Juventus face Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday – but Cristiano Ronaldo will miss a reunion with old foe Lionel Messi.
The pair have not faced each other since Ronaldo’s Juventus switch in July 2018 but a hotly-anticipated meeting in Europe’s top club competition has been put on hold after the Portugal star returned another positive coronavirus test.
Ronaldo has been self-isolating since he first tested positive while on international duty with Portugal on October 13.
He returned another positive result last week and underwent further testing in a bid to prove his fitness ahead of the blockbuster Group G tie, but he failed to meet UEFA’s conditions of testing negative 24 hours before kick-off.
Barcelona have also been disrupted before kick-off, with president Josep Maria Bartomeu and the club’s entire board resigning from their positions with immediate effect, in response to Lionel Messi’s summer transfer saga and the club’s poor start to the season, including a Clasico defeat to Real Madrid.
As well as Ronaldo, Juventus will definitely be without Giorgio Chiellini and Matthijs de Ligt, with Weston McKennie also likely to miss out.
Pirlo is also sweating on the fitness of fellow defender Leonardo Bonucci with Paolo Dybala expected to feature after starting his first game of the season against Hellas Verona at the weekend.
Barcelona will be without the suspended Gerard Pique, who was sent off against Ferencvaros, while Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Samuel Umtiti and Philippe Coutinho are also sidelined through injury. Neto is expected to continue in goal.
There will be familiar faces on both sides too. Miralem Pjanic – now at Barcelona – and Juventus midfielder Arthur having switched between the two clubs in the summer, with goalkeeper Neto having also played for the Italian side previously.
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What the managers said
Juventus manager Andrea Pirlo said: “There are great players in Barca, despite some absences. The keys for us will be desire and determination. It will be difficult, but beautiful. For 15 years, Messi and Cristiano have done great things. For the first time, I’ll be taking on Messi as a coach, I’ll treat him with the enormous respect that he deserves.
“We’ll play with four in defence, it’s the only viable solution at this time. In midfield it will be a challenge between two very technical departments.”
Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman said: “It’s a match between two great teams, we respect Juve a lot and it will be a high-level match.
“Juve are a great team in Europe. They will have some absences, but they know how to dominate games, thanks to players of huge quality. Dybala is a great player, Morata knows how to score, the midfielders are of high value. It will be a good game.”
- This will be the 14th match between Juventus and Barcelona in competitive football, with the Italian giants failing to score in their last three meetings with the Spanish outfit (D2 L1).
- Juventus’ tally of six home games without ever losing versus Barcelona is their joint-best total against a side in European competition, alongside their six unbeaten matches versus Atletico Madrid (W5 D1).
- Barcelona have only suffered one defeat in their last 17 UEFA Champions League group stage games on the road (W10 D6), going unbeaten in each of the last 10.
- Juventus’ victory against Dynamo Kiev on MD1 was their 99th UEFA Champions League victory – they’re looking to become the first Italian side to reach 100 wins in the competition. This match with Barcelona is their 200th in the Champions League (W99 D52 L48).
- Barcelona’s Lionel Messi has scored more UEFA Champions League group stage goals than any other player in the competition (69 in 73 games), while in the current format of the competition (since 2003-04), only Cristiano Ronaldo (24) has more group stage assists than the Argentinian (22).