Juventus are not in trouble - Allegri

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Massimiliano Allegri admitted that life is getting harder each year as teams seek to knock Juventus off the top of the Serie A pecking order, but insisted his side are "not in trouble".

The Bianconeri go into their home game against Crotone on Sunday having won just one of their last four games in all competitions, following Champions League draws against Barcelona and Sporting CP, a home victory over Benevento, and a 3-2 defeat at Sampdoria.

Third-placed Juventus trail Serie A leaders Napoli by four points and second-placed Inter by two, and Allegri conceded improvement was needed if his side are to challenge for a seventh consecutive Scudetto.

"It is obvious that we need to improve in order to arrive in March in the best condition to play the season," said the Juve coach. "In the league Napoli are doing extraordinary things, while Juventus have dropped maybe two or three points.

"We are not in trouble. We are travelling at good speed in the league and in Champions League we are one step from the knockout stage."

Allegri also cited his side's ability to bounce back from disappointment, adding: "Last year we were seven points clear at the top of the table when we went to play Fiorentina in Florence, but we weren't playing well. We lost and after that I changed things, but only because there was a need.

"We were in crisis two years ago when we were 10 points from the summit."

The question of whether to play three or four defenders is one that has bugged Allegri this season, and he suggested Benedikt Howedes could make a rare appearance in the absence of Giorgio Chiellini, who is recovering from a thigh injury.

Allegri claimed that his selections against Crotone would be largely dictated by the fitness and form of his squad.

"The numbers make me crazy," he said. "It all depends on the characteristics of the players.

"It may be the turn of Howedes. He has trained well and could be a solution. He has good ball management, he has good feet and can play in the centre or outside in a four-man defence.

"[Gianluigi] Buffon will play in goal. Certainly Chiellini, [Juan] Cuadrado and [Filippo] Bernardeschi will not be there, while [Sami] Khedira will rest.

"If he feels good, Mario Mandzukic will start.

"We must handle the group well. It is important in a long season."