On Tuesday, Juventus will kick off their most important game of the season so far: at home against Chelsea, with a ticket for the next round of the UEFA Champions League at stake.
Analysts will talk about the form of Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo's influence in midfield and the ability of the strikers to put away chances for the Bianconeri as the keys to this game. But no player will be counted on more than Arturo Vidal.
Vidal has had a fairly quiet season, only making headlines when he stated his allegiance to the club and when he scored at Stanford Bridge. But don't be fooled by the lack of media attention: Vidal is one of the main reasons Juve are currently four points clear of Inter in the Italian league. And it's not just because he's scoring.
With five goals in the Serie A and two more in the Champions League, Vidal presents a major scoring threat for a team that lacks a clinical forward. He always seems to be in the right spot at the right time and never hesitates in front of goal. He doesn't just score goals; he scores when the team needs it the most.
The game against Chelsea was a perfect example: Juventus had just gone down 2-0, and Vidal seemed to be walking around hurt. But as soon as he got the ball, he didn't hesitate. He turned around, scored the goal that put his team back in the game and limped back to his side of the field.
The goal wasn't just a fine display of Vidal's skills, but a testament to what the Chilean international brings to this team. He's a fierce competitor that will put his team and the result of the game ahead of his own health if he has to.
But Vidal's defensive prowess is what separates him from other great midfielders. He's masterful at attacking the ball handler before the latter has a chance to take full control of the ball and look around him.
He plays with a relentless energy and looks like a human vacuum cleaner on the pitch. His average of 5.3 tackles per game in the Champions League is the second best mark amongst all players.
Vidal will play with the same energy from the very first minute of the game until the last, and he'll be a nightmare to opposing midfielders every time they touch the ball.
Most importantly, he's the Bianconeri's best defender against the counter. And this is why he's so important to the team, and will make the difference against Chelsea.
Juve's back three (Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci) make up one of the best defensive lines in all of football, but they are not the fastest players. They play hard-nosed football and will use their physical stature and positioning to defend against opposing players, but they can be susceptible to fast counter attacks and will sometimes struggles against nimble players.
The same applies to Pirlo. The midfield maestro is at his best with the ball at his feet, orchestrating the attack of his team. He plays smart defense and will use his body and experience to steal the ball away. But the Ballon d'Or-nominee was never particularly fast, and the years have taken their toll.
Pirlo will lose possession two or three times per game in a crucial position: in his own half with the rest of the team moving forward. It's a side-effect of the way he plays, and Juve have learned to live with it because they have a young, energetic midfielder with the ability to react fast and take over Pirlo's position in front of the defense playing right next to him.
That player is Vidal.
Pirlo doesn't make many mistakes, but when he does, Vidal is there to clean them up. His presence takes some pressure of the shoulders of Pirlo, as Vidal has bailed him out on numerous occasions. Pirlo trusts Vidal to be there when his old legs can't make the transition from offense to defense that fast, and he's never let the regista down.
Not only does he cover for Pirlo, he also gives him a passing outlet when the players on the wing are occupied. Add Claudio Marchisio (that other Duracell Bunny in midfield) to the mix and you end up with one of the most dynamic midfield triangles in all of football.
Against Chelsea and their dynamic trio of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar, his tackling skills and energy in midfield will be sorely needed. All three are quick, nimble players that present matchup problems for Juve's static back line and will make life hard on Andrea Pirlo as soon as he has possession of the ball.
With the team's strike force lack of consistency and Claudio Marchisio struggling with form, fans will be looking for Vidal to work his magic and provide Juventus with goals. But it's his defensive prowess that will ultimately decide whether the Bianconeri will still be playing in the Champions League in 2013.
He'll be called upon to do what he does best: disrupt anything the current European champions try on Juve's half of the field and assist Pirlo in orchestrating the Bianconeri's offense.
And even though he might not make the news for that, it's far more important to this team than scoring the occasional goal.
Not that anyone would mind if he also did that on Tuesday. And with his remarkable skill set, it wouldn't even come as a surprise.
All statistics used courtesy of: WhoScored.com
For a game preview, build-up and live commentary, check out: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1414095-uefa-champions-league-juventus-vs-chelsea-build-up-and-live-commentary