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Juventus forced to shuffle defence for visit to Porto

Juventus will have to juggle their defence when they visit Porto in the Champions League on Wednesday in a round-of-16 first leg that will take Cristiano Ronaldo back to his native country.

Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo told an online press conference on Tuesday that central defender Leonardo Bonucci and Argentine midfielder Paulo Dybala are out of the game but Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey will return to the squad.

“Ramsey is available, Dybala is not ready and Bonucci is out,” Pirlo said.

Juventus had already announced that Colombian wing-back Juan Cuadrado would miss the game after suffering a thigh injury.  

Dybala, out since mid-January with a knee problem, has resumed training but “is not ready to play”, Pirlo said .

“We’ve missed Dybala’s goals a bit and we haven’t had him available often, we hope he can find continuity and he will be like a new signing,” Pirlo said.   

The coach said Bonucci was “already not right” last week. He has had “another small physical problem” and is “not available”.

Both Dybala and Bonucci will make the trip to Portugal “because they all want to be close to the team,” said Pirlo. 

Even without Bonucci, Juventus can choose between veteran club captain Giorgio Chiellini, 21-year-old Matthijs de Ligt and 22-year-old Merih Demiral at centre-back.

Chiellini said he was confident they would cope.

“All four us are centre-backs of a high standard,” he said.  

“The team wins, we alternate, and there is a great feeling among us.” 

At 36 and out of contract in June, Chiellini said he was not thinking “in the long term”.

‘Adrenaline’

“I only think on a daily basis, and I touch wood, with a bit of superstition,” said Chiellini, who has played 72 Champions League matches with Juventus and won nine Italian league titles since joining the club in 2005. 

“Every time I’ve thought long-term, I’ve been wrong. I live the daily routine with enthusiasm, trying to give my all and then we’ll see.”

Pirlo praised Wednesday’s opponents, pointing out Porto did not concede in their final five group games.

“Porto is a compact team, who are very good at defending,” he said. “It will take patience in not forcing the play and not allowing counter-attacks.”

At his press conference in Portugal, Porto coach Sergio Conceicao used similar language about Juventus.

“They are a very solid and consistent team, where the players know each other well,” he said.

“There is a very proper mentality within that team and that club.

“They will face an FC Porto team with its own DNA. With a winning mentality regardless of the opponent we face.”

The game will take Juventus star Ronaldo back to his home country for the first time in the Turin club’s colours.

“Ronaldo is coming back home and he will be even more motivated to score,” said Pirlo. 

“And there is also the return of that adrenaline, the adrenaline of the knock-out rounds, where he has always shown his worth. He’s going to want to show once again who Cristiano Ronaldo is.”

Conceicao said Porto could handle Ronaldo.

“A team is a team, it’s not an individual sport,” he said. 

“We know that at any moment Cristiano can decide a match, that’s why he’s considered the best player in the world. We have to be a solid team.”

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