Giorgio Chiellini

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Chiellini on track for imminent Juventus return

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35-year-old Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini has been out since tearing his ACL in late August just one game into the Serie A campaign.

Just over five months later, the Juventus captain could be set for a return to the field in the coming weeks, with Juve confirming that Chiellini has returned to partial training and reports claiming he has his eye on a few significant matches later this month for his possible comeback.

Ahead of Juventus’s weekend match against Chievo Verona, manager Maurizio Sarri said during his Friday press conference, “We are on schedule after his surgery, at the moment he is training with the group.”

That follows Wednesday’s edition of Gazzetta dello Sport that stated Chiellini is hoping to be back for the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 matchup against Lyon on February 26. That would mean theoretically he would be available for the critical game against Inter that weekend on March 1 and the second leg of their Coppa Italia semifinal against AC Milan the following Wednesday, March 4.

In Chiellini’s absence, young Matthijs de Ligt has partnered in defense with stand-in captain Leonardo Bonucci to moderate success, with Merih Demiral occasionally standing in as well. However, should Chiellini return to full fitness, it’s likely he would regain his place in the starting lineup. De Ligt has occasionally had to answer for costly mistakes, saying back in late January, “If I had been in their [fans’] shoes, I would also be angry at such mistakes. But as a player these are problems that shouldn’t interest me. I just have to think about working to improve myself, understand if I’m making progress or not.”

With that in mind, and given that de Ligt is still just 20 years old and has plenty of time to continue developing at Juventus, Chiellini is likely to see the field again after returning. However, on the flip side, the Italian is at an advanced age that may require a slower reintegration to full appearances, making just the simple fact of his imminent return impressive to begin with, and fans might need to be patient as he regains the ability to consistently pump out 90-minute performances at the highest level.

Italy suffers another injury as Insigne departs squad

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The injuries are piling up for the Italian national team ahead of European Championship qualifiers against Armenia and Finland this international break.

Lorenzo Insigne became the latest casualty as the Napoli attacker departed the squad with a muscular injury, the Italian national team announced Tuesday morning.

Insigne, who scored a brace in Napoli’s season-opening win over Fiorentina back on August 24, has been a regular in the Italian starting lineup, starting 10 of the country’s last 14 matches, with two of those misses due to injury. He even captained the side in a friendly against the Netherlands back in the summer of 2018 during the run-up to the World Cup which neither side qualified for.

He was injured in the dramatic 4-3 loss to Juventus over the weekend, withdrawn from the match at halftime, but still reported to the Italian national team camp hoping to push through.

Unable to shake off the injury, the 28-year-old joins Giorgio Chiellini, Mattia De Sciglio, and Bryan Cristante as players to recently withdraw from the squad due to injury. Chiellini’s torn ACL will leave him sidelined for much of – if not the entire – club season, while de Sciglio has been sidelined with a thigh injury that has ruled him out for at least 10 days.

While no replacement has yet been drawn in for Insigne, the other injured trio was replaced by Francesco Acerbi, Danilo D’Ambrosio and Sandro Tonali. Italy is currently top of Euro 2020 qualification Group J with a perfect 12 points through the first four matches.

Chiellini tears ACL, de Ligt next man up

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Juventus confirmed on Friday that captain and veteran defender Giorgio Chiellini has suffered a torn ACL in his right knee and will undergo surgery, leaving his status for the rest of the season in serious doubt.

The injury took place in training earlier in the day, and the club did not give any official timeline for the 35-year-old’s recovery. ACL tears usually take 6-8 months for a full recovery to match fitness, although his advanced age could contribute to a potentially longer recovery time.

Chiellini’s injury is a stunning one, given that the stalwort defender has not missed significant time in his entire 12-year Juventus career. He joined in 2005 from Fiorentina, appearing in 17 games his first season in Turin has he broke into the squad, and he has not looked back, registering at least 21 league appearances in every single season since, although he has tapered off a bit, failing to reach 30 league appearances in any of the last five campaigns.

The 35-year-old started and played the full 90 minutes in Juve’s Serie A season opener last weekend against Parma, starting at center-back alongside fellow veteran Leonardo Bonucci. 20-year-old Matthijs de Ligt, whom Juventus signed this summer for a whopping $97 million, was on the bench and is likely the next man up to take Chiellini’s place, meaning he will play a significant role in his first season with the Italian giants.

While serious injuries such as ACL tears do strike any and all demographic of athlete, Juventus was smart to bring in de Ligt as long-term cover for Chiellini as they rely on both he and the 32-year-old Bonucci in the starting lineup, with older players more at risk for injury. Behind de Ligt, the cover at center-back is extremely thin at Juventus. 21-year-old Merih Demiral made the matchday squad and rode the bench alongside de Ligt for Juve’s season opener, while 25-year-old Daniele Rugani is rumored to be headed out of the club after making just 15 appearances last season, although that could now change after Chiellini’s serious injury.

