An ongoing rift between Massimiliano Allegri and Leonardo Bonucci has threatened to overshadow an excellent week for Juventus ahead of their Serie A return after Wednesday’s Champions League victory over Porto.

It often appears as though nothing can stop this Juventus side, with the league leaders seven points clear after winning their last six and firmly on course for a record sixth straight Scudetto ahead of the visit of 17th-placed Empoli tonight.

However, tension between Allegri and defender Bonucci threatens to destabilise the reigning champions after the latter marred his 300th appearance for the club by engaging in an ugly touchline spat with the coach during the 4-1 victory over Palermo on Friday.

Bonucci was subsequently dropped from the matchday squad for the Porto game and after a very public dressing down, was forced to watch on from the executive box, conspicuously perched alone on a stool, in an Allegri power play that has the potential to disrupt the team.

Bonucci is a professional and has to behave according to the rules. Disciplinary action will not change his ability

“Bonucci is a professional and has to behave according to the rules,” Juventus director Beppe Marotta told journalists ahead of the Porto match.

“Disciplinary action will not change his ability, it’s a decision made for the good of everyone.

“In football the ‘we’ is above the ‘I’ and we’re disappointed for Bonucci.”

Allegri looked to play down the spat on Wednesday.

“During the season there are always going to be moments of tension, but we were able to ride it out,” he told Mediaset Premium.

However, when asked whether the centre back would be reintegrated into the squad against Empoli, Allegri tersely replied that he had five defenders available, suggesting that Bonucci’s punitive exile may be set to continue.

One player who has begun to integrate effectively into the side is Marko Pjaca, who broke the deadlock against Porto, finally delivering on his undoubted promise after a mixed start to life in Italy.

“I already saw from Saturday that the lad was changing attitude and he understood that some things are not enough in Italian football,” the Juventus coach said..

“He’s changing his attitude and already has the technique, pace and talent, but he’s young and we need patience with young players.”

The emergence of Pjaca offers hope that Juventus can sustain their momentum.

But even as he continues to do things his way, Allegri must be aware that the continuing rift with Bonucci is an open wound that has the potential to destabilise his champions-elect.


Serie A

Playing today
Napoli vs Atalanta - 18.00
Juventus vs Empoli - 20.45

Tomorrow – 15.00
Palermo vs Sampdoria - 12.30
Chievo vs Pescara    
Crotone vs Cagliari    
Genoa vs Bologna    
Lazio vs Udinese    
Sassuolo vs Milan    
Inter vs Roma - 20.45

Fiorentina vs Torino - 20.45

Standings: Juve 63; Roma 56; Napoli 54; Inter, Atalanta 48; Lazio 47; Milan 44; Fiorentina 40; Torino 35; Sampdoria 34; Chievo 32; Sassuolo 30; Udinese 29; Cagliari 28; Bologna 27; Genoa 25; Empoli 22; Palermo 14; Crotone 13; Pescara 12.

Serie B

Played yesterday
Brescia vs Cittadella - 4-1
Benevento vs Bari - 3-4

Playing today – 15.00
Ascoli vs Pisa    
Avellino vs Vicenza    
Cesena vs Pro Vercelli    
Entella vs Carpi    
Frosinone vs Verona    
Novara vs Spezia    
SPAL vs Perugia    
Ternana vs Latina    
Trapani vs Salernitana

Leading standings: Frosinone 48; Benevento, Verona 46; SPAL 45; Bari 40;  Perugia, Cittadella 39; Spezia 38; Carpi 36; Entella 35.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us