Antonio Conte has warned his Juventus players not to relax against Milan just because Zlatan Ibrahimovic won’t be playing.
The 30-year-old Rossonero had appealed to have his three-game suspension for a sending off against Napoli reduced so he could play in Week 25, but that was turned down on Thursday.
Whilst admitting that he didn’t expect that outcome, Conte believes it still doesn’t change Juve’s preparations going into the top-of-the-table clash on Saturday night.
“You know, the obligation is to win, one wants to win, there is no doubt, with or without Ibra, beyond if you are playing for Milan or another club,” Conte insisted to the gathered media on Friday.
“Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail. Nothing changes if there is Ibrahimovic or there is no Ibrahimovic, this is beyond doubt. We should not change anything at all in the attitude or desire to look for victory - this will be the case for us, as it will be for Milan.
“From a tactical point of view, certainly Ibrahimovic gives Milan more reference points than others, he gives a point of reference to us as well as Milan.
“But we are prepared and nothing changes the way in which we have prepared all week. I will, yesterday in training, when we look at the opposing team, we had anticipated an attack of Robinho and Ibra.”
Conte was asked again about the Swede’s absence and if his side could relax in facing a Rossoneri team without the striker.
“I think it would be stupid to relax, because Milan is not just Ibra. This was demonstrated in their previous two games, perhaps in the greatest moment of difficulty in Udine when without a great player like Ibrahimovic they won on a field that we had only drawn on and all others had lost on.
“Milan-Juventus is definitely at this time the most anticipated game of the year. There can be no release of tension because we face a Milan who have the badge sewn on to their jersey, who is ahead of us in the standings and is considered by us to be the strongest in the League.”
The Coach is rumoured to be considering using the 3-5-2 formation on Saturday night.
“It’s inevitable, that I, as was the case at the beginning of the week, have a particular idea in mind. I have an initial idea, then it is inevitable that I see in the week if this idea is supported by what I see with my eyes, then the physical state [of the players] and their desire and attitude in training.
“But in my head, for sure, from the first day I am working on something, I already have it in mind when training. If it is supported by what I see, then I’ll go with it.”
Having already beaten Massimiliano Allegri’s side in the reverse League fixture and again in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final, Conte was asked if he truly believed that the Bianconeri are underdogs this weekend.
“Let’s not forget, they beat us in the Trofeo Berlusconi. Milan are a strong team - us, as I have said, have reached an important step, to be competitive again. I had set myself this step, I set myself several steps, but the most important was to become competitive again.
“I think we have achieved this and this is a beautiful thing and should be a source of pride and satisfaction for the players, for me, for the club and for the fans.
“Look, quite frankly, it would be nice to open up a gap between us and third place. I do not know if this will happen based on what we do against Milan. It’s inevitable that I’d like to selfishly that the top two cut themselves off.
“But we know that the Italian League is very competitive, there are teams like Udinese, Lazio, Roma and Inter.
“That said, we look to ourselves, which is most important, we look forward and try to do the best we can, starting tomorrow night, which is the first game in which we face.”
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's tipster competition - £5,000 monthly.