Milan (AFP) – Mario Mandzukic is set to be rested but treble-chasing Juventus were warned to focus on Chievo despite the looming visit of Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.
Croatia international Mandzukic trained apart from the rest of Juve’s squad this week as he recovers from an injury niggle, and with compatriot Mark Pjaca sidelined due to a serious knee injury, coach Massimiliano Allegri is set to reshuffle the pack.
Allegri has mostly deployed a 4-3-1-2 formation this season that has seen Argentine playmaker Paulo Dybala sit in behind a front pairing of Mandzukic and Gonzalo Higuain.
But that will change.
“Mandzukic remains a major doubt,” Allegri told media in Turin on Friday.
“And I don’t think we can afford to rest Higuain, even if putting Dybala into the striker’s role could be a good idea.
“Paulo is a player who gets better the more he plays, so he needs to play.”
Allegri needs to find the right balance between securing three points against Chievo and keeping legs, and minds, fresh for Tuesday.
Juventus are keen to take revenge on the side that beat them in the 2015 Champions League final but Allegri said the Turin giants would keep their eye on one challenge at a time.
“We’ll start focusing on Barcelona tomorrow night, although it is such a beautiful and fascinating challenge that it almost prepares itself,” he said.
A positive result against Barcelona on Tuesday would keep Juve in contention for a treble of trophies — last achieved in Italy by Inter Milan in 2010.
Days after a 1-1 league draw at Napoli last weekend, Juventus succumbed to a 3-2 Cup semi-final defeat in midweek on their second visit to the San Paolo stadium within a few days, yet still progressed to the final 5-4 on aggregate.
They look a good bet at least for a domestic double but a record sixth consecutive ‘scudetto’ hasn’t been sewn up yet.
Juve’s lead on closest challengers Roma was cut to six points last week, and with eight games remaining Allegri does not want to take any chances.
“We already dropped points in Naples, so we can’t lose any more tomorrow,” he said.
“We’ve come off two difficult games that took their toll both mentally and physically, so we can’t afford to switch off.
“Roma can still reach 92 points, so we have to make it 93. There are still a lot of matches to be won yet.”