Massimiliano Allegri insists Juventus still have plenty of room for improvement despite their recent show of strength in Naples as they bid to avoid an early exit from the Champions League.
Should Juve fail to win at the Karaiskakis Stadium, a Sporting Lisbon victory at Barcelona – however unlikely – would send the Portuguese club into the next round at the expense of last season’s finalists.
The Old Lady have often looked vulnerable on the continent and at home, and ahead of Friday’s trip to face Napoli, there were fears the reigning Serie A champions could be embarrassed by the Azzurri.
But a hard-fought 1-0 victory dragged Juve right back into the title race and boosted confidence ahead of a crucial midweek clash with Greek giants Olympiacos.
Allegri said at a pre-match press conference: “What we did in Naples was not a turning point in our season but simply an important result when we consider our goals and where we want to be.
“League tables tell you where you are as a team. Even after Naples we must keep improving, we must raise our levels and get off the back foot a bit more.
“We can’t anticipate what will happen in Barcelona. Tomorrow we must win or we risk going out.
“We have to treat Olympiacos with great respect.”
The match-winner from the Stadio San Paolo, Gonzalo Higuain, is fit despite nursing a broken bone in his hand while his fellow striker Mario Mandzukic is also in good shape.
There are concerns over Gianluigi Buffon and Miralem Pjanic, with Allegri confirming that Daniele Rugani or Mattia De Sciglio will play in defence instead of the veteran Giorgio Chiellini.
“We have had enough time to recuperate after Naples,” the Juve head coach concluded.
Olympiacos boss Takis Lemonis, who admitted the Superleague Greece is a distraction as his men try to chase down leaders AEK Athens, has received fair warning of how well Juve can play.
The Old Lady’s determination to put Napoli in their place in their own stadium has impressed Lemonis, currently in his fourth stint as manager in Piraeus.
He said at a pre-match press conference: “My coaches and I watched Napoli v Juventus.
“We like Napoli but Juventus have shown they can beat anyone. Juventus have a great squad and they are a great team.
“But we will try to catch our opponents off-guard, as we did against Barcelona (in October’s goalless draw). Regarding my player choices, I will have to take our league campaign into consideration.
“This game is, however, a prestigious one and the points will also benefit Greece in the UEFA rankings. The most important thing will be to get out on the pitch and play our best game tomorrow.”