Juventus general manager Beppe Marotta hit back at Benfica Coach Jorge Jesus and commented on Alexis Sanchez rumours.
The director spoke to Sky Sport Italia ahead of tonight’s Europa League semi-final, which kicks off at 20.05 UK time (19.05 GMT). Click here for the line-ups.
“We are very motivated, knowing tonight we are gambling with a large chunk of qualification against a very prestigious side,” said Marotta.
“I thought Benfica deserved to win the trophy last season against Chelsea, so we have the utmost respect for them.”
Mirko Vucinic is the surprise starting partner for Carlos Tevez, though Arturo Vidal is injured.
“Vucinic? He’s in good shape, otherwise Antonio Conte wouldn’t have picked him. This is an important spotlight for him too and at this level the Coach shouldn’t need to motivate his players. Of course, we have a Coach who is a great motivator!
“Clearly we are in a growth process, starting the first year from the Europa League preliminary round. We want to grow and be competitive, as the prestige and history of Juventus demands it.
“I feel Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are the strongest teams in Europe with a substantial gap between them and everyone else.”
Benfica Coach Jorge Jesus stirred up controversy this week by claiming Juventus are “a typically Italian team” and far too defensive.
“Conte’s football is primarily attacking, both in Italy and in Europe. We certainly don’t use catenaccio tactics. If you want to say we are smart and efficient, then that’s fine, but these comments only serve to further motivate us.”
Marotta was asked about the delays over Conte signing a contract extension, especially amid reports of a Manchester United offer.
“We’ve talked about this so many times. We’re concentrating on a very important end to the season and then we’ll discuss it later. Should we be optimistic? Certainly.”
Juve have been heavily linked with a move for Barcelona’s Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez.
“We generally don’t deny stories, as there are so many. Of course he’s an important player who made a huge transfer from Udinese to Barcelona and proved his worth. He’s a Barcelona player, so I needn’t add any more.”