Champions League: Why Chelsea vs. Juventus Could Be a Classic
European champions, Chelsea Football Club; yes, it really did happen.
The Blues have since enforced widespread change with many players coming and going. An even more significant move was Roberto Di Matteo being installed as the permanent manager at Stamford Bridge.
Juventus have also had a managerial change, under more controversial circumstances. Antonio Conte was embroiled in the Calcioscommesse scandal and has been banned for 10 months, although an appeal is underway.
Instead, Massimo Carrera, promoted from his role as first team coach, will represent the Old Lady on the bench in their triumphant return to Champions League football. It's been almost three years since their last match, a devastating 4-1 home defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich, which eliminated Juve at the group stage.
By drawing the reigning champions in the group phase, Juve have set up a couple of mouthwatering matches with their opponents from West London.
Clash of Styles
Chelsea and Juventus use two very different formations, an ingredient for a fascinating tactical duel.
The Bianconeri utilise the 3-5-2, a formation which has proved so successful in the past 18 months, helping deliver their first scudetto since being relegated in the aftermath of the Calciopoli scandal in 2006.
Chelsea have settled upon a 4-2-3-1 formation under Roberto Di Matteo and the significant space between the "2" and the "3" will make for a free-flowing spectacle due to Juve's Sebastian Giovinco, Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal, who all relish playing between the lines.
In all likelihood, the Blues can find some joy in advanced wide areas, as Juve's back three tend to position itself close to the halfway line. Lofted through balls to the likes of Eden Hazard, Victor Moses or Daniel Sturridge, who all possess devastating pace, could prove especially effective.
Juve will hope to stifle the Blues by claiming the majority of possession, especially when they will outnumber the Blues in midfield. Andrea Pirlo will be particularly pivotal in setting the tempo of the match and ensuring Juve do not get hurt in transition if an end-to-end style of match develops.
Likely Mistakes from Two Inexperienced Managers at This Level
Massimo Carrera had never managed at first team level, but when Antonio Conte and his assistant Angelo Alessio were banned for their part in the Calcioscommesse scandal, Juve decided to support their managerial staff.
The decision was taken to install the next most prominent member of Conte's coaching staff as the caretaker manager, while the club appealed the bans, which meant Carrera would be summoned.
Conte is still able to train the squad during the week, but he is banished from being with the players during the matches, sitting in the stands and affecting the match. In-game adjustments could be somewhat problematic in the biggest moments for Juve then, with Carrera unable to call upon a wealth of experience to guide him.
This will be something that Chelsea can exploit, but there will be no shortage of holes for Juve to tactically counter either, as Roberto Di Matteo is relatively inexperienced too.
Di Matteo may have guided the Blues to Champions League glory, managing Chelsea in just six European matches, but they will not be especially useful in this season's campaign due to the side's complete transformation in style.
One of the tasks that Di Matteo must adhere to, if he is to satisfy Roman Abramovich, is replicating the results he achieved, but do so in a more entertaining fashion. The experience from last season will therefore not prove to be especially useful when the Blues are expected to conjure up Barcelona-esque football in a matter of months.
Concerns for Chelsea have already manifested after Atletico Madrid swept them aside in the Europe Super Cup, something that Juve will be all too aware of.
Combination of Experience and Exciting Potential in Both Sides
Chelsea heavily invested in new talent this summer and sold some of their older players to radically change the complexion of the side moving forward.
There is still an enormous amount of experience in the side though, with Petr Cech, Ashley Cole, John Terry, Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel racking up 1971 appearances for the Blues in their careers, which will help the new players to adjust quickly to their new surroundings.
The new recruits—Eden Hazard, Victor Moses, Cesar Azpilicueta, Marko Marin and Oscar—have ensured the average age of the side has been significantly lowered, meaning the Blues are better prepared to adopt their newfound style. Central to the change is a high tempo that demands the players possess high athleticism and pace, something which the youth tend to possess more than the seasoned veterans.
Juventus also contain several greats of the modern game—Lucio, Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon possess 318 international caps alone—but like Chelsea have mixture of youth and dynamism to complement these experienced professionals, which has ultimately blessed Juve with a formidable squad.
Kwadwo Asamoah, Arturo Vidal and Stephan Lichtsteiner all represent the modern footballer, with terrific engines and capable of covering enormous distances. Moreover there is an ever more confident Leonardo Bonucci, an excellent ball-playing defender, and Sebastian Giovinco, who is capable of eluding the best defenders around with his clever movement between the lines.
In essence, Juve contain such a plethora of options that they will not be intimidated by the obstacle of the European champions, knowing they can hurt the Blues in a multitude of ways.
With world-class talent in every department, these teams are bound to throw up numerous one-on-one battles all over the pitch, which will be just a component of an inevitably engrossing encounter.