Juventus vs. Chelsea: Preview and Prediction
Roberto Di Matteo has rotated the squad in recent weeks, with an eye on this crucial Champions League match. Tuesday's result will be critical as to whether those changes—to a Blues side that was in sensational form at the time—will have been worth it.
Resting Oscar, Ramires and Juan Mata, as well as not risking Ashley Cole against West Bromwich Albion cost them three points and deepened the hole Chelsea have dug themselves in recent weeks.
Juventus have no such worries, despite a frustrating 0-0 draw against an extremely negative Lazio at the weekend. A four point cushion has allowed the Bianconeri to relax somewhat and certainly go for the jugular against Chelsea, even if it would be detrimental to Sunday's match against Milan.
Both sides fully expect Shakhtar to defeat Group E's whipping boys, Nordsjaelland, which would move the Ukrainians onto 10 points. Chelsea currently have seven points, while the Old Lady are a point back.
Defeat for Di Matteo's men would put the group out of their control, due to an inferior head-to-head against both Shakhtar and Juve. In fact, a half-arranged draw between the sides in the final match would put Chelsea out, no matter what the Blues manage to do at home to the Danish champions.
Juventus team news
The Bianconeri enter the game with an almost perfect bill of health, with Antonio Conte naming a 25-man squad. This included Mirko Vucinic, who having only returned from injury last week, picked up a bout of flu.
If the Montenegrin cannot pull through, Sebastian Giovinco and Fabio Quagliarella will likely line up in attack.
The only other contention for Conte would be the right-midfield spot. While Mauricio Isla has been superb since returning from a serious knee injury—starting the last three matches—Stephan Lichtsteiner could return to the starting lineup.
Probable lineup: Gianluigi Buffon; Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini; Stephan Lichtsteiner, Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal, Kwadwo Asamoah;Sebastian Giovinco, Fabio Quagliarella.
Chelsea team news
John Terry and Frank Lampard remain the only absentees through injury; although Cole should return, it's not a guarantee.
The main dilemma for Di Matteo is whether to continue with Azpilicueta at right-back, or to move Ivanovic back into this role to give the defence more strength and power.
I would imagine that the Serbian will move out to full-back due to the powerful threat of the Ghanaian Asamoah, who would probably overwhelm the Blues' Spanish full-back.
The other concern is whether to field a more defensive winger, such as Ryan Bertrand, which would mean leaving out one of the magical trio, probably Oscar, due to Mata's influence and Hazard's greater reputation.
Fernando Torres continues to struggle and should probably be left out of the starting lineup, but Daniel Sturridge is also frustrating, so I feel Di Matteo will begrudgingly maintain El Niño in his 11.
Probable lineup: Petr Cech, Cesar Azpilicueta, Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic, Ashley Cole; Ramires, Mikel Jon Obi; Eden Hazard, Juan Mata, Ryan Bertrand; Fernando Torres
With Juventus knowing that they have to win, I think it is a psychological advantage in their favor. When you combine the home advantage and a quite formidable midfield, the Bianconeri will control this match and edge it by two goals to one.
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