MILAN, Italy, January 5 – Paul Pogba has called for Juventus to emulate the success of last year’s return to Serie A action following the festive period when they host an ambitious Inter Milan on Tuesday.
Juve beat title rivals Roma 3-0 in their first league outing of 2014 as they charged towards a third consecutive title under former coach Antonio Conte.
With Roma in second place at three points adrift in the current campaign, Juventus can ill afford to make further slip-ups in the title race.
Inter travel to Turin looking for only their second win under new coach Roberto Mancini, but buoyed by the signing of former Arsenal forward Lukas Podolski who could start on the bench at Juventus Stadium if the paperwork on his loan deal is finalised in time.
Pogba admits that on a personal level he can “still improve at everything”.
But the 21-year-old believes the “difficult” clash with Inter is one of several steps on his quest for more glory with the Turin giants.
“We have to start 2015 with a win, that’s the most important thing. Last year we beat Roma in our first game back and we hope we can start the same way,” Pogba told Sky Sport.
“The Inter game is like a derby — it’s always a difficult one and we want to win it.”
It is Juventus’s first official game since losing the Italian Super Cup final to Napoli in Doha three days before Christmas, but Pogba said Juve’s resolve remains unchanged.
“In 2015 I hope to win the scudetto again, and we’ll need to give all we’ve got to do it, as well as going further in the Champions League than we managed two years ago.”
Little has been changed from the largely successful formation used pre-Christmas by Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri, but the same cannot be said about Inter.
Mancini, who has only one win from five games since his return to the club following a six-year absence, is still experimenting.
Inter had to fight back from a two-goal deficit on their last league outing to level 2-2 with Lazio, with the San Siro’s blushes saved by late goals from Mateo Kovacic and Rodrigo Palacio.
Mancini is currently building his team around the creative midfield skills of Kovacic but the Croatian admitted: “It will be a hard game, but we’re looking forward to it.
“Juve are strong and they have a great stadium but we’re going there to play our game and hopefully bring back a result.”
A Juve setback would give closest challengers Roma, who face Udinese away earlier in the day, a chance to make amends for two draws in their last three games.
Yet Rudi Garcia’s men travel north wary of the danger of Andrea Stramaccioni’s Udinese, especially with doubts over defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (flu), captain Francesco Totti and forward Mattia Destro.
The battle for a hold on third continues with only goal difference separating Lazio, Napoli and Sampdoria and Genoa, in sixth, a further point off the pace.
Sampdoria visit high-flying Lazio on Monday and coach Sinisa Mihajlovic warned of the danger having succumbed at the Olympic Stadium last season.
“Last season we played very badly there, it was one of our worst displays of the season. We even conceded when we were a man up,” said Mihajlovic.
“It’s an important fixture, as we are all sitting on 27 points. Lazio have a good squad and are expected to be up there, but we’re something of a surprise package.”
Napoli arguably lead the race with a trip away to struggling Cesena, although striker Manolo Gabbiadini — expected to complete his 13m euros signing from Sampdoria on Monday after passing a medical on Sunday — is suspended.
Milan, in seventh but only two points behind the third and last Champions League qualifying spot, host Sassuolo.
Alessio Cerci could make his debut at the San Siro after his recent signing from Atletico Madrid, who took Fernando Torres on loan to give the Rossoneri flop a chance to revive his career at the club where he rose to stardom.