Milan - 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
"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?"
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