BEVERLY HILLS, April 17, (THEWILL) – Defending Serie A champions Juventus will have to continue the chase of Champions League next season without Cristiano Ronaldo, their front running goal scorer this season.
The Portuguese superstar is out of Juventus’ crunch match against Atalanta on Sunday due to an injury to his flexor.
The Italian Manager for Juve, Andrea Pirlo, confirmed the unfortunate news on Saturday, saying that Paulo Dybala will start instead. The Old Lady will be sweating the return of the 36-year-old on time for the next League fixture, which is against Parma Calcio 1913 on Wednesday.
That was at the back of Pirlo’s mind when he spoke at a pre-match briefing: “We’ll have an important absence tomorrow: Cristiano won’t be able to play due to a flexor problem. We’ll try to get him back for Wednesday.
“Cristiano’s flexor problem happened after the last game and he wasn’t able to push himself this week as he saw fit. We prefer not to take risks.”
Explaining his rationale for caution, Pirlo said: “Cristiano played more than was expected in the national team, otherwise he would have returned earlier. The accumulation of fatigue is a problem for everyone.”
The contribution of Ronaldo has been pivotal to where Juve stands this season that has been thrashed as a poor season for the club. It is unimaginable how far behind they could have been without his goal involvements. This was very obvious the last time he was sidelined by COVID-19.
Those contributions have seen him rise to the top scorer chart of Serie A this season. His collection of 25 goals has taken him beyond the previous leading scorer, Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku, who is now four goals behind.
Those will be big shoes to fill out for the 27-year-old Dybala on Sunday but that is what Pirlo has said they will do. The otherwise impressive Dybala, who was last season’s Serie A Most Valuable Player (MVP) has endured an injury-hit campaign thus year to the point of missing 19 matches due a January injury he sustained.
But Pirlo’s confidence in the striker builds on the difference Dybala has made upon his return from injury. The forward has been in impressive form and capped it with a substitute role when he scored Juve’s second goal against Victor Osimhen’s Napoli side for a 2-1 victory.
He also appeared off the bench in last weekend’s 3-1 victory against Genoa coming in on the 68th minute in place of Alvaro Morata, who had scored for Juve two minutes before the half hour mark.
Pirlo will feel hard done by injuries in his side’s determined push in these last fixtures of the football season especially Ronaldo’s absence against one of the top four clubs pushing for European football next season. However, at the briefing, he was glad to confirm that both Arthur Melo and Weston McKennie are fit to face Atalanta at the Gewiss Stadium, away from home.
But, Leonardo Bonucci, who tested positive for COVID-19 during the last international break, was not fit enough to feature: “After COVID-19, Bonucci has been doing specific work to get back to top form.”