Allegri and Buffon disagree on Juventus aims
ROME (AP) — Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri and captain Gianluigi Buffon appear to be in disagreement on how to approach Tuesday’s match against Atletico Madrid.
A point will see Juve secure second place in Group A, and advance to the knockout round of the Champions League, while winning by a two-goal margin would earn the Bianconeri first place — leapfrogging Atletico in the process.
“We have to try and win by two goals,” Allegri said of the match in Turin. “We want to win, advance and try to finish first.”
Last season’s runner-up Atletico leads the group with 12 points, Juventus is next with nine, Olympiakos has six and Malmo trails with three.
“You can believe in anything in life but I’m interested in advancing,” said the 36-year-old Buffon, who has won just about everything in his glittered career except for the Champions League.
If Juventus loses, Olympiakos can finish second with a win at Malmo due to its head-to-head record against the Italian side.
Meanwhile, Malmoe can snatch third place and a Europa League spot with a win in Greece.
Buffon and center back Leonardo Bonucci have been the backbone of Juventus’ defensive wall lately.
Since Juve edged Olympiakos 3-2 last month, the three-time defending Italian champion has won four matches and drawn once while scoring 14 goals and conceding just once.
The lone goal conceded during that span came with reserve Marco Storari in goal.
Bonucci has played every minute of Juve’s 19 matches this season, in all competitions, displaying not only defensive skills, but also ability with the ball.
Bonucci has scored twice this season, including his late winner against Roma and for Italy in its European Championship qualifier against Norway.
So it’s no wonder that Bonucci is reportedly attracting transfer interest from big English clubs and the likes of Bayern Munich.
“I would like to stay with Juventus for a while still,” said Bonucci, whose contract expires in 2017.
MARGIN FOR ERROR
Atletico is already through to the knockout rounds, and only needs to avoid a defeat by two goals to advance as the group winner.
All that plays perfectly into Atletico’s usual game plan of defending well and attacking when the chances come to strike from counterattacks and set pieces.
Although Atletico will be without the injured Miranda, coach Diego Simeone’s first choice to anchor his defense.
Youngster Jose Gimenez filled in for Miranda over the weekend and scored his first goal for Atletico in a 2-0 win at Elche. Gimenez is expected to partner Diego Godin.
“We have to go to Turin with the goal of finishing first in the group, which will be very important for us to keep our spirits high,” Gimenez said.
KASAMI KEEPS FAITH
Attacking midfielder Pajtim Kasami believes Greek champion Olympiakos can rebound from their domestic woes by beating Malmo.
The Swiss player scored Saturday against Giannina but the home game in Piraeus ended 2-2, keeping Olympiakos four points behind Greek leaders PAOK.
“We have to look at Tuesday’s game and concentrate, because only a win will matter,” the 22-year-old said.
Olympiakos’ campaign in Europe has sagged despite wins at home against both Atletico and Juventus — thanks in part to a surprise 2-0 defeat in Malmo in October.
Coach Michel Gonzalez can rely on playmaker Alejandro Dominguez, who has returned to fitness, but Luka Milivojevic is out with a back injury.
Home support, Gonzalez said, will be one of the keys to beating Malmo.
“The fans are fully aware of what it means to be an Olympiakos supporter,” the coach said. “It is something we should be aware of too.”
Malmo is hoping to end a three-game losing streak when it visits Olympiakos.
The only points and goals Malmo have posted so far in its debut group stage campaign came in the 2-0 home win over Olympiakos in October.
Malmo have lost their last four matches away from home in Europe, including defeats by Sparta Prague (2-4), Salzburg (1-2), Juventus (0-2) and Atletico (0-4).
Qualifying ties aside, Malmo last recorded an away win in the old European Cup when beating Monaco 1-0 in the first round in 1978-79 — the season it finished runner-up to Nottingham Forest.
Associated Press writers Joseph Wilson in Barcelona, Spain; and Derek Gatopoulos in Athens contributed.
Andrew Dampf can be followed at www.twitter.com/asdampf