Important players missing extended periods of time due to injury has been one of the constant themes of Juventus’ 2021-22 season. Doesn’t matter if it’s been the beginning, middle or the current end-of-season stretch run, injuries have been impossible to avoid throughout this challenging and frustrating year.
But here’s some good injury news as Juve gets set to play for a trophy in a few days: Manuel Locatelli might be on his way back for said cup final.
Yep, that’s what we’re being told by Tuttosport and La Gazzetta dello Sport this weekend, as the Turin-based daily has said that Locatelli is “in a race against time” to be available to manager Max Allegri for Wednesday night’s Coppa Italia final against Inter Milan at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Tuttosport’s reporting sounds rather optimistic regarding Locatelli’s status, with the line of “the trip to Rome appears possible and not a utopia” and obviously not reportedly being ruled as compared to another midfielder in Weston McKennie, who himself has been hoping to be available to Allegri for the last few games of the 2021-22 season.
The catch, according to Tuttosport, is if Allegri and Juve’s medical staff — one that has been rumored to be on the outs following the completion of the season — deem Locatelli healthy enough to not risk anything further injury-wise as he ramps up his training over the next few days.
Locatelli has been out since April 3 — a total of 43 days and counting that adds up to nine games — with a knee ligament injury that he suffered against, ironically, Inter in the Derby d’Italia loss in Turin.
Knowing that Locatelli has missed nearly a month and a half, it seems rather unlikely that he would be sent right back into the starting lineup by Allegri on Wednesday night. But even having him available off the bench and Allegri having an option of potentially playing Locatelli 20 or 30 minutes in the second half to give the midfield a different look, that’s just something Juve hasn’t had the last few weeks (if not months). Even with the impressive starts from Fabio Miretti in the last couple of games, Juve miss Locatelli dearly, and the very fact that they could have him back for the Coppa Italia final is a big development.
Like I said, who knows what kind of match fitness levels he will be at and how many minutes he will have in his legs. And knowing that we’re four days out from lining up against Inter, the odds point toward Locatelli being on the bench if he is deemed fit enough to be called up for the trip to Rome.
Tuttosport also believes that McKennie could be back for Juve’s final home game of the season against Lazio next weekend as he continues to work to return from his own long-term injury — a broken bone in his foot suffered in the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 tie against Villarreal — before the season comes to an end later this month.