Antonio Conte couldn’t help but have regrets after Juventus fumbled a lead against Napoli. “We could taste the victory.”
The Bianconeri have not conquered the Stadio San Paolo since 2000, when Conte was playing in midfield, as today they were held to a 1-1 draw.
“Considering the first half, we could taste the victory and the chance to put Napoli further behind,” Coach Conte told Sky Sport Italia.
“It didn’t happen, but we put in a strong performance in terms of character despite a very fiery atmosphere. I compliment the players on keeping their heads in this stadium.
“We did well not to lose our calm and stay in the game at all times. There are 11 rounds to go and it’s all open, so we have to keep pedalling at full pace to stay out in front.
“The Scudetto is far away on a mathematical level, as we are six points in front – which is a good advantage – but there are another 33 available. Don’t forget we still have to play Milan, Inter and the revelation Catania.
“We must always be gritty, determined and motivated to get the points, because every match is difficult and a surprise is always around the corner.
“There is no more time for fun and games or slip-ups. If we do well, then we’ll get there, but if we don’t then it’s only right that someone else finishes first. That’s why we have to keep our heads down.”
This match was brought forward to Friday evening so Juventus could prepare for the Champions League Round of 16 against Celtic.
“This season the Champions League has to be taken into account and it takes away energy, both physical and psychological. I appealed to the team to stay on point, as we need everyone from here to the end,” continued Conte.
“Winning the Scudetto would be a huge achievement. We’re 3-0 up in the first leg against Celtic, but I’m nowhere near relaxed. Until the referee blows the final whistle, I will not relax.
“While the game is open, you still give your opponents the sensation they can turn it around. We had several chances to finish it off and going 2-0 up would’ve been a heavy psychological blow for Napoli.
“Their fans never stopped cheering them on and neither did ours, as I could hear our supporters behind my bench. It can’t have been easy for them to make themselves heard in that atmosphere!
“Napoli were much more careful after the break, sitting back and leaving us possession in midfield so they could attack the space. Inevitably you have to calculate the options in these games, as there was no need to go crazy on the attack or run unnecessary risks. I consider that a show of maturity from the lads.”
Conte was asked about the tussle between Giorgio Chiellini and Edinson Cavani. The defender pulled his hair and the striker reacted with an elbow to the face.
“Giorgio is seeing if Cavani has hair gel in… As for the elbow, the footage is there and everyone can make their own judgement on it. These situations happen in a tense game and you judge for yourselves.”
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's World Cup tipster competition - £10,000 to be won!