Pirlo ready for Barca litmus test

Pirlo ready for Barca litmus test

TURIN • A question mark remains over whether Cristiano Ronaldo will take his place in Juventus’ team to face Lionel Messi’s Barcelona today as he is awaiting his swab test result, Juve coach Andrea Pirlo confirmed yesterday.

When the Champions League draw was made earlier this month, the Group G tie between the Italian champions and the Spanish giants looked to be the glamour match-up of the group phase.

Before leaving for Turin’s Allianz Stadium in 2018, Ronaldo, as the talisman for Real Madrid, spent nine seasons battling for football’s highest honours against the Argentinian at Barca.

Messi, 33, has featured in four victorious campaigns for the Catalans, while Ronaldo, 35, has won the Champions League five times, four with Real and once with Manchester United.

The pair have met five times in Champions League games, most recently in the semi-finals in 2011, and have never played against each other this early in the competition.

The stage appeared set for their first meeting since Ronaldo’s departure from Spain.

However, the Portugal skipper tested positive for Covid-19 two weeks ago on international duty, and has been in self-isolation since returning to Italy.

He missed Sunday’s Serie A draw with Verona after a test showed he was still infected, but if his latest swab test – the result was not known by press time – clears him of the virus, he could play his first game for Juve in a month.

“Ronaldo had a test like everyone else, this evening (yesterday) we will have the definitive result,” Pirlo told reporters in Turin.

“For now, it’s all on the high seas, when the final result comes, everything will be clearer.

“For 15 years, Messi and Ronaldo 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.”

According to Uefa rules, Ronaldo will need to test negative 24 hours before the game if he is to feature.

“Tomorrow (Wednesday) morning we will count the number of players available,” added Pirlo.

“Depending on the result, we’ll see what we do. It’s not easy to play an entire game after 15 days of inactivity.”

Ronaldo, who is asymptomatic, has missed three games including his side’s 2-0 Champions League win at Dynamo Kiev last week, and Pirlo is hopeful his star can play.

Teammate and Brazil defender Danilo agreed, saying: “It’s clear that any team would miss a player like Cristiano. But we have faith in every player on the team. We have people who want to do well and help us have a great match.”

With Juve stumbling in attack recently after two consecutive league draws, Pirlo’s men appear to miss Ronaldo’s cutting edge, particularly as the team have pressing concerns in defence.

Captain Giorgio Chiellini and Matthijs de Ligt have been ruled out with injuries, while Leonardo Bonucci’s thigh strain will be evaluated today. Forward Paulo Dybala remains short of match fitness.

Former Italy and Juve midfielder Pirlo, whose team last won the European Cup in 1996, said: “These are the matches that everyone would like to play.

“We have this opportunity and we can’t wait to test ourselves against Barcelona.

“It’s not a decisive game, but we still want to see what our value is.”

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JUVENTUS V BARCELONA

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