Dybala says goal-shy Higuain ‘just needs to relax’

Paulo Dybala has encouraged struggling Juventus strike partner Gonzalo Higuain to relax and trust the goals will come.

The Bianconeri have won their first six Serie A games this season, with their latest victory a 4-0 defeat of rivals Torino on Saturday.

Juventus 13/2 to beat Olympiakos 1-0

While Dybala has enjoyed a sensational start to the campaign – plundering 10 goals in those matches, including a brace against Juve’s city rivals – Higuain has scored only twice and was dropped to the bench for the clash at Allianz Stadium.

But Dybala believes his fellow Argentine will find his form again, himself having similarly suffered at the beginning of the previous season.

“It’s not a great period for [Higuain] because, for a striker, clearly, it’s not nice when you don’t score,” he told Sky Sport Italia.

“He just needs to relax and the goal will come when he least expects it. I was struggling to score at the start of last season, too, but as soon as you break the ice, you keep on going.”

Dybala may be enjoying a fine run, but he insists trophies mean more to him than his goal tally as Juve look to repeat last season’s Serie A and Coppa Italia successes and go one better in the Champions League.

“Goals are great, but the important thing is to win trophies with the team,” he said.

“We want to go all the way in all three tournaments again, albeit changing the [Champions League] final result.”


Allegri explains decision to drop Higuain against Torino

Massimiliano Allegri said his decision to drop Gonzalo Higuain from Juventus’ starting line-up was in a bid to help the misfiring striker rediscover his best form.

There was no room for Higuain in Allegri’s XI, the Juve head coach preferring Mario Mandzukic up front in Saturday’s 4-0 Serie A Derby della Mole victory over Torino.

Juventus 13/2 to beat Olympiakos 1-0

Higuain has only scored twice in eight matches in all competitions this season, his most recent goal coming against Chievo on September 9, and Allegro explained the reasoning behind the decision post-match.

“Higuain was on the bench because there are many games and I preferred to give him a rest,” Allegri told Mediaset Premium.

“He’s an important player for us, there are moments when things work better at one time than another. There will be times when everyone gets time out, otherwise we won’t be able to maintain our consistency.

“I preferred to leave him out, he has already scored two goals this season and will score many more. He just needs to rediscover – or perhaps he never lost it – the calm of not feeling the need to score at all costs.

“I thank Mandzukic for his performance. I’m sure he could happily play in midfield too, he’s got physicality and technique, so can do a job anywhere.”

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Pre-game, Juve general manager Giuseppe Marotta said: “It is absolutely a technical decision, you can call it squad rotation, as the coach is aware of the capabilities of these players and chose this XI without Higuain.

“Last season Juventus had 57 competitive games, so there has to be some rotation. Higuain is not in ideal form right now, so it’s only right that he is allowed to rest and recuperate, while others are given a chance.”

Juve have won all of their opening six matches to be level with Napoli atop the table, only separated on goal difference.


Allegri has faith in misfiring Higuain ahead of Turin derby

Juventus have “total faith” in Gonzalo Higuain during a slow start to the season for the star striker, according to coach Massimiliano Allegri.

Higuain, signed from Napoli for €90 million in July 2016, has netted just twice from seven appearances in all competitions for Juve early in 2017-18.

He fired blanks in a 3-0 Champions League loss at Barcelona and also failed to hit the back of the net as the Scudetto holders defeated Sassuolo away and Fiorentina at home in Serie A.

Allegri, though, has no concerns about the Argentina international ahead of the derby against Torino on Saturday.

“The most important thing is that Higuain has total faith from his team-mates, the coach, the club and the fans,” he told a news conference.

“These periods happen to every striker when the ball doesn’t go in for two or three games, but he will break through.

“He played well on Wednesday night [against Fiorentina].” 

Higuain 33/1 to be CL top scorer

Torino, who finished ninth last term, have made a strong start to this campaign, winning three and drawing two of their first five leagues matches, leaving Allegri wary of Sinisa Mihajlovic’s side.

“The Derby della Mole is always a special game for the city and the fans,” he said.

“It’s twice as important for us, because it’s a derby and worth three points, so we must win.

“Torino are much stronger than they have been in the past, but Juve have good defenders who can counter the technical quality of their players. This season they brought in more solid players in defence and midfield too.

“Torino were already strong last season and have been completed with players suited to their character, like Tomas Rincon, Cristian Ansaldi and M’Baye Niang, so they can target a top-six finish.”

Juve have dominated Italian football under Allegri and his predecessor Antonio Conte but have fallen short in the Champions League, losing the 2015 and 2017 finals to Barca and Real Madrid respectively.

Nevertheless, the coach has insisted Serie A remains the Bianconeri’s primary focus.

“The fans were close to us on Wednesday, as they always are, but it must be clear that winning [the league] is not normal,” he said.

“It is always extraordinary and with each year that passes, winning becomes even more difficult.

“Each season is different to the last and for us winning a seventh consecutive Scudetto must become the primary objective, because nobody has done that other than Lyon,” he added, referring to the French side’s streak of Ligue 1 triumphs between 2002 and 2008. 

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“We need enthusiasm in the club, the squad and the fans, because that’s only right. That’s how it should be.”

Allegri confirmed that Benedikt Howedes and Mattia De Sciglio will miss out due to injury, but Sami Khedira is available and off-season recruits Blaise Matuidi and Federico Bernardeschi are in contention for a place in the starting XI.

Defender Andrea Barzagli will be rested. 


‘He needs to stay calm’ – Allegri backs Higuain to rediscover scoring touch

Gonzalo Higuain must keep calm and continue to focus on his all-round game, despite a lack of goals so far this season, according to Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri.

Juve made it five wins from their opening five Serie A fixtures on Wednesday, as Mario Mandzukic’s second-half header proved enough to see off 10-man Fiorentina 1-0.

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However, Higuain failed to have much of an impact, registering just one attempt on goal throughout, and the Argentinian now has just two goals to his name from seven matches in all competitions.

Allegri, though, has no doubt that the goals will return should the former Real Madrid and Napoli striker maintain his level of overall play.

“There are some moments like now in which Higuain only scored two goals in five [Serie A] matches,” Allegri told Sky Italia.

“But he moved well and gave positive signals, so he needs to stay calm. Even last season he did not score for three or four matches.

“I don’t see it as significant. He needs to react in a positive way by turning this negative moment into a positive one.”

Higuain’s 24 league goals were key to Juventus claiming their sixth successive league title last term, though the Bianconeri were far from their best at the Allianz Stadium on Wednesday.

After a dour first half in which Paulo Dybala’s free-kick was the nearest Juve came to a goal, it was not until the 52nd minute that Mandzukic latched onto Juan Cuadrado’s cross to open the scoring.

Juve looked set to double their advantage when the referee pointed to the penalty spot following Milan Badelj’s clumsy foul on Blaise Matuidi, only for the official to change his decision and award a free-kick – though Fiorentina’s midfielder did pick up a second booking.

And though Juve have to settle for second in Serie A as it stands, behind free-scoring Napoli, Allegri was pleased with his side’s gritty display.

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“It’s an important victory because we did not have a goal in the first half and we struggled a lot,” Allegri continued.

“We have to compliment the boys. In the first half we had few shots because we were technically wrong out of the area. 

“In these games you have to take risks. In the second half we did better.”