Leonardo Bonucci assures Juventus will prove against Olympique Lyonnais that “when the crunch moment comes, we are there,” especially with Giorgio Chiellini back.
The first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 kicks off in Lyon on Wednesday at 20.00 GMT.
“This is another stage of the season that begins now, we are ready to experience it with great enthusiasm and the desire to go all the way in every tournament,” said the defender in his press conference.
“I have good memories of this city, both when wearing the Juventus jersey and playing for the Nazionale. It’s the right place for us to prove once again that when the crunch moment comes, Juve are there.
“We are top of the table, in the Coppa Italia semi-finals and the Champions League Round of 16, qualifying from the group stage with two games to spare for the first time ever, so I don’t know what people expected if this is disappointing.”
Every year, people claim this is the strongest Juventus squad and they must be destined to end that Champions League drought that has run since 1996.
“The year I really thought we were going to win it was in 2016, when we went out to Bayern Munich,” continued Bonucci. “We felt unbeatable, as we went behind, got back on track, then took a two-goal lead in Munich. At that moment, we felt invincible.
“Today, I feel confident and positive, we are ready for the final sprint in all competitions.”
This is their first European campaign under new coach Maurizio Sarri, after reaching the Final twice under Max Allegri.
“Last season, the details made the difference for us in the Champions League. I believe we have all, individually and as a team, matured in our approach, gained more experience.
“We also have a very different way of playing and considering the games, so when we do those things in training and they pay off during a match situation, it all feels easier.
“What the coach asks of us now is basically the opposite of what the previous coach did. It was usually individual against individual, now it’s more about organised team movements. Obviously, you need to train consistently to get that down and playing every three days makes it difficult, but we started this journey well aware of the positives it could bring and the difficulties of getting there.
“Hopefully, we will continue the improvement and I can say we are allowing the opposition less and less when we’re in possession.”
Chiellini is back in the squad after five months out with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, missing the entire group phase.
“A great deal changes, a great deal. We both like to not only play football, but also talk during the game, communicate with our teammates and help the younger players to make the right movements, stay in line. If there are two of us doing that, it’s easier.
“There is also a language issue, because with Matthijs de Ligt we are trying to communicate in English while he learns Italian. It’s not quite the same, but we’re getting there and improving our communication. With Giorgio there, we can speed the process up.
“I am someone accustomed to taking on my share of responsibility. I never felt the weight of expectation, nor the problem with letting the team dream of the ultimate target. It should act as further motivation.”
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