MILAN: Tensions are running high in Turin as Juventus get ready to take on lowly Udinese in Serie A on Friday just days ahead of their must-win Champions League clash against Atletico Madrid.
Massimiliano Allegri’s unbeaten champions put one hand on an eighth consecutive Serie A title last weekend by seeing off Scudetto rivals Napoli 2-1 to open up a huge 16-point lead in the Italian league.
But the pressure is on the Juventus coach amid reports of a falling out with club chairman Andrea Agnelli after the club’s first-leg 2-0 defeat in Spain two weeks ago.
“We have to win to prepare for the match on Tuesday, regardless of the advantage that we have (in the league),” Allegri told a pre-match press conference on Thursday.
“We still need six victories (to win the title).
“The Madrid match has left us with motivation that has helped us in these 15 days. We will be ready on Tuesday and we will have a great game.”
The Juventus coach confirmed he had also met with Agnelli to discuss his future.
“I met with the chairman yesterday for dinner, we are two intelligent people who have built something important in these five years together,” said Allegri.
“We decided to talk about the renewal of the contract after the season.”
The pressure has also been mounting on Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo to make the difference as the club’s major objective of the season hangs by a thread in Turin next Tuesday.
The top scorer in the Champions League for the last six seasons, Ronaldo was signed for 100 million euros ($112 million) last summer from Real Madrid.
But the 34-year-old Portuguese superstar has scored just one goal in this year’s competition as Juventus target a first European title since 1996.
Ronaldo has also failed to score in his last two league games since the Madrid defeat and has been joined at the top of the Serie A scorers chart by Sampdoria veteran Fabio Quagliarella, 36, who has also scored 19 goals.
Allegri confirmed that Ronaldo is available, but will start from the bench so as to be fully primed for what promises to be an epic struggle against the dogged Madrid outfit.
Defenders Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini will not play on Friday either.
Udinese are 15th in Serie A but have moved away from the drop zone after winning their last two Serie A games against relegation candidates Chievo and Bologna.
The side from northeastern Italy also have a game in hand after their trip to Lazio was postponed.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli travel to mid-table Sassuolo on Sunday looking to get back winning after last week’s home defeat to Juventus.
AC Milan, a further eight points behind in third, are targeting a fifth straight league win against bottom club Chievo.
Gennaro Gattuso’s side are a point above city rivals Inter, who lost 2-1 at Cagliari amid a public contract dispute with absent star striker Mauro Icardi.
There are reports of “a thaw” between the Argentina striker, who has been stripped of the captain’s armband, and club bosses after a meeting this week.
Roma, meanwhile, turn their focus back to qualifying for next year’s Champions League after crashing out 4-3 on aggregate after extra time amid VAR controversy at Porto midweek.
Eusebio Di Francesco’s side are fifth, three points behind Inter Milan who occupy the final Champions League berth, after falling 3-0 to city rivals Lazio last weekend.
Last year’s Champions League semi-finalists have a chance to pick themselves up against Empoli, who are three points above the drop zone, on Monday.
“Going out like this hurts,” said Roma captain Daniele Di Rossi. “Our focus is now on preparing for Empoli and then SPAL.”