Sarri says jeers would be a sign of affection for him

Maurizio Sarri says they must not waste their energy on personal matters. (Reuters pic)

MILAN: Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri will consider it a sign of affection if he is jeered when the Turin side face his former club Napoli on Sunday, his first return to the San Paolo stadium since his acrimonious departure in 2018.

“It’s a special match for me but we mustn’t waste energy on something personal when we have a collective goal which is to bring home the three points,” the chain-smoking Sarri told reporters on Saturday.

“If there are whistles for me, it will be a show of affection,” added Sarri, who was in charge for three seasons at Napoli during which time he built a memorable team although he was not able to lead them to the Serie A title.

He was eventually sacked to make way for Carlo Ancelotti, despite leading Napoli to second place with a club-record points tally, and said he found out about the dismissal on the television.

Juventus, chasing a ninth successive title, go into the game with a four-point lead at the top while Napoli have dropped to eleventh place. They have lost four out of five Serie A matches under new coach Gennaro Gattuso but they enjoyed a morale-boosting win over Lazio in the Coppa Italia on Tuesday.

“We want to carry on where we left off on Tuesday,” said Gattuso. “It is not easy to prepare for it, Juventus are a team of champions and Sarri’s influence on the team is beginning to show. Facing Juventus gives you a headache.

“I want us to sniff out potential danger, work for each other and not let the opposition take control of the game. I saw many positives against Lazio and we need to follow that path.”