Cristiano Ronaldo out of Juventus' Serie A clash with Atalanta because 'he has played too many games'
Portuguese attacker out of crucial trip to Atalanta with manager Pirlo blaming fatigue, while title-chasing Inter face Napoli
Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo will miss his side's crucial trip to Atalanta on Sunday due to a thigh injury, with manager Andrea Pirlo insisting the setback comes from playing too many matches.
Juve are 12 points behind leaders Inter Milan with eight games left, and with a 10th successive Scudetto seemingly out of reach they will be aiming to hold on to a top-four spot in the race for the Champions League qualification places.
The third-placed champions travel to Atalanta in fourth just one point ahead of Gian Piero Gasperini's side and three clear of fifth-placed Napoli, with the clash now seemingly more difficult given they are missing Serie A's top goalscorer.
"There is a big absence and it is Cristiano," Pirlo said. "He has not been able to recover from a thigh problem. We decided to let him rest and try to recover for Wednesday's match [against Parma].
"Speaking with his coach, with him and with the doctor, it was too risky to bring him to push. He has played too many matches.
"Cristiano has always been in excellent condition. Unfortunately, the three matches in the national team have led to an accumulation of fatigue which is a problem for everyone.
"Cristiano also told me that in the national team he should only have played two games, but then that goal not given against Serbia led him to play the third as well."
And Pirlo insisted it is not just Juve who are struggling with the problem. "An accumulation of everything, travel and games, can lead to fatigue. [Manchester City manager Pep] Guardiola also said it, there have been too many matches and the squads are too tight and these are the consequences," he added.
"We also saw it in the Champions League, with [Bayern Munich's Robert] Lewandowski who was unable to play the Champions League quarter-finals League due to an injury picked up in the national team."
Inter travel to Naples on Sunday, closing in on a first league title in 11 years and looking to make it 12 straight league wins.
But Inter manager Antonio Conte is taking nothing for granted up against an in-form Napoli who are chasing a top-four finish.
"We are not listening to talk that the Scudetto is done," Conte said. "We know our sacrifices. We must remain humble, which also applies to our fans.
"Napoli have one of the strongest squads in Serie A. At the beginning of the season, I put them among the candidates for the title.
"They have everything to fight for, and then there's Gennaro Gattuso, who is a very good coach."
One battle Conte is looking forward to in particular is seeing his top goalscorer Romelu Lukaku up against imposing Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly, someone Conte has long been an admirer of.
"We are talking about one of the three strongest defenders in the world. It is no coincidence that when I was at Chelsea I wanted to bring him to London," Conte added.
"On the other hand, Romelu has grown a lot, so it will be interesting to see these two quality players."
Updated: April 17, 2021 08:55 PM