Monday March 11 2019
Allegri: 'Not Juve's biggest game'

Max Allegri confirms Leonardo Spinazzola and Martin Caceres could start against Atletico Madrid, but “if we call this the biggest match of the season, then Juventus are in trouble.”

Atleti won the first leg 2-0 at the Wanda Metropolitano, but the Champions League Round of 16 will be decided in Turin on Tuesday at 20.00 GMT.

“We must do well to read the various moments of the match, understand when to do some things and when to do others,” said the Coach in his Press conference.

“Douglas Costa only had one and a half training sessions with the team and felt pain today. Seeing as it’s an important match, it’s better he felt it today rather than tomorrow, otherwise I’d risk being left without any substitutions left.”

Allegri is keeping his cards close to his chest when it comes to picking a starting XI and even the tactical system he’ll use.

“I will not confirm or deny anything,” he smiled. “I have to evaluate and choose. Seeing as Douglas Costa got hurt today, I have few options with certain characteristics, so tomorrow we’ll practice on set plays.

“Diego Simeone’s results speak for him, as he was in two Champions League Finals, losing one on penalties and the other he was winning until the last minute.

“Atletico are one of the best teams in Europe and have been over the last 10 years. It’s a marvellous fixture in the Round of 16 and we must be up to the task. I am certain we will be.

“It’s a Round of 16 tie, but if we were to call this the biggest match of the season, we’d be in real trouble. If we do go through, it’s not as if we’ve won the Champions League, as there are other games. We need calm and to take it one game at a time.

“If we manage to overturn the first leg result, it will be extraordinary. After that we either think about the quarter-finals or ending the season on the right note.”

Zinedine Zidane officially returned to Real Madrid this evening with a contract to June 2022, so does that make a difference for Allegri’s future prospects?

“I won’t talk about my future, as this is not the right moment, plus I’ve been asked the same questions so many times by now, I can’t keep giving the same answers. The important thing tomorrow is to get a great result and achieve our target, then we’ll think about the day after tomorrow another time.”

Giorgio Chiellini said Atletico Madrid are the European team most similar to Juventus, but the Colchoneros in that case beat Juve at their own game – with greater determination.

“The team put in a good first half performance, but our only mistake was after the ball hit the crossbar, we thought that we’d got away with it and relaxed,” continued Allegri.

“You just have to see the set plays in the first half, where they never got near it, and the last couple of set plays where they threw men into the box.

“We need to use our strengths, our determination and aggression, all supported by the passion of our fans who will certainly give us a big hand.”

Cristiano Ronaldo was signed precisely for nights like this, but Allegri again insisted it was a team affair.

“We’ve got to give something more, but that just means everyone giving what they are capable of. The emotional approach is very important, games are strange and we mustn’t stop if there are difficulties.

“People say ‘you have to give 110 per cent,’ but that’s impossible. The important thing is to end the game, either after 95 minutes or 120, without regrets.

“Ronaldo is a player with such Champions League experience that having him with us in these circumstances is a great advantage.”

Overturning a 2-0 first leg deficit is always tough, but even more so against an Atletico Madrid side that has kept five straight Champions League clean sheets.

“Atletico haven’t conceded in five games, so that bodes well, by the law of averages. We’ve got to play in a different way to the approach we had in Madrid, with more vertical passes, pace and pressing.”

There are reports Martin Caceres could start at centre-back with Leonardo Spinazzola as a wing-back in a 3-5-2.

“Caceres is an extraordinary player, whose career has been stalled by various injuries, but has quality. Spinazzola has improved a great deal and could well start tomorrow. I’ll decide in the morning.

“It’s true, Spinazzola hasn’t played yet in the Champions League, but in these situations it can help to have someone with a lack of pressure.”

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