Pensioners vs. Old Lady
A win was the only acceptable option for Chelsea on the day, so they could secure a Champions League spot and maybe leapfrog Juventus in the group stage standings with anything more than a one-goal victory.
The previous game against Juventus was the last loss in the Thomas Tuchel era, almost two months ago at this point. To go for the reversal, the same strong midfield and defense from the 3-0 weekend win at Leicester was selected, combined with front three of Callum Hudson-Odoi and Hakim Ziyech flanking a centrally playing Christian Pulisic to finish our setup.
In past meetings, these two teams have basically been dominant while playing on their home soil, each side winning twice, with a home and away draw for each. That said, our form has only improved since the last meeting while Juventus still lag in eighth place, eleven points off Napoli and AC Milan in Serie A.
This game was anything but a level contest. Chelsea were incredibly dominant on the ball and were playing with the confidence necessary to hand Juventus their worst Champions League loss in the club’s history. Veteran defender Leonardo Bonucci himself said after the game that we gave them too many problems, and they were unable to cope with the threats coming from all angles — as shown by our 21 attempts at goal. Our average positions have eight of our outfield players entrenched in their half, while only Frederico Chiesa’s was in ours.
In just the first two minutes of the match we had a great opportunity on goal, and it should be noted that there were six players inside of the Juventus box on the play. It demonstrates the attacking intent of Chelsea on the day and once again we can see how important our wing-backs are in creating imbalances in the opposition area.
With the team’s form and our high tempo and press when out of possession, as well as the sustained possession in Juve’s final third, the breakthrough goal was only going to take a matter of time.
During either spell in charge of Juventus, Massimiliano Allegri has played with a stingy defense. Chelsea were ready to test their resolve and, perhaps unsurprisingly, got their goal from a corner.
Set piece goals have been a constant under Thomas Tuchel this season. After Antonio Rüdiger does well to get onto the first ball — he was first to either hit or challenge for almost every set piece delivery taken in the first half —, Trevoh Chalobah smashed home into the roof of the net and we had our deserved lead.
Juventus’ best chance of the game came in the 28th minute by former Blue, Álvaro Morata. The real fault of this falls on Chalobah whose blind clearance into the center of the pitch fell to Manuel Locatelli, who had both space and time. The pass he picks out is nice and Morata is through on goal with Édouard Mendy beaten for once.
And yet, this Chelsea team does not know the meaning of the word concede. Thiago Silva, the youngest 37-year-old ever, showed both pace and composure in clearing away the chipped attempt.
A first half forced the entrance of Ruben Loftus-Cheek in place of an apparently injured N’Golo Kanté. That was the first of bad injury news on the night, but there was no true change in the style of play. Loftus-Cheek was not drifting out wide right as much as Kanté had done, but he does very well in the position and provides nearly the same energy level.
Chelsea were already bossing the midfield play. Any threats were quickly thwarted and once in possession, the Blues recycled possession with their defense and quickly built another attack. The supply to Morata was nearly non-existent, and anything headed towards him was snuffed out by an expertly marshalled Chelsea backline.
Given the numbers of Chelsea players pushing forward and getting into the Juventus box, combined with possession held in the final third, more goals were bound to come. The second and third goals came just moments apart after Juve’s backline decided that Reece James, arguably the most in-form player on the planet at the moment, did not need to be marked.
The first was made after a cross from Ben Chilwell was attempted to be headed clear by Matthijs de Ligt. It fell to James’ chest, which he cushioned and then half-volleyed into the corner of the goal with power.
The third goal was not scored by James, but he was the player who broke the backline and brought the ball into the Juventus penalty area after a deft Cruyff turn from a lofted ball from Rüdiger.
The passing and movement that followed was sublime, and the goal was the reward for such silky football. Hudson-Odoi was teed up for a relatively easy finish by Loftus-Cheek, who glided past four defenders and Pulisic in the process.
After such a fantastic individual performance on the day, it was entirely deserved for Hudson-Odoi. His drive and progressive dribbling has been extremely effective, and he has to be earning a starting spot in his favored position.
The final goal, well into stoppage time, was made after all of our substitutions had been used. Once again, despite changing the players on the pitch, the Chelsea pressure and dominance did not drop off. It is a testament to how well instructed each player is in whatever role they are assigned.
After a clearance from a corner, James does well to win the ball back, and spray a peach of a crossfield ball to Ziyech. With Juventus’ backline once again spread on the width of the pitch and not fully reorganized, space inside the box opened up for both Rüdiger, who had not yet retreated from the corner, and Timo Werner. While the former slides and misses Ziyech’s cross, Werner is there to finish it off.
Words cannot describe the level and intensity of our game right now. What words can say is that Thomas Tuchel deserves even more praise than what he is currently receiving.
The first agendum was to fix a porous defense, which he has done tremendously well with virtually the same squad that Frank Lampard had at his disposal. In fact, especially if you eliminate the anomaly of the five given up against West Bromwich last season, we have only conceded 19 goals in 50 games. In that span we have played Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Juventus and Liverpool all twice, and Manchester City four times.
New Record! #Tuchel becomes the manager who has led the English team to concede the least goals in the first 50 games
⭕️Only 24 goals conceded in 50 games
⭕️31 clean sheets
⭕️32 wins, 11 draws and 7 losses#Chelsea stats➡️https://t.co/GeN9YaceWA#ChelseaJuventus #CheJuv #UCL pic.twitter.com/PDVZZGZPHa
There is something about four to nil victories in the Champions League that apparently means that, while the victory is lovely, it is bittersweet due to injuries.
Kante’s injury was perhaps avoidable, as he had just come back from injury and played the full 90 against Leicester on the weekend — some rest would have been a better option than to start.
The injury to Chilwell is both much more concerning and serious. The left back has been in top form and losing him for the remainder of the calendar year or longer will be a big setback.
There are many options to resort to, including some from the academy or out on loan, and it may just be time for someone to step up and fill the immensely big shoes that Chilwell had been wearing. It will be interesting to see what lineup is fielded for the United game on the weekend.
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