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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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Chiellini: Conte presence has been missed

Giorgio Chiellini says Antonio Conte "has been sorely missed" during his ban but warned that Juventus will only improve now the coach has returned to the bench.

• Blog: Juve widening the gap

The Italy international reflected on the Bianconeri's successful progress in the Champions League and spoke of the increased influence exerted by Conte now his four-month suspension has ended.

"I remember the evening of the Chelsea game [a 3-0 win for Juve]," the 28-year-old said during an online chat with fans. "For the first time in a year-and-a-half the roar of the stadium could be felt from the minute we entered the dressing room. The regret is that we didn't have the same atmosphere for our first group game against Shakhtar [a 1-1 draw], the difference between those two games is evident.

"The group spirit is required in difficult moments. The manager's presence on the bench and during the interval has been sorely missed. During difficult times he manages to give you something extra, just like the group spirit which comes from hard work, commitment and reciprocal trust."

Chiellini then went on to discuss the impressive defensive unit he has formed alongside fellow Azzurri stars Gianluigi Buffon, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli as the team conceded just ten goals in the opening 17 rounds of league action.

"Over the last year Leonardo, Andrea and I have managed to create a unique unit," he said. "We know each other well, play by heart and the more you work with someone the more you discover their strengths and weaknesses.

"Individually speaking there are better defenders than us around, but I doubt that they could do better if they were placed in our defence. Then we have Gigi behind us and, while many of his saves seem straightforward, that's only because he makes them appear as such."

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