Gian Piero Gasperini admits he’d have preferred Paulo Dybala to miss out for Juventus rather than Cristiano Ronaldo, while Atalanta will use the showdown to prepare for the Coppa Italia Final.
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The big news going into the showdown for third place is that Cristiano Ronaldo won’t even make the trip to Bergamo due to a muscular issue.
“That is Juve’s problem,” shrugged Gasperini in his press conference. “I trained Paulo Dybala at Palermo, so I knew even then he was destined for greatness. You can discuss many things, but don’t doubt Dybala’s talent. He has this way of shooting, he always gets it on target. I’d have preferred it if he’d been out.
“They might make a few adjustments, but we are focused only on playing the Bianconeri. I don’t see this game as a play-off for third place, especially considering we are going head-to-head in the Coppa Italia Final and that’s when a winner will have to emerge.
“It’s an important match, but there are seven still to go and 21 points up for grabs after that. It’s not going to be definitive. Admittedly, we are teams with very different ambitions, because missing the Champions League would be a huge blow for Juve. Qualifying for a third consecutive season would be fantastic for us and the bare minimum for Juve, but it does mean they need to get there at all costs.”
Matteo Pessina is available again after recovering from COVID-19, although Gasp refused to confirm if he would start tomorrow.
La Dea have been adapting to a four-man defence in recent weeks, although it is not dissimilar to the approach Andrea Pirlo takes at Juve.
“At this moment we are free to field the team in the way we consider to be best. That is a strength, knowing we can rely on a few different systems, then we decide based on who is available and the characteristics of the opponent.
“We feel the right atmosphere and the right level of tension for this game, as well as Roma coming up. It can be a nice way of testing ourselves ahead of the Coppa Italia Final and maybe learn some countermeasures for the future.
“I’ve always said a trophy would be nice, and would certainly be remembered more, but Champions League qualification is more important for the club’s growth and prestige.”
Gasperini is no stranger to Juventus, as he started his career there as a player, then spent many years as a coach in their youth academy. Could he return in future?
“I spent 20 years at Juve, both as a kid and a coach. If there was any possibility of me returning, that’s in the past and I am not thinking about that.
“Over the last five years, we finished ahead of more or less every club at one time or another, but not yet Juventus. When you play regularly in the Champions League, it gets you accustomed to competing at a certain level.
“My philosophy remains that you have to face these big clubs with courage and make them struggle. Our last eight games with Juve saw six draws, so they’ve been very tight-run things.”
Gasperini was finally asked about the incident that saw him accused of interrupting a routine doping test and insulting the official.
“All I can say is that Atalanta and I did not interrupt anything, there was no interruption to the test. We’ll see the rest at the hearing.”