Leonardo Bonucci Returns to Juventus Training Ahead of Atletico Madrid Clash

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistFebruary 12, 2019

Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo, right, talks with his teammate Leonardo Bonucci as they warm up prior to the start of the Serie A soccer match between Lazio and Juventus at the Olympic stadium, in Rome, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Gregorio Borgia/Associated Press

Juventus have announced star defender Leonardo Bonucci has returned to training, and he could be fit in time for his side's UEFA Champions League round-of-16 first leg against Atletico Madrid on February 20.

As the team's official Twitter account shared, the Italy international was a full participant in training Tuesday:

According to AS, he suffered a sprained ankle in the fixture against Lazio that led to fears he could miss out on the first leg of the tie against the Rojiblancos. It now seems he'll be fit to face the Spaniards, however.

Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t Italian Football TV) previously reported both he and Giorgio Chiellini are expected to be fit in time for the match:

Chiellini hasn't played since the 3-0 loss against Atalanta late in January, when he lasted just 27 minutes. All three goals conceded came after he was substituted.

Without their two veteran stars, the Bianconeri defence struggled in Bergamo and against Parma in the following match, conceding another three goals. Daniele Rugani and Martin Caceres―who only signed for the club in January―made far too many errors against Parma, although they improved in the 3-0 win over Sassuolo.

The two would be favoured to start against Atletico should 31-year-old Bonucci and 34-year-old Chiellini miss out, presenting a steep drop in quality. The duo has been Italy's top defensive pairing for years at club and national-team level.

Bonucci spent last year with AC Milan before returning to Turin in the summer, and while he has had his fair share of struggles, he's performed well on the biggest stage.

He and Chiellini were so dominant against Manchester United at Old Trafford in this season's Champions League group stages it drew some remarkable praise from then-United manager Jose Mourinho:

In Diego Costa and Antoine Griezmann, Atletico have some tremendous attacking talent, so the Bianconeri defence will have to be at its best. The first fixture will be played in the Spanish capital.

Juventus will take on Frosinone in Serie A on Friday before the Atletico clash. Bonucci—as well as several other key players—is not expected to feature in that match.

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