Five Talking Points - Juventus 3 Chelsea 0
Chelsea came into this tie with the not-so-impressive record of one win in their last eleven visits to Italy, without a win in the last four league games and with a realistic chance of becoming the first team in the history of the Champions League to be knocked out of the Group Stage while defending their crown. Speculation of a confidence issue would have been an understatement. Fortunately, they came in with their fate comfortably in their own hands. Unfortunately, they couldn’t do much about it.
Roberto Di Matteo started this tie without a focal point up front to support his holy trinity in midfield. Torres, whose inconsistency has been well proclaimed by supporters and media alike, was dropped to the bench while Sturridge, who has been the usual himself (sarcasm and pun intended), missed out due to injury. Relying heavily on counter-attacks, Chelsea’s attacking force or whatever little part of it that started the match, couldn’t get any spare change out of the commanding presence of Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli with Juve having 56% of aerial success. As I type on my keyboard, I can effortlessly recall numerous incidents of Hazard, Oscar and Mata opting not to go for aerial duels, not because they lacked intent or objective, just because they couldn’t. Terrible night for an undersized footballer, especially with a Chelsea shirt on.
Or 5-3-2 or 4-2-3-1 or 5-5-0 or whatever it was Di Matteo tried. The sight of Chelsea’s starting line-up gave a bewildering first impression with the role of Cesar Azpilicueta more unclear than Luiz Felipe Scholari’s English accent. Unsurprisingly, Juventus ran riot on the wings with Kwadwo Asamoah and Stephan Lichtsteiner having a field day. Safe to say, the Chelsea manager made too many changes to a team which just wasn’t flexible enough to accommodate them. John Terry‘s knee was severely missed.
Okay, given that Brazil has been the home to so many world-class defenders, this statement does come across as a bit naive. David Luiz‘s uncanny fondness towards getting too close to the attacking players and being caught out of position has been a nemesis for Chelsea this season. Last night wasn’t any exception either with Ashley Cole having to bail him out on numerous occasions. While he tries to compensate with his attacking abilities, he is all in all a defender who himself is a defensive liability. Had the Bianconeri forward line been a little less wasteful and had Petr Cech been a little less awesome in goal, Luiz and Chelsea were in for mortification.
Chelsea’s defence and attack weren’t exceptional (as I’ve already pointed out) but where the game really slipped out of their hands was in central midfield. Ramires did manage to conjure up a few chances with his marauding runs but John Obi Mikel struggled. The trio of Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal pinned the opposition down with their pressing off the ball. Pirlo, though not up to his usual towering standards was guilty of giving the ball away on a few occasions but was well complemented by Vidal, while Marchisio looks like the natural flag-bearer of Juventus’ midfield. 22 out of the 25 Juventus attempts on goal came from open play, saying enough about their midfield synchronisation.
Two wins out of the last eight in all competitions doesn’t give a very positive imprint of Roberto Di Matteo’s record lately. With their European qualification chances no more in their own hands, the road ahead seems a little daunting for a potential victim of Abramovich’s impatience and hunger for success.
Tough days lie ahead for the European Champions.