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Allegri pleased with Juventus attitude despite stalement

Turin (Italy) (AFP) – Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri praised his side’s attitude against Barcelona despite a 0-0 draw in Turin stalling last year’s finalists’ path to the Champions League last 16.

Five-time European champions Barcelona advanced to the knockout rounds and clinched top spot in Group D after the Turin stalemate.

But Juventus remain second in the group, a point ahead of third-place Sporting Lisbon, and need to secure their qualification at Olympiakos next month.

“It’s an important point and means we’ll go to Athens knowing a draw may not be enough and that we need to win,” said Allegri. 

“The boys did really well. We made it difficult for Barcelona to play through our defence. It’s not easy to play Barca and we had a positive attitude.

“It’s not shameful to defend. Tonight we did it well. It was a really good game from a tactical perspective and our first 0-0 of the season.

“We found some space in the first half but struggled a bit in the second, though we did manage to create some chances through Douglas Costa and (Paulo) Dybala.

“Not conceding a goal gives you confidence.”

– Messi cameo –

Argentina star Lionel Messi started on the bench for Barcelona as Allegri recalled veteran duo Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Barzagli after they were left out for Sunday’s defeat at Sampdoria following Italy’s failure to qualify for the World Cup.

“We knew it would not be easy and it’s a good point for us,” said defender Barzagli, who like Buffon has retired from international football.

“At times we get downhearted on the pitch and I don’t understand why. 

“We get going in stops and starts, but the positive thing is that we kept a clean sheet, even if we could have done better in forming attacking moves, including the way we played it out from the back.

“It’s a good point to help us progress from the group.”

Juventus goal-scoring star Dybala missed a late chance for a win which would have sealed a last 16 spot but his left-footed effort was saved by Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

“They defend better than they did last year. We struggled to get into the box,” said the Argentine, referring to Juve’s 3-0 aggregate victory over Barca in the quarter-finals last season.

“We did have our chances –- it was just a shame about the final ball. Now we need to win our next game against Olympiakos.”

The much-hyped meeting between Dybala, 24, and fellow Argentine international Messi never materialised with the 30-year-old having a cameo role after staring on the bench.

Ernesto Valverde elected to rest the star forward ahead of Sunday’s top-of-the-table La Liga clash at Valencia.

“There are times when despite his great quality, Leo has to rest,” said Valverde.

Messi came on after 56 minutes but could not follow up the brace he scored in the 3-0 beating Barca inflicted on Juve at the Camp Nou in September.

“It was a difficult decision but Leo has played a lot and we thought this game would be long and tough and that in the second half it would open up and we would have chances,” said the Barcelona coach.

“We thought that it could open up more in the second half and that it would be useful to give him a bit of rest with a view towards the championship.

“There’s always a risk of not playing him but it was a considered decision.”

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