MILAN (AP) — The Champions League yet again served up drama, incredible comebacks and goals galore this week.
And then there was Juventus.
Massimiliano Allegri’s side ground out another 1-0 win at Zenit St. Petersburg on Wednesday, Juve’s fourth straight by 1-0.
On Sunday, its defense will face a sterner test against the stellar attack of Serie A champion Inter Milan in the Derby d’Italia. Inter’s last five Serie A matches have recorded 22 goals, albeit not all for the Nerazzurri.
Inter also beat Sheriff 3-1 on Tuesday. But that was its first victory in this Champions League, while Juventus has three wins out of three and has yet to concede in the competition.
Going into the clash of styles on Sunday, Juventus is convinced its on the right track after a rocky start to life back under Allegri, who returned to the club two years after he was fired. The Bianconeri are slowly climbing the table and sit seventh, three points behind third-placed Inter but 10 behind leader Napoli, which has won all eight of its matches.
“We have shown that we have the right attitude and when there is a spirit of sacrifice and humility on the part of the whole group, the results arrive,” Juventus captain Leonardo Bonucci said. “We have got back the will to suffer, to have patience, to win games without conceding.
“Now our focus turns to the match on Sunday and to the championship to recover the ground lost at the beginning of the season. A great game awaits us on Sunday. Even winning 1-0 is important.”
Inter cantered to the league title last season, ending Juve’s run of nine successive Serie A titles. The Bianconeri — under Andrea Pirlo — barely sneaked into the Champions League places, finishing fourth.
Much has changed for both teams since, not least the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo from Juventus. But, as Bonucci has alluded to several times, he believes his side are a better team for it.
“In the recent past we had lost this Juve characteristic, we played with a great champion in Ronaldo and we wanted to put him in condition to always do well, and maybe we lost this will to sacrifice ourselves together, thinking that he would resolve all the matches,” Bonucci said.
“In this, the coach has been good in helping us find again the right humility which we need to get back to winning ways.”
Bonucci also this week had a thinly disguised dig at Inter, saying it was more the case that Juventus lost the league title rather than the Nerazzurri winning it, that Juve made mistakes rather than Inter being the better team.
Inter midfielder Arturo Vidal, who won four league titles with Juventus at the start of its dominance, laughed off the comments.
“They have the chance to have their revenge,” he said. “We’ll see on the field who is the strongest this year.”
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Daniella Matar, The Associated Press