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Sarri Denies Rift With Ronaldo

Juventus manager Maurizio Sarri has insisted there was ‘no problem’ with Cristiano Ronaldo after the forward was substituted for the second game in a row and walked straight down the tunnel, clearly unhappy at the decision.

Ronaldo was taken off in the 55th minute, his earliest substitution since he joined Juve at the start of last season and the first time he has been replaced twice in succession.

Sarri’s side eventually won the game courtesy of Ronaldo’s replacement, Paulo Dybala, who struck in the 77th minute.

Despite producing a lacklustre display, Ronaldo gave Sarri a dirty look, muttered something under his breath and walked straight down the tunnel.

Afterwards, though, Sarri insisted he understood why the Portuguese forward was annoyed and explained that an injury was behind the decision to take him off.

‘We must thank Ronaldo, because he made a sacrifice to be there at all tonight in a difficult situation,’ Sarri told Sky Sport Italia.

‘He did everything possible to play, but I saw he was not well and thought it best to take him off.

‘It’s only natural a player is going to be irritated to leave the pitch, especially when he worked so hard to be there.

‘Over the last month, he has had this little knee problem, he had a knock in training and it hurt the collateral ligament.

‘When he trains at high intensity or plays, it unbalances him, so he ends up overcompensating and it damages the calf and thigh muscles.

‘It is affecting his performances and he is not at his best at the moment.

‘All players who are trying to give their best will have at least five minutes of being annoyed when they are substituted, but a coach would in general be much more worried if he didn’t seem upset.’

Ronaldo also looked unhappy after being taken off during Wednesday’s Champions League match at Lokomotiv Moscow, although Sarri said it was to avoid risking injury as the 34-year-old had complained of knee and thigh problems.

Gazzetta dello Sport said Ronaldo left the stadium before the final whistle on Sunday evening.

Juventus, chasing a ninth straight Serie A title and unbeaten in all competitions under Sarri, who took over before the season started, moved to 32 points, a point ahead of Inter Milan who went top after a 2-1 home win over Verona on Saturday.