Just as Cristiano Ronaldo returns to the Juventus squad for the Italian champions’ trip to Amsterdam to face Ajax, the Bianconeri now officially know they won’t be led out of the tunnel by their regular captain.
What was reported late Monday has turned out to be 100 percent right on the money, as Juventus defender and captain Giorgio Chiellini was not called up for Juve’s first leg of the Champions League quarterfinal matchup against Ajax. The official statement from Juventus’ website regarding the injury — as well as Emre Can’s status for Wednesday night’s game — is as follows:
Giorgio Chiellini misses out due to a left calf contracture, as a result of a recent knock. Emre Can will stay behind too, after sustaining a right ankle sprain during Juventus-Milan.
As if there was any other indication that Chiellini wasn’t going to be playing, it was Daniele Rugani being the player interview at the pre-match press conference, the likeliest sign that he will be the one to replace Chiellini in the starting lineup.
Juventus manager Max Allegri, who has been dealing with a rather lengthy injury list over the past month or so, was certainly there to give Rugani some confidence going into one of the biggest starts of his young career, calling him “one of the best young players in Italy and in Europe.” (Makes sense since Juventus just extended his contract until 2023, right?)
But with Chiellini out, it’s obvious that the responsibility on Leonardo Bonucci to snap out of his ever-lasting funk and Rugani to be more of the talented youngster rather than the inconsistent one is just that much greater. Bonucci’s season to date has been extremely underwhelming even if you didn’t have very high expectations for him after his return from Milan. But, a good performance against Ajax — especially one that results in Juventus either being level or ahead on aggregate heading back to Turin for next week’s second leg — could at least exercise some demons.
Either way, Juventus are going to need to have somebody step up at the back knowing that their captain, who is in the midst of a damn good season, is back home in Turin watching.