It’s probably a good thing that Juventus will get arguably the longest trip of the 2020-21 season out of the way as they start the Champions League group stage this week. Nobody wants to be traveling to a place like Ukraine in the late November or early December when you know it’s going to be cold and downright tough to even deal with. Juve will be getting that trip out of the way right away, and that means there’s no trip to Eastern Europe in the final days of the group stage.
And if Monday’s training session was any kind of indication, we also got an idea of who will be hopping on the 5 1⁄2-hour flight from Turin to Kyiv in Ukraine.
While there were still two notable absences at Continassa due to COVID-19 isolation, the big development that came with the training session before the departure for Ukraine came in the form of Aaron Ramsey’s return to the field. Ramsey, who returned early from international duty due to injury, missed out on the 1-1 draw against Crotone this past weekend. Another player who missed the trip to Calabria, Alex Sandro, did not take part in training, a clear sign that he is still not ready for game action after getting injured before the season opener against Sampdoria last month.
Also an important note as the photo above clearly shows us: Matthijs de Ligt, who is working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery, returned to training for the first time this season.
See for yourself, everybody. Behold, a wild Dutchman with large quads has appeared!
Obviously it will be a few more weeks until we see de Ligt back on the field as he continues to rehab his shoulder and regain match fitness. That’s always been the timetable we’ve heard ever since de Ligt went under the knife on his 21st birthday in August. It was always going to be a November return that was targeted, and now that we’re close to hitting the final week of October, de Ligt very much seems like he’s on track to doing just that.
But the immediate return is obviously Ramsey, who was so good in the Sampdoria win before coming back to earth the next weekend against Roma. But if Ramsey is good to go for the trip to Ukraine — and you have to think that he is based on the fact that he’s training again — then there’s a very good chance that we will be seeing him in the starting lineup against Dynamo Kyiv. (Just a reminder that Juve-Dynamo has the early UCL kickoff time on Tuesday night.)
Sandro’s absence makes things a little more interesting on the left wing. Does Andrea Pirlo stick with Gianluca Frabotta at the wingback spot on the left? Or, does Pirlo go with what he did against Roma (and technically against Napoli even though that game was never played) and have Juan Cuadrado play out wide on the left? The fact that Cuadrado started off on the bench against Crotone suggests he will be starting on one of the wings Tuesday night. We, obviously, don’t know which wing that will be.
Maybe Pirlo will give us a hint or two during his pre-match press conference later in the day Tuesday after Juve land in Ukraine. We’ll see, though. This is very much a game where you expect Pirlo to field his strongest lineup no matter what it may be right now.