Chelsea’s passage to the next round of the Champions League is by no means certain, making tonight’s clash with Juve a potentially very tricky encounter. Chelsea are currently second with 7 points (tied with 1st Shakhtar) whilst Juve sit in third on 6 points, making this a very open group. With a relatively easy match at home against Nordsjaelland on the final day, Chelsea will view this game with Juve as a ‘must not lose.’
Chelsea will likely be in their usual 4-2-3-1 despite poor performances of late. Juve will also line-up in their typical variation of a 3-5-2. Personnel is obviously liable to change; Chelsea could opt for Luiz, despite him being in poor form of late and could also drop Torres out for Sturridge. Juve on the other hand also have a number of options but as stated this will be the likely formations.
Battle out wide
With Juve playing with five across the midfield they have the potential to overload Chelsea in wide areas. I’ve spoken before about how weak Chelsea can be at defending the flanks during transitions, mainly due to Hazard and Mata moving into central areas. Juventus’ wingbacks can thus attack Chelsea’s full-backs directly with Quagliarella and Giovinco having the ability to peel off into the channels.
This is Giovinco’s heat map from Juve’s last Champions League match. He clearly has the ability to peel off and get into support areas out wide, whilst his strike partner will take up more orthodox attacking positions to try and hurt Chelsea. Giovinco will arguably drop off a bit making Juventus’ formation a bit of a 3-5-1-1 meaning that Chelsea’s midfield will have a huge job on to protect their full-backs and dominate possession. With this in mind it may be an idea to play more of a 4-3-3, so that Chelsea can defend their full-backs but also hurt Juventus in behind, who will be short at the back in wide areas in transitions. A 4-3-3 could make it two against one on the flanks in Chelsea’s favour.
The influence of play-makers
Both sides will look to hold onto the ball and dictate the play which will go through their play-makers, Pirlo for Juve and Hazard/Mata/Oscar for Chelsea. Resultantly we might see a similar battle between Pirlo and Oscar that took place in the first leg. Oscar was Chelsea’s standout player, scoring two wonderful goals as well as sitting on Pirlo in an attempt to nullify his creative influence on Juve. This worked well until Chelsea were pegged back, but could be something Chelsea try on Tuesday, making their formation less of a 4-2-3-1 and more of a sort of 4-2-1-2-1, with Oscar in between Hazard/Mata and Ramires/Mikel. As noted this could be further cause for Chelsea to adopt a 4-3-3, so that they can match up with Juve in the central areas. Mikel could sit deep with Ramires and possibly Oscar ahead of him in a more reserved role. This is of course an option, but I doubt RDM will opt for it. Whichever play-maker dominates will likely provide the outcome of this tie.
This will be a very tricky away game for Chelsea. They have not travelled particularly well in Europe of late and would certainly take a point. Juventus simply must win this game or they will stand nearly no chance of reaching the next round. A draw would suit Chelsea perfectively ahead of an easy final game to a side that are bottom of the group.
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