Milan (AFP) – Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said all thoughts of their Champions League clash at Porto next week are banned as the Serie A champions prepare to host struggling Palermo on Friday.
Juventus, beaten 3-1 by Barcelona in the 2015 Champions League final, travel to Portugal in the last 16 first leg next week.
“The Champions League must be the last thing we’re thinking about because our title chances are riding on this game,” said Allegri, whose team are seven points clear of Roma at the top of the table.
Palermo are stuck in the bottom three but Allegri says the arrival of former Uruguay defender Diego Lopez at the helm last month has already boosted the Sicilians.
“Since Lopez arrived Palermo have been a lot tighter. We have to make sure we’re quick, and aggressive. No joking. You pay for every mistake. I don’t want us taking the wrong approach.”
With just 14 points from 24 games Palermo are struggling to keep afloat. Lopez, 42, is the club’s fourth coach of the season having taken over from Eugenio Corini when he resigned last month.
Palermo started the season with Davide Ballardini, who was replaced by Roberto De Zerbi only two weeks into the campaign.
De Zerbi’s reign lasted barely two months before he was sacked for an embarrassing exit to second-division La Spezia in the Italian Cup.
Allegri added: “Lopez is a top quality coach. We have to go out and beat Palermo because all points are important.”
Former Juventus and Palermo striker, Fabrizio Miccoli, however, told Tuttojuve.com: “Seen from the outside, the game’s already settled. I’m sorry, but I really don’t see how Palermo can put Juve in difficulty.”
A win for the hosts in Turin would see Juventus stretch their lead on closest challengers Roma to 10 points before Luciano Spalletti’s men host Torino. Napoli are nine points off the pace in third before Sunday’s trip to Chievo.
Allegri, meanwhile, tipped his hat to Paris Saint-Germain and Napoli after watching some “great” Champions League action in midweek.
Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri on Wednesday came under fire from club president Aurelio De Laurentiis after their 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid, but Allegri said: “We saw some great matches, PSG were impressive, I didn’t think they would beat Barcelona like that (4-0).
“I also offer my compliments to Napoli because it’s not easy playing against Real Madrid for the first time. Napoli and Sarri deserve credit because they still have a chance in the second leg.”
Juventus crashed out of last season’s competition after defeat to Bayern Munich in the last 16, and Allegri added: “In terms of mentality, we have to be up there, too.
“We have to try to improve the quality of our game, and our passing. That’s the only way you advance in Europe.”
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