Wednesday 25 April 2018

No Chiellini/Suarez reunion as Italian defender ruled out of Champions League decider

Luis Suarez and Giorgio Chiellini pictured after the World Cup bite
Luis Suarez and Giorgio Chiellini pictured after the World Cup bite

Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini has been ruled out of Saturday's Champions League final against Barcelona with a calf injury.

The Italy international got hurt in Wednesday's training session and underwent tests on Thursday which confirmed he will miss this weekend's showpiece.

A statement from Juventus read: "Giorgio Chiellini has undergone tests which have revealed a first degree lesion in his soleus muscle of his left leg.

"The defender will not be available for the match against Barcelona."

The veteran centre-back was set for a dramatic showdown with Luis Suarez after the biting incident at last summer's World Cup, but instead he leaves a big hole to fill in Juve's defence.

Angelo Ogbonna seems the likely candidate to replace Chiellini, despite Andrea Barzagli returning to training on Wednesday after recovering from a thigh injury sustained earlier this month.

Two-time European champions Juventus have not reached the Champions League final since 2003, when they finished runners-up to AC Milan.

Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri, in his first season at the helm, has led the club to a Coppa Italy final triumph over Lazio and the scudetto.

But the club has not won Europe's premier competition since 1996.

"We've had a truly extraordinary season and it's not every day that you reach the Champions League final," Allegri said to his club's official website.

"To have done so in a year when we have won the scudetto and the Coppa Italia, our 10th, is important.

"It has been a while since an Italian team reached the Champions League final (Inter Milan in 2010). There is a lot of enthusiasm and all Italians await this final just as we do.

"It will be a campaign that will remain in the history as it's unlikely that a team arrives to three finals of major tournaments.

"Now we just have one more game and we need to be clever and bring home the trophy.

"We also need to be fortunate."

Juve, who knocked off defending champions Real Madrid in the semi-finals, face a star-studded Barcelona led by Lionel Messi.

The Argentinian striker has been sensational this season, scoring a total of 58 goals in all competitions to fire Barca to the Primera Division title, Messi's seventh, and also to a Copa de Rey triumph.

"Barcelona is not like any other team," Allegri said. "You need great patience and mental strength.

"To man-mark Messi is almost impossible, we just need to do a good job and work around him.

"But besides limiting Messi, Barca have Neymar and Luis Suarez.

"They have so many technical players that we will need to play a game with a lot of courage, knowing that we will have difficult times during the match and moments where we will have opportunities.

"We are going to Berlin not waiting for them to score against us and be the victims.

"We are aware of the challenge we face, it's a Champions League final after all.

"Hence, it's normal that you face the best players in the world.

"But this should not make us anxious."

Press Association

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