Serie A champions and league leaders Juventus could rue an injury to midfielder Andrea Pirlo.
The veteran has been as evergreen as ever this term, and scored the winner as the Old Lady beat Atalanta at the weekend to move them nine points clear of second-place Roma.
Yet he is now expected to miss the next three weeks with a muscle strain, which could have huge implications on Massimiliano Allegri’s bid to win all trophies available to him in his maiden season at the helm.
Despite his best days being behind him, Pirlo remains a stunning performer brimming with class and composure that makes him one of the first names on Allegri’s teamsheet. The 35-year-old is widely regarded as one of Italy’s finest midfielders of all time, having enjoyed a fine career in Serie A that has also seen him don the jerseys of both AC and Inter Milan.
Allegri made the mistake of allowing him to leave Milan whilst the pair were at loggerheads in 2011, a move that came back to haunt him when Pirlo led his new employers to the Scudetto in Antonio Conte’s first season at the club.
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His panenka penalty during Italy’s win over in England at Euro 2012 was an indicator of his obvious and unnerving ability, and even with the twilight years of his career now upon him he remains an outstanding performer for both club and country.
Juventus possess one of the strongest squads in Europe, with the burden now falling on the shoulders of the likes of Carlos Tevez, Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal to shine in the Italian’s absence.
Tevez in particular has been in breathtaking form, and was once again on the scoresheet as they edged Jurgen Klopp’s rejuvenated Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie on Tuesday evening.
They face a crunch three weeks ahead of them, with Roma on Sunday and Dortmund in the return leg in three weeks’ time representing two of their toughest games of the season.
Garcia’s men have been on a slide ever since December, but will want to up the ante in front of an expectant Stadio Olympico with Napoli hot on their heels in the hunt for the runners-up spot.
There is also the matter of Sassuolo to contend with, who will be wanting to put yet more ground between themselves and the chasing pack in the battle to stave off relegation. Pirlo’s experience will be sorely missed, but the Old Lady fans will be hoping other players step up to ensure their persistent pursuit of domestic domination continue.