Juventus boss Antonio Conte has applauded Napoli – tomorrow’s opponents – on their return to the higher echelons of the Italian game.
Six years ago the Azzurri were amazingly in the third-tier, but they are now taking part in the Champions League.
“I like to use Napoli as an example to follow because of what they have achieved over these years,” Conte said on Monday.
“I expect a tough and vibrant game tomorrow. Perhaps our most difficult game of the season so far.
“We’re playing a team who have done great things and demonstrating that you can get important results with a plan.
“Walter Mazzarri and his players are the reasons why they’ve constructed something beautiful in just a few years.
“We respect Napoli, they are getting results after years of hard work. We, meanwhile, have just four months behind us.”
Juventus have made a fine start to the season and they are currently top of the table – one point clear of Milan and Udinese, but nine ahead of Napoli.
“It would be too easy to use triumphant tones after what we have achieved so far,” Conte added as his side continue to ban the ‘Scudetto’ word.
“We know how hard it is to do well though after disastrous seasons.
“We’re cautious, but we are not hiding. I’ve never hidden in my life. There is no false modesty at Juventus.
“Our season so far? It would be useless to draw any conclusions right now. You get votes at school at the end of the first semester.
“Let’s wait until the half-way stage of this season, even if it only matters what you have achieved at the end of the campaign.”
Conte, who took charge of the side following his summer move from Siena, also highlighted Milan as serious Scudetto rivals.
“We all know Milan. They were seven points behind us after a slow start, but they’ve won six of their last seven – drawing only at Fiorentina.
“This shows how strong they are and at what rhythm they can travel at. Perhaps a pace that is unmatchable.
“We just look to be ourselves with the aim of building something important, with our own weapons and sacrifices.
“There are comparisons with Juventus teams of the past, but we’ve only just sat down at the table with a pen in our hands. We have to write something first…”
Returning to the San Paolo clash, Conte will have to find a replacement for the suspended Claudio Marchisio.
“We know that Marchisio has specific characteristics. He’s a midfielder who is very good at breaking into attack from deep.
“He defends and attacks, while he’s a very technical player. He’s quite a unique player in my squad. We’ll have to see.
“We have a training session ahead and we have a number of options to consider.”
Juventus are currently unbeaten in Serie A this term, but the tactician is expecting a real test after Saturday’s 1-0 win in Rome.
“We know that it will be an important game, we are aware of Napoli’s strength and what the San Paolo can give to its team. We go into this after an important tie at Lazio, but we want to play our game.
“If Napoli demonstrate that they are better and stronger than us then we will be the first to applaud them. This is football.”