determined to give our all even though we are in a very difficult group. But we will take it one step at a time.”
For this weekend’s match in Tuscany, Roma coach Rudi Garcia is expected to make some changes to the side that beat Fiorentina 2-0 in their Serie A opener.
Brazilian defenders Maicon and Leandro Castan as well as Roma captain Francesco Totti are all expected to be rested this weekend with Wednesday’s match in mind.
Mattia Destro will therefore start alongside Iturbe and Gervinho in attack. Empoli host last season’s runners-up knowing how difficult it will be to claim their first points of the campaign. Maurizio Sarri’s men got a taste of how challenging their task of avoiding the drop will be after suffering a 2-0 defeat at Udinese in their first match back in the Italian top flight.
“For us this game is an almost impossible mission,” Sarri said. “But we must try.
“I know that Roma will fight until the end for the Scudetto, while I’m curious to see them in action in the Champions League.”
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