Juventus have been given a major blow after defender Giorgio Chiellini is set for a long time on sidelines after rupturing his cruciate ligament. The 35-year-old remains as one of the crucial members of the team even if Mauricio Sarri has been backed with several new players. His experience and quality have been crucial to the successes achieved by Juve over the years. However, he may now miss the entirety of the season with this injury.

Chiellini picked up the injury during training. He will undergo surgery on the right knee and he is not expected to return to training for several months. A major concern for Juve is the age of the player, as the recovery may take longer than expected.

The absence of the player is a major problem for the club, who are seeking a record ninth consecutive title. The team are also looking to end the drought in the Champions League with no success in this competition since 1995-96.

Chiellini made the switch to Juve in the 2005-06 season, and he has been able to play a starring role in the eight successive title wins. Last season, he made 25 starts for the team in the league. The defender did feature in Sarri’s first game, which ended in a 1-0 victory over Parma. Chiellini came up with the only goal of the game.

Interestingly, Sarri opted to continue with the same central defensive pairing of Chiellini and Bonucci for the game against Parma. This meant that summer signing Matthijs de Ligt was unable to make his first start for his new team. The young defender has just completed the switch from Ajax for a whopping €75 million. Despite the transfer fee and the promise shown by the youngster, Sarri decided to go with the defensive line-up that has been instrumental in Juve’s success over the last decade.

However, the injury will be good news for De Ligt, who can hope to establish himself in the starting line-up without the competition from the old guards. Sarri appears to be interested in introducing the player in a phased manner to the Italian league. Now, the introduction will have to be immediate. De Ligt’s first start for the club may not be an easy one with the defending champions taking on Napoli this weekend. Napoli have finished as the runner-up in the Serie A over the last two seasons. Despite Inter’s growing threat, Carlo Ancelotti’s team remain as the major concern for Juve.

De Ligt has expressed his surprise at not being included in the starting line-up for the opening weekend. Speaking to Goal.com, he said:

“Of course, I would have preferred to play.

“I couldn’t read this based on the training sessions, in that sense I didn’t see this coming, but obviously I respect the decision of the coach.

“I’m also realistic, I’m still getting used to being here in Italy. The duo that played today, Chiellini and Bonucci, were seen as the best defensive pairing in the world.”

At just 20-year-old, De Ligt has a fraction of the experience possessed by Chiellini. However, he has shown a lot of promise with Ajax and his leadership skills lead to the youngster captaining that team that almost reached the Champions League final last season.

The injury to the veteran should also provide opportunities for Merih Demiral, who is another one of the off-season signings made by the club. The 21-year-old made the switch from Sassuolo.