Faves? Juve boss plays down formidable form

Juventus forward Paulo Dybala at a training session before the Champions League round of 16 encounter against Porto.
Juventus forward Paulo Dybala at a training session before the Champions League round of 16 encounter against Porto.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LISBON • Juventus' rampant domestic form does not make them Champions League favourites, according to manager Massimiliano Allegri, but the Serie A leaders are looking increasingly unstoppable before they meet FC Porto in the first leg of their round of 16 today.

Juve's 4-1 victory over Palermo on Friday extended their winning streak in Serie A to six matches and, with a seven-point gap from their nearest rivals, they are on course for a record sixth straight Scudetto.

Since shifting to a 4-2-3-1 formation after a defeat by Fiorentina in mid-January, Juventus are also playing with the kind of fluid ferocity that many of their continental rivals lack.

They now turn their attentions to the Champions League, where a date with Porto offers a stern examination of claims that their domestic form makes them favourites for Europe's grandest prize.

"The thing that makes me smile is that when I arrived here three years ago there was a fear we wouldn't even beat Malmo (in September 2014)," Allegri said.

"Now we've gone the opposite way, with people saying Juventus are the No. 1 favourites for the Champions League.

"You need to be balanced in these things. What we have to do is to beat Porto on the pitch. Porto knocked Roma out in the play-offs, are used to playing these kinds of games and that counts in the Champions League.

"Playing (at Porto's Estadio do Dragao) is absolutely not easy. We need to go there with extreme caution, knowing that to go through we have to work hard and suffer."

Squad rotation has underpinned Juventus' Serie A consistency and Allegri will have to shuffle his pack again for Porto.

Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli are both doubtful starters for the game because of muscle problems and playmaker Miralem Pjanic has his own struggles with an inflamed left ankle.

Porto, second in the Portuguese top flight on 53 points after beating Tondela 4-0 on Friday, have no injury concerns or suspensions, although Andre Silva and Felipe are each one booking away from suspension.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2017, with the headline 'Faves? Juve boss plays down formidable form'. Print Edition | Subscribe