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Conte annoyed by criticism

Juve’s Arturo Vidal (left) challenged by Allan Marques Loureiro, of Udinese, during last weekend’s Serie A match in Turin.

Juve’s Arturo Vidal (left) challenged by Allan Marques Loureiro, of Udinese, during last weekend’s Serie A match in Turin.

Juventus head coach Antonio Conte is tired of hearing criticism of his side as the Bianconeri prepare to challenge Lazio for a place in the Italian cup final.

Juve’s dominance of Serie A appeared unassailable until a home defeat to Sampdoria and a draw at Parma allowed Lazio and Napoli to close to within three points of top spot.

Conte’s men answered their critics by beating Milan to a last-four berth in the cup before thrashing Udinese 4-0 to restore a five-point advantage in the league.

For all the Bianconeri’s fine tradition in the cup, which they have won nine times, the Turin giants have not been able to pin a coccarda to their shirts since the 1995-96 season.

And having lost out to Napoli in last year’s final, Conte is eager to come through the daunting challenge of Vladimir Petkovic’s Lazio.

Ahead of today’s first leg, he told juventus.com: “I’ve heard too much criticism of us in recent weeks.

“People are talking about a crisis because we couldn’t win games against Sampdoria and Parma despite two good performances.

“You can only be judged on results. But I am calm as I look at what we have done – we are top of the league, in the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia for the second season in a row and we’re in the second round of the Champions League.”

Lazio preceded Napoli in denying Juve a 10th cup win back in the 2004 final and Conte highlighted how strong the Biancocelesti have been this season.

“They’re a strong, compact, organised side that closes off all the channels and then goes for goal,” he added.

“It is a physical line-up comprised of tough players that have a lot of experience.”

Lazio are chasing a first cup win since 2009, when they beat Sampdoria, and coach Petkovic knows collecting Juve’s scalp would send out the right signal to fellow semi-finalists Roma and Inter.

He said: “Everybody is saying that Juve are the team to beat and now they’re back in form.

“They’re the strongest team, without doubt, and we’re doing well but we can do even better. We must not submit to Juve, we need to be proactive.”

Inter stayed in Rome ahead of tomorrow’s semi, which comes just three days after Andrea Stramaccioni’s men earned a creditable 1-1 draw at the Stadio Olimpico.

Remarkably, Inter and Roma contested five finals between 2005 and 2010 but the bragging rights are with the Nerazzurri, who claimed the last of three wins in what proved to be a dramatic series of games.

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