Conte accepts favourites tag for Juve

Antonio Conte readily accepts his Juventus side are the favourites to retain the Serie A title - but he knows predictions do not guarantee prizes.

Antonio Conte

The Juve head coach has reinforced the squad that claimed a second straight Scudetto by nine points from Napoli in May with prolific strikers Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente, while landing highly-rated Italy defender Angelo Ogbonna from Torino.

Ahead of a season-opening trip to Sampdoria, however, he seemed bemused that reporters had written off rivals including Napoli and Fiorentina despite their own significant investments in the transfer window.

The Azzurri are boosted by former Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain as Fiorentina prepare to unleash the strike duo of Mario Gomez and Giuseppe Rossi.

Conte told juventus.com: "We are the favourites to retain our title.

"It's useless to deny that we start the season as favourites because we've won two straight titles, but in May it's not the favourites who win, it's the side that's proved themselves to be strongest on the pitch.

"We have several rivals who have equipped themselves well by spending more than we have.

"You lot, however, have said that the gap at the top is likely to increase even more. So what do you think would happen if we had the same size of budget?"

Conte, who will be without injured midfielders Simone Pepe and Claudio Marchisio, also expressed his disgust at the spread of racism through the Italian game, after Supercoppa opponents Lazio were issued a partial stadium closure for abusive behaviour from fans during the curtain-raising game.

"Everybody has to rebel against these violent and intolerant incidents caused by a few imbeciles," Conte said.

"First of all, you lot should not give attention to certain individuals who are just happy to appear on television or in the newspapers.

"They should just close the stands. After a while I think people will start to think twice about their behaviour."

Samp completed an unlikely season double over Juve last season, spoiling their title celebrations with a 3-2 win at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris on the final day, and coach Delio Rossi is suitably wary of the vengeance arriving from Turin.

"We could not be meeting a tougher opponent," he said. "They're a team full of great champions who thrive when they're winning and react immediately when they losing.

"I think Juve are the strongest team: they've bought class players like Tevez, Llorente and Ogbonna.

"The calendar has matched us with the toughest opponent, but we'll try to give them a game."

Defender Vasco Regini and midfielder Renan are suspended but Rossi should field his marquee summer signing, ex-Juve striker Manolo Gabbiadini.



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