Sarri says Juve need to ‘lighten up’ in Champions League quest
Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri believes his side need to enjoy themselves more if they are going to have any chance of ending their 24-year wait for the Champions League trophy.
The 60-year-old Sarri will oversee his first Champions League match at home in the Allianz Stadium on Tuesday.
Juventus host Bayer Leverkusen in their second Group D clash, having being held 2-2 at Atletico Madrid in their opener.
“The Champions League is really the top for a player and coach, but at the same time we should also have fun,” Sarri told a pre-match press conference in Turin.
“At the moment it’s difficult for Italian teams to be among the favourites. English teams are favourites for obvious reasons but we should be easier on ourselves.
“The idea is to really cheer up a little bit.
“Our goal is to go all the way until the Champions League final but it’s a competition that can only be determined in certain moments. “I’m expecting a good result tomorrow.”
The eight-time reigning Italian champions are unbeaten so far this season.
They are up against a Bayer Leverkusen, who finished fourth in the Bundesliga last season, and are sixth this term.
The Germans slumped to a surprise 2-1 defeat at home against Lokomotiv Moscow in their opener.
Leverkusen won 3-1 the last time the two teams met in 2001-02, when the Germans reached the final.
“We were supposed to win at home against Lokomotiv Moscow, unfortunately that didn’t happen,” said Leverkusen coach Peter Bosz.
“We have a second chance tomorrow.”Bosz knows new Juventus signing Matthijs de Ligt well having coached the former Ajax captain.
“He’s a great talent for sure,” said Bosz of defender De Ligt whose Dutch side knocked Juventus out of the European competition last season.
Sarri said he would make his team selection after training on Monday, deciding who would play up front alongside Cristiano Ronaldo.
“Playing Ronaldo, (Paulo) Dybala and (Gonzalo) Higuain all together from the start is a fascinating suggestion, but we are not ready yet for the level of balance required,” said Sarri.
“For now we could only try this solution for parts of the match.”
Leverkusen’s danger man could be 20-year-old German midfielder Kai Havertz, a player Sarri tipped to “become one of the most important players in Europe”.
“Over the last three matches we have definitely improved from all points of view,” said the former Chelsea coach.
“The last matches we had 21 balls that could turn into goals and we need to be more aggressive in the opponents’ area.”
Bosnian midfielder Miralem Pjanic said the team were learning to understand Sarri’s strategy.
“A lot has changed,” said Pjanic. “Everything can’t be perfect after just one month, there’s room from improvement.”
Record Champions League goal scorer Ronaldo, who has scored 124 goals in 160 elite European appearances, will be “very difficult to stop”, said Leverkusen goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky.
Former five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo has a remarkable record against German clubs with 24 goals in 26 games.
“We’ll have to be very compact in our defence. But there are other players as dangerous as him for Juventus,” Hradecky said.In the other game in Group D, Lokomotiv host Atletico Madrid in Moscow.