Coppa Italia: Antonio Conte irked by criticism of Juventus ahead of Lazio clash
Antonio Conte is tired of criticism of Juventus as they prepare to face Lazio for a place in the Coppa Italia final.
Last Updated: 21/01/13 5:06pm
Juve's dominance of Serie A appeared unassailable until a home defeat to Sampdoria and a draw at Parma allowed Lazio and Napoli to close to within three points of top spot.
Conte's men answered their critics by beating AC Milan to a last-four berth in the cup before thrashing Udinese 4-0 to restore a five-point advantage in the league.
For all the Bianconeri's fine tradition in the cup, which they have won nine times, the Turin giants have not been able to pin a Coccarda to their shirts since the 1995-96 season.
And having lost out to Napoli in last year's final, Conte is eager to come through the daunting challenge of Vladimir Petkovic's Lazio.
Ahead of Tuesday's first leg, he told juventus.com: "I've heard too much criticism of us in recent weeks.
"People are talking about a crisis because we couldn't win games against Sampdoria and Parma despite two good performances.
"You can only be judged on results. But I am calm as I look at what we have done - we are top of the league, in the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia for the second season in a row and we're in the second round of the Champions League."
Lazio preceded Napoli in denying Juve a 10th cup win back in the 2004 final and Conte highlighted how strong the Biancocelesti have been this season.
"They're a strong, compact, organised side that closes off all the channels and then goes for goal," he added.
"It is a physical line-up comprised of tough players that have a lot of experience. This Lazio side is the child of all the good work they did last year.
"Petkovic has worked hard to build on that base. I must admit I didn't know anything about him before and I'm envious of all his the experience he's had abroad.
"He's doing really well and I congratulate him for that."
The capital club are chasing a first cup win since 2009, when they beat Sampdoria, and Petkovic knows collecting Juve's scalp would send out the right signal to fellow semi-finalists Roma and Inter Milan.
He told La Repubblica: "I'm not the only one saying this, everybody is saying that Juve are the team to beat and now they're back in form.
"They're the strongest team, without doubt, and we're doing well but we can do even better. We must not submit to Juve tomorrow, we need to be proactive.
"These two games will have a particular flavour and we must try to be better than they are over both games.
"Winning the competition would also see us qualify for Europe. We have to be better than them physically."
Inter stayed in Rome to train at the Stadio Flaminio ahead of Wednesday's semi-final, which comes just three days after Andrea Stramaccioni's men earned a creditable 1-1 draw at the Stadio Olimpico.
Remarkably, Inter and Roma contested five finals between 2005 and 2010 but the bragging rights are with the Nerazzurri, who claimed the last of three wins in what proved to be a dramatic series of games.