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Allegri praises Roma strength as he hints at Dybala omission

Juventus boss Maximiliano Allegri believes Roma are his side's closest domestic rivals, as the two sides prepare to meet for the first time this season at the Allianz Stadium.

The two sides go head-to-head in an eagerly-anticipated top of the table clash, with both sides among the early front-runners in the Serie A table.

And Allegri, perhaps kicking off the mind games, believes the Giallorossi are the reigning champions' closest challengers.

"We don't fear them, but we respect the strength of their side," Allegri said. "Roma have always been the main rival to Juve in the last few years, along with Napoli.

"They have world-class players, with great physical and technical ability, so given that they need to be considered alongside us as one of the favourites for the title. I think they are the best of the others."

He added: "When you have a great game like tomorrow's, the match is always very even. We have great respect for Roma because of their technical, physical and tactical qualities. We are at the 17th game of the season and they have only conceded 10 goals. Away from home they have never been behind: these numbers are not an accident, and underline their quality.

"I have a strong squad and a group of players with extraordinary qualities. Roma aren't worse, they are potentially at the same level as us and so as I said, they are our rivals - just as they have been the last few years."

Allegri also had praise for his opposite number, Eusebio Di Francesco, who has enjoyed a good start to life at the Stadio Olimpico after taking the reins in the summer.

"Beyond the tactical and technical qualities he demonstrated at Sassuolo, he has been able to remain balanced in a difficult environment like Roma's, where the fans can go from the stars to the gutter in an instant," Allegri said.

"Now they are a side that has only conceded 10 goals, and away from home they are yet to go behind in a game. These sort of stats tell you the balance Roma has."

Allegri confirmed that both Gianluigi Buffon and Mattea De Sciglio will miss out on the match, while Mario Mandzukic and Juan Cuadrado will be evaluated on Friday.

Depending on the fitness of those two, forward Paulo Dybala could yet drop to the bench despite a goalscoring return in the Coppa Italia in midweek.

"On Wednesday he was back with a goal, and in 2017 he is the player who has played more than anyone else [for us] - so if he starts on the bench tomorrow it doesn't mean anything," Allegri insisted. "The main thing is he is still Dybala.

"Him and Mandzukic can play together, but it depends on the opponent and especially the defender who will play on the right. In the end I am looking to put out on the pitch the players who can work well together.

"If [Stephan] Lichtsteiner plays he is a bit more offensive, whereas if I switch him for [Andrea] Barzagli we will be a bit more solid, and then with Cuadrado we can be more attack-minded and incisive. Even Cuadrado as a full-back could be an option tomorrow, because Lichtsteiner has come back recently and hasn't said he has two full games in his legs, given he played on Wednesday as well."
Source: As Roma
Friday December 22, 2017
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