Pirlo key to Juventus' revival, claims Conte

The Italy international was surprisingly released by AC Milan last summer but has proven his worth this season by inspiring the Bianconeri to a surprise Scudetto challenge
Juventus boss Antonio Conte has put the club's revival this season down to the players, singling out midfielder Andrea Pirlo for special praise.

After successive seventh-placed finishes in Serie A, not much was expected of the Bianconeri this season and yet, ahead of Wednesday evening's meeting with Lecce, they stand within two victories of the title.

Conte, who only returned to Turin last summer, has been lauded for Juve's remarkable transformation into Scudetto challengers, but he insists that the plaudits should go to the players, and in particular, Pirlo.

"Our style of play comes from the desire to take the game to the opposition and it’s much easier to do this with players like Pirlo," he told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday.

"We’ve worked intensely on our game but it’s the players’ commitment which has made it possible to make everything click."

Meanwhile, Conte revealed that with the return of Alessandro Matri from suspension, he has a near full-strength squad to choose from ahead of the visit of Lecce. However, he has yet to decide if Simone Pepe will feature.

“[Alessando] Del Piero has recovered from muscular fatigue and [Fabio] Quagliarella is on his way back," he explained.

"[Simone] Pepe trained separately yesterday [Monday]. He’s got great desire and enthusiasm to be involved, but the championship doesn’t finish tomorrow [Wednesday] and it’s important to make sensible assessments.

"I’ll speak with my players - it’s an important moment and it’s right to consult them."

Undefeated Juve go into the game with relegation-threatened Lecce three points clear of second-placed Milan.