In the middle of its toughest Serie A title fight in years and an imposing Champions League matchup against Tottenham on the horizon, Juventus has lost its midfield rock.
The Italian club announced Monday that Blaise Matuidi has a muscle tear in his left thigh, and while there was no official timetable given in the club release, reports suggest he will miss at least a month.
The 30-year-old was injured in the 7-0 drubbing of Sassuolo over the weekend, withdrawn after just 26 minutes. The injury was not considered serious at first, and he was taken off with the team already 2-0 up and the game under control. However, tests showed a problem worse than initially feared, and now he will face a spell on the sidelines.
Matuidi has appeared in 20 of the team’s 23 Serie A games, starting 16 of them. He’s also appeared in all six of their Champions League matches so far, with three starts. A strong CM with good ball-winning abilities and a crunching style, Matuidi is a huge loss for Juventus as they prepare for the high pressing Spurs in Champions League play. He will most certainly miss the first leg on February 13, while he could be in contention for a return for the second leg on March 7. His status will also be up in the air for a critical Serie A game against third-placed Lazio on March 3.
In 10 games since a 3-2 loss to Sampdoria on November 19, Juventus has astonishingly conceded just one goal in Serie A play, with Matuidi starting in all but two of those matches.
Massamiliano Allegri has rotated Matuidi, Miralem Pjanic, Sami Khedira, and Stefano Sturaro in midfield for much of the season, the bulk of the work will now fall on the remaining three to take over Matuidi’s minutes. “He has the traits that when I play with 3 midfielders I can play either him or Sturaro,” Allegri said after the Sassuolo match.
Sturaro will likely be the biggest benefactor, having made just seven league appearances thus far. Juve is a point back of Napoli in the title race, with Lazio a significant distance behind in third. They are not scheduled to play Napoli again until late April.
Juventus is already without Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado with injuries.
Although Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich are already ensured of places in the next round, the two Group B giants have played an exciting match thus far, with the latter ahead by a 2-0 scoreline. Goals from Robert Lewandowski and Corentin Tolisso are the difference for the German side.
CSKA Moscow has stunned Manchester United on the brink of halftime after Alan Dzagoev controversially put the Russians ahead at Old Trafford, 1-0.
A bit of controversy, but Dzagoev gives CSKA Moscow the 1-0 lead against Man United just before the break! https://t.co/dTdbf5XSKx
Also in Group A, FC Basel leads at the Estadio da Luz against Benfica, which would see the Swiss side through to the last 16 if they see their victory out. Man United, CSKA and Basel are all currently level on 12 points, which would bring tiebreakers into effect if the matches finish with the same score lines.
Meanwhile, Juan Cuadrado has Juventus ahead on the road against Olympiacos as the Italian side looks to reach the Round of 16 out of Group D.
Easy as you’d like with that finish, right, Juan?
Juve is currently level on points (11) with group leaders Barcelona, however, Barca would top the group — if results stand — based on its superior goal differential.
Cuadrado has put Juventus ahead against Olympiacos!
There are plenty of friendlies taking place across the globe this week as teams step up their 2018 World Cup preparations.
Five teams who have already booked their spot at the tournament in Russia next summer were in action early on Friday with Brazil, Serbia and South Korea all grabbing wins.
Below is a roundup of the games which took place, with plenty of other international friendlies to come in the next few days.
Japan 1-3 Brazil
The Seleceao were purring in Lille, France as Neymar scored from the penalty spot early on (with the help of VAR giving a decision against Southampton and Japan defender Maya Yoshida) but the PSG star then missed a second spot kick in the first half. Not to worry as Marcelo smashed home to make it 2-0 and and Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus finished off a flowing team move to make it 3-0 before half time. Japan pulled a goal back in the second half through Tomoaki Makino but Brazil dominated as they now face England at Wembley next Tuesday. Japan face Belgium in Brugge on Tuesday.
South Korea 2-1 Colombia
Tottenham’s Heung-Min Son scored twice for South Korea as they beat much-fancied Colombia in Suwon. Cristian Zapata pulled a goal back for a strong Los Cafeteros side who had James Rodriguez and Davinson Sanchez in the starting lineup, plus Carlos Bacca and Edwin Cardona jumped off the bench with Juan Cuadrado an unused sub. Colombia travel to Chongqing to face China on Tuesday.
China 0-2 Serbia
Torino’s Adem Ljajic opened the scoring for managerless Serbia in Guangzhou and Newcastle’s Aleksandar Mitrovic made it 2-0 in the second half. Serbia play against South Korea in Ulsan on Tuesday. Good preparations for Serbia ahead of their first appearance at a World Cup since 2010.