Stefano Sturaro believes Juventus are entering a pivotal stage of the season as they prepare to host his former club Genoa in Serie A on Wednesday.
The stuttering start made by the champions is an increasingly distant memory, with Sunday's 4-0 stroll at Chievo their 15th consecutive domestic victory and a club record-equalling 12th straight league win
Massimiliano Allegri's side sit two points behind leaders Napoli as they eye a piece of history and Sturaro, who is pushing for a start having replaced Sami Khedira at half-time last weekend, is relishing a month that features home clashes against Napoli and Inter either side of the return to Champions League action against Bayern Munich.
"We're coming up against two of our title rivals and Bayern Munich in the Champions League," the midfielder told Sky Italia. "Clearly all of these represent key matches for us.
"We must not play within ourselves, as we're young and have plenty of potential to keep growing. It's up to us to go out and achieve our goals.
"We've improved in many areas of our game, especially in how we take control of and dictate matches.
"All of our players have stepped up to the plate."
Sturaro reflects fondly on his time at Genoa, where he progressed through the youth ranks and returned on loan lasy season, but insists the caldron of a top-flight encounter offers no room for sentiment.
"I grew up in Genoa, making both my Serie A and international [Italy Under-18 to Under-21] debuts while at the club," he said.
"Therefore, I'll always be grateful for how they've helped develop me in to the player I am today, but I won't be thinking about that on Wednesday.
"Friendship will count for absolutely nothing across the 90 minutes."
Genoa will tackle the in-form champions having enjoyed a productive transfer deadline day, when they brought in Slovenia international striker Tim Matavz on loan from Augsburg until the end of the season.
Former PSV and Groningen man Matavz has struggled in the Bundesliga this term, failing to find the net in 11 appearances.
Gabriel Silva and Riccardo Fiamozzi also arrived from Udinese and Pescara respectively, having watched the 0-0 weekend draw with Fiorentina at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris.
Juve's sole victory in the first six Serie A matches of this season came at Genoa, with Paul Pogba converting a penalty to seal a 2-0 win after Eugenio Lamanna's 37th-minute own goal.
Key Opta stats:
- Juventus have won eight of their last 13 Serie A games against Genoa (D4 L1).
- Genoa's last win at Juve came in January 1991 and they have only breached them once during the past five Serie A encounters.
- Juve and Genoa boast miserly defensive records heading into the match, conceding one in five and one in four respectively.
- Paul Pogba have been directly involved in six goals in his last five league appearances, with three goals and as many assists.
- Leonardo Pavoletti's 20 shots on target this season is 11 better than any of his Genoa counterparts.