Monday December 4 2017
Barzagli: ‘Olympiakos is crucial’

Juventus defender Andrea Barzagli admits tomorrow’s Champions League clash with Olympiakos is “crucial for us”.

The Bianconeri will qualify for the Last 16 if they win in Greece, and will be guaranteed to progress if Barcelona beat Sporting at the Camp Nou.

“There are pitfalls,” Barzagli warned in the pre-match Press conference.

“We’d be fools to slip-up, because tomorrow’s match is crucial for us. It’s really the first objective for the season, we understand its importance and consequently we know the game won’t be easy.

“The first leg with Olympiakos was a complicated game, they defended well and they’re a physical team, so it won’t be easy.

“We’re playing in their stadium and they’ll want to do well to close out their Champions League campaign, so it’s a complicated match where we need to be very focused and very careful.”

After some patch form at the start of the season, the Old Lady took a crucial victory away at Napoli on Friday night, could that prove to be a turning point?

“The mentality has always been the same, it’s in the DNA of this club. On Friday we put in a really tough performance, and maybe it had been a long time…

“But maybe also it was down to the atmosphere, everything that was waiting for us in that match.

“We played a great game in every regard, and that has to give us an extra boost to face what will be a really tough period.”

Douglas Costa’s form has been widely praised in recent weeks, and Barzagli echoed those sentiments.

“He’s a player who can really make the difference one-on-one,” the centre-back confirmed.

“He can create numerical superiority for us and that’s important. He has some characteristics which are crucial in modern football, and now he’s had his adjustment period because coming to play in Italy isn’t easy.

“Now he also understands how Italian football works, our philosophy of play, so now he’s putting in great performances and really helping us.

“He’s helping us in developing the play, but also in what he gives the attack, creating numerical superiority.”

Another who has been praised in recent weeks is Medhi Benatia.

“In my opinion Medhi is a great defender, but sometimes he’s not convinced of it himself and it’s crucial for us that he becomes a key man, because he’s an international player, a good one, and he has great physical strength.

“I think now he’s showing that with great performances and he’s becoming crucial for us. It’s crucial that a player like him feels important, because he can make the whole team grow.”

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