There could be some growing pains for de Ligt as he is thrust into the spotlight, but the Dutch kid is as experienced as they come for someone so young, having captained Ajax to the Champions League semifinals last season and seeing time with the senior international squad as well, already the owner of 15 international caps.

Mancini wants to ‘bring Italy back where it belongs’

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MILAN (AP) A year after its stunning elimination by Sweden in a World Cup playoff, Italy is back at the San Siro stadium for another potentially decisive match.

The Azzurri have to beat Cristiano Ronaldo-less Portugal on Saturday and then hope the European champion does not defeat Poland three days later in order to reach the UEFA Nations League finals.

[ MORE: Netherlands wins, Germany relegated ]

“We would like to advance, and we’ll try to, but the No. 1 objective remains qualifying for the European Championship,” coach Roberto Mancini said on Friday.

Portugal leads Group 4 with a perfect six points, Italy has four, and Poland one.

The group winner advances to the Final Four in June. Poland is already assured of finishing last in the group and will be relegated to League B.

Mancini was hired after previous coach Gian Piero Ventura was blamed for Italy’s failed World Cup qualification.

“I see a team that wants to roll its sleeves up and bring Italy back where it belongs,” Mancini said. “Let’s be clear, we still need some time, but we’re on the right path.”

Defender Giorgio Chiellini is slated to make his 100th appearance for Italy while wearing the captain’s armband.

“I want to celebrate the achievement only at the end of the match,” Chiellini said. “First let’s focus on Portugal, try to bring home three points and provide continuity to the good work done to this point.”

Chiellini retired from the national team in the aftermath of the loss to Sweden but then changed his mind.

“The real disappointment came in June when many of my club teammates left for Russia while I was preparing my suitcases for vacation,” Chiellini said.

Fellow defender Alessio Romagnoli left Italy’s squad on Friday with a muscular injury, and Italy is also without forward Federico Bernardeschi.

Bernardeschi was a key performer in the 1-0 win over Poland last month, lining up alongside Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Chiesa.

Unable to use the same lineup, Mancini announced that Ciro Immobile will likely start at center forward.

Italy has had trouble scoring.

The last time the Azzurri scored more than one goal was in May, a 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia in a friendly , while the last time they accomplished the feat in a competitive match was in June 2017, a 5-0 victory over Liechtenstein in a World Cup qualifier.

Italy next plays the United States in a friendly in Genk, Belgium, on Tuesday.

Mancini announced Chiellini, Alessandro Florenzi, Jorginho and Insigne would be sent home after the Portugal game and Gianluca Mancini and Moise Kean would be called up from the under-21 side.

Mancini and Chiellini both expressed disappointment that Ronaldo, who is taking a break from the national team, isn’t with Portugal.

“It’s always great to face the best players,” Mancini said. “Anyhow, Portugal remains a great squad even without Cristiano.”

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Ronaldo, Chiellini: “We had been in total control” before Man Utd comeback

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To say Juventus feels a bit stung by Manchester United’s smash-and-grab in Turin is an understatement.

The hosts were in control of the match for most of the 90 minutes, going ahead through a sensational Cristiano Ronaldo goal in the 65th minute.

[ MORE: Recap | Mourinho reaction ]

But substitute Juan Mata curled a delightful free kick past Juve keeper Wojciech Szczesny, and the Italians bungled a late Ashley Young effort for an own goal in a 2-1 loss, their first at home in a group stage match since 2009.

All told, Juve out-attempted United 21-9, with both clubs registered three shots on target.

“Manchester United did nothing to win the game,” Ronaldo said. “You can’t even talk about luck, because you have to find your own luck and in this case we just gifted it to them.

“Now we’ve got to lift our heads, as we played really well and are still top of the group. … Manchester didn’t do much, they had two chances on set pieces. I know English teams are always looking for set pieces.”

One of Ronaldo’s defenders, Giorgio Chiellini, sounded equally unimpressed.

“We had been in total control, but were very wasteful and forgot the details, because we knew where Manchester United could be dangerous,” said Chiellini. “If we’re going to lose Champions League games like this, it’s best we do it now rather than later on.”

Manager Max Allegri shared similar thoughts, adding that he felt the loss was okay because it was “the least important game” of the group stage.

That’s still a bit weird, considering the away game at United would’ve traditionally been viewed as such (although they did have that win in pocket when Allegri made his comments). From Football-Italia.net:

“I think it’ll do us good in the long run, as we need to learn not to fall asleep in these situations. I saw Manchester United play the same way in the Premier League at the weekend, they did very little for 80 minutes and then won in very similar circumstances.”