Massimiliano Allegri is looking beyond Sunday night’s showdown between Serie A title rivals Juventus and Napoli as the season enters a challenging home straight.
Juve, the reigning champions, can all but secure their seventh straight Scudetto by pulling seven points clear of Napoli with a home victory at Allianz Stadium.
But even if they do so, subsequent league games against high-flying Inter Milan and Roma, as well as AC Milan in the Coppa Italia final early next month, present significant hurdles for Allegri’s side.
At his press conference the Tuscan tactician hailed Napoli as a “major force” before playing down the direct effect of Sunday’s clash in Turin.
He told juventus.com: “Now we are heading into a mini-league in which we have a four-point lead with five matches remaining. Juventus v Napoli is important and will be a great game, but not decisive.
“We must be ready not only for tomorrow’s match, but for this final stage of the season in which we will also face Inter and Roma, as well as Milan in the cup final.”
Turning his attention to this weekend’s opposition, Allegri added: “Napoli have been going for the title since the start and we know this is a crucial match for them.
“They’re enjoying an extraordinary season, as they have in recent campaigns.
“Maurizio Sarri has done a fantastic job there. He has technically gifted players and he has created a team that plays a great brand of football. They have become a major force in Italy and Europe.”
Only full-back Mattia De Sciglio and midfielder Stefano Sturaro are definitely sidelined through injury but Allegri will need to check on centre-back Andrea Barzagli’s condition before the game.
Playmaker Miralem Pjanic should return to the starting XI and the fit-again duo of Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado are likely to feature alongside Gonzalo Higuain in a three-pronged attack.
Unfortunately for Napoli, three key players are doubtful before the big game. Prolific winger Dries Mertens, Polish striker Arkadiusz Milik and the influential captain Marek Hamsik will be assessed.
Azzurri boss Sarri told sscnapoli.it: “In Turin we will play with our system, there is no other way.
“After this match there will be four others so focusing solely on Sunday is not wise.
“We have to keep travelling along our road, game by game.”
Napoli’s run-in looks perhaps a little easier than Juve’s, with games against Fiorentina, Torino, Sampdoria and Crotone bringing the southerners to the end of a fruitful campaign.