Juve hits back at rivals as Europa decider looms
Juventus coach Antonio Conte said he does not expect the Italian champions-in-waiting to earn compliments from their rivals in the event they secure the double by winning the Europa League.
Juve host Benfica on Thursday in the hope of overturning a 2-1 defeat in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final to secure their final appearance on May 14 at their own Turin stadium.
But after a 3-1 win over Sassuolo on Monday restored Juve's eight-point lead over Roma with three games remaining, Conte was in rather pessimistic mood about how an eventual triumph in Europa could be perceived.
"Now, we have to turn our attention to the Europa League, against Benfica it will be a tough encounter," said the Italian.
"If we go on to win the Europa League some people will say it's only a minor Cup and if we lose they will say we're not up to the challenge of Europe.
"Either way, we'll have to win it if we are to get any compliments from our rivals."
Conte's comments came two days after a tit-for-tat exchange in the media with Roma coach Rudi Garcia, whose side have been Juve's sole scudetto challengers for most of the season.
Garcia stoked the embers prior to Roma's 2-0 win over Milan on Friday when he questioned whether Sassuolo would field their strongest side, while claiming other 'smaller' teams were happy "if they only lost 1-0" to Juventus.
Conte angrily hit back at the remarks when he told reporters: "They're provincial, whichever way you look at it."
Monday's win away to Sassuolo means Juventus can clinch the title this weekend, and Conte -- who performed a spectacular sliding-knee celebration when Fernando Llorente gave Juve a 3-1 lead in the 76th minute on Monday -- jumped at the chance to hit back at Garcia in the aftermath of the win.
"By their comments, Garcia and Roma have taken a step backwards and merely helped feed a culture of suspicion with all this talk about 'help' and opponents not giving their maximum," added Conte.
"The ones that are behind us should be looking after their own affairs."
He added: "I've heard it said that Roma are having a stratospheric season. If we are eight points ahead of them with a chance to make the Europa League final, then where does that leave us?"