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Focus on Sevilla, not Champions League title – Allegri

Turin (Italy) (AFP) – Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has warned their Champions League ambitions will count for nothing on Wednesday if the Turin giants don’t successfully defend their impressive home record in Europe against Sevilla.

Juventus have been tipped for success in this season’s competition after notably adding Gonzalo Higuain, Miralem Pjanic and Dani Alves to a side that were beaten finalists in 2015.

But Allegri insists keeping focus for “the most important game” of their campaign is primordial.

The Turin giants have not been beaten at home in Europe in 17 games, stretching back to a 2-0 loss to Bayern in 2013, and have not lost an opening fixture in 16 campaigns.

“Everyone says we are the favourites (for the Champions League). But we have to work hard, mentally, to make sure we don’t get carried away by this euphoria,” Allegri told media.

“The first match in the Champions League is the most important because it can set the tone for how we play in the rest of the competition, and in Serie A.

“But like every year we have to take things a step at a time. We can’t start speculating what’s going to happen in March or April.”

Juventus were outclassed by Barcelona in 2015 when the Spanish league giants triumphed 3-1 in Berlin.

But the Old Lady was among Europe’s big spenders over the summer, first capturing Alves from Barcelona, Bosnian midfielder Pjanic from Roma (32m euros) and then splashing out an Italian record of 90m euros on Higuain following his record 36-goal campaign for former club Napoli.

On paper, Juve have one of the best attacking sides in Europe: Argentinian sensation Paulo Dybala, Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic are also proven goalscorers and the creativity of midfielders Sami Khedira and Colombian livewire Juan Cuadrado is a huge plus.

Allegri added: “We don’t just have Higuain up front. We also have Dybala, and Mandzukic. Mandzukic is a player with huge experience who has won the Champions League.” 

For goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, the dream of ending a 20-year wait to claim a third Champions League crown, after those won in 1985 and 1996, is not just his.

“It’s the dream of everyone connected with the world of Juventus,” said Buffon.

But a “more competitive” Juventus has to be even more humble, he added.

“We know we’re more competitive this year, but that doesn’t give us the right to lose focus,” added Buffon.

“We have to stay humble and keep our feet firmly on the ground.”

Last year the Serie A champions had Alvaro Morata and Simone Zaza to thank for the goals in a 2-0 win over Sevilla, who won the return 1-0 thanks to ex-Juve striker Fernando Llorente’s 65th minute goal.

Although Sevilla have undergone several personnel and tactical changes since Jorge Sampaoli succeeded current Paris Saint Germain coach Unai Emery at the helm, Allegri says the danger remains.

“Sevilla are a dangerous side. They defend well, score a lot of goals and they have a lot of players with international experience,” said Allegri.

“We know they’re here to try and win … but when we participate in the Champions League, we always do so with the aim of going as far as possible.

“At the end, the only thing people remember is who won. They don’t remember who finished second.”

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