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Pirlo confirms Dybala will start, de Ligt is close

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Coach’s comments ahead of Hellas Verona test tomorrow

Andrea Pirlo (L), head coach of Juventus FC, shakes hands... Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

Juventus play Hellas Verona on Sunday after getting back on track midweek with a win over Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League.

Speaking ahead of the game, coach Andrea Pirlo provided a squad update.

“We had time to rest after the trip to Dynamo Kiev, so apart from Giorgio Chiellini, everyone else is available.

“As of last night, I had no news on Cristiano Ronaldo’s COVID status. We all had swabs this morning, including Ronaldo at home. Alex Sandro is on his way towards a full recovery, but I think it’ll be after the break for international duty.”

Paulo Dybala finally got a taste of the action, playing almost the whole second half against Kiev and Pirlo feels he is ready.

“I can confirm Dybala will start tomorrow. He had the right progress in training and it’s only fair now that he starts the match. I always said it was an issue of time, as he had the injury, then a virus on international duty. The two times he was on the bench without coming on, it was because we’d gone down to 10 men. He played in Kiev as a substitute, it’s only right that he starts tomorrow.”

Summer signing Alvaro Morata has picked up the baton while Ronaldo and Dybala have missed time with three goals so far.

“This is why we signed him. We knew he was a great player who provided us with different tactical options, he knows Dybala well and I think they can happily coexist in the same line-up.

“With Atletico Madrid, he had recently been accustomed to playing largely in defence, so there were 80 metres in front of him to go on the counter-attack. On the other hand, we at Juve try to keep the ball, work on the position of the body when receiving a pass, pressing to free up a man. We work for each other to ensure we can move the ball quickly.”

Pirlo has been trying out Federico Bernardeschi’s versatility in different positions.

“When it comes to Federico Bernardeschi, we wanted to test him out all along the wing, the way he used to play at Fiorentina, but he tended to be more coverage for the trident attack here. I see him in a wider role and we’re working on it, I’m sure he can be a great resource for the team.”

Federico Chiesa is out after getting sent off last weekend, but Weston McKennie has recovered from his COVID incident.

“I have many options and it all depends on the type of game we are facing. All four midfielders are compatible, so they will rotate for the two places.

“McKennie tested negative for COVID yesterday, he’ll have his physical test today and I hope he can at least be on the bench tomorrow. Matthijs de Ligt is waiting for the all-clear from the doctors, he can train with us, albeit avoiding physical contact after his shoulder operation.”

The game in Kiev had almost a full complement of fans in the stadium, and to Pirlo it was a change from playing behind closed doors.

“There were 20,000 people and it felt like a different world. When there’s a crowd, you realise the danger of someone approaching a player when you hear them murmur and it puts the player on alert too. It’s not easy to play behind closed doors.

“On the other hand, the quarantine period was useful, as it was like a pre-season retreat allowing us to test a few things out and explain what we wanted.”