Well, not many teams get the honor of defending their Champions League crown. For us it is our first chance to do what no other club has done before.
We kick start our Champions League campaign against the Italian champions Juventus. The same Juventus that we knocked out in 2009 thanks to Drogba. Juventus make their re-entry in the Champions League after a 3 season gap, coming in from an impressive last season where they went unbeaten and lost just 1 game in the entire campaign, that was to Napoli in the cup. Chelsea on the other hand come back in the cup as the defending champions after that historic night in Munich.
When Robbie stepped up to replace Villas Boas last season, the aim was simple. Champions League Football. The rest is history. Since then Chelsea have come a long way. Di Matteo promoted from an interim manager, a summer that saw so many ins and outs.
How life has changed for us since that penalty shootout win against Bayern. The man that scored the all important header and the final kick of that game has now gone to China for a new experience. Our very own Jose “Unibrow” Bosingwa has joined our London rivals QPR and Salomon Kalou is off to Lille. How do we replace them? Well, our marquee signing from Lille Eden Hazard, Azpilicueta from Marseille to replace Bosingwa and of course Fernando Torres leading the attack now.
But all is still not well in the Chelsea camp. Despite leading the Premier League table after 3 wins and a draw, this new look Chelsea side has still not been that impressive. Chelsea’s last European outing did not end up well when they were brought back to Earth by Europa cup winners Atletico Madrid. The match which many termed as just a friendly highlighted the key issue Di Matteo faces- Defensive organisation or free flowing football.
After a rather disappointing display in the weekend against QPR, Di Matteo will hope his team can bounce back. Expect Di Matteo to go with a similar 4-2-3-1 formation with the only change being Mata in for Bertrand. Chelsea during the course of the game might have a tactical twist of a 4-3-3 similar to what they did against QPR with Ramires joining the center.
Juventus enter this game as the Italian champions boasting an unbeaten run in the Serie A for more than a year now. This game for every Juventine will be significant as the club comes back into the UEFA Champions League after a 4 season gap. Although Juventus fans won’t consider themselves favourites to win this game but the fans will be hoping to see how well their squad is ready to face the elites of Europe again. Juventus will have 12 players making their debut in the Champions League.
Having lost their talisman and club legend Del Piero to Sydney FC, Juventus are still no short of firepower in front of the goal with the likes of Vucinic, Giovinco and Bendtner good enough to beat any defense on their day. Cont’s men will be hoping that his midfield trio of Marchisio-Vidal-Pirlo lives up to all the hype that has been created of them and Chelsea who have been criticized lately of their lack of CM presence in the game could have a hard time dealing with the trio.
Juventus will most probably start with their 3-5-2 formation with Buffon on goal supported by the Italian trio of Chiellini,Bonucci and Barzagli. Giovinco will most probably replace Matri as the second striker after being rested in the weekend win over Genoa. Conte will hope that his philosophy of “Pressing and Possesion” football could work the trick at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea expected lineup and team news:
Chelsea will go into this with captain John Terry being the only major concern, he faces a race against time. Chelsea should welcome back Juan Mata who was handed a leave after his hectic schedule this year. Chelsea have Marko Marin back in the list of fit players but the German might have to settle for a place on the bench. New signings Victor Moses and Oscar could also make their Champions League debuts.
Juventus expected lineup and team news:
Conte should welcome back Giovinco in the starting XI after he was rested against Genoa. No other changes in the XI are expected but seeing this as the first game of the CL and an away game we might see a change in formation.
Key Battle: Lampard vs Pirlo
The games deciding point could be decided by the 2 men in the picture above. With a total of 199 European games between the 2 talisman’s and 3 Champions League crowns the 2 legendary figures will battle it out in the heart of the midfield. Lampard has often been criticized this season by many labelling him not fit enough to play in the pivot, Pirlo on the other hand has been a massive force over the past few seasons and in the EURO’s as well.
Lampard has often been criticized playing the regista role alongside Mikel and though Chelsea fans might argue that he scores a lot of goals and is capable of producing magic on the field, Lampard might not be the ideal man to play that role. A very good example was against Atletico Madrid where Falcao and co. wasted no time during the counter attacks.
Pirlo on the other hand will play in his natural position dictating the play of the game. Pirlo’s great vision and his ability to pass and dictate the tempo of the game is amazing. Added bonus is his tacking. Hence the advantage of playing in your favored position which currently Lampard cannot.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Juventus
#Shikharr Chandra (@ShikharrC)