While every Champions League game is important—especially with the group stage winding to a close—few games will be more important than the clash between Juventus and Chelsea on Tuesday.
The winner is all but guaranteed to move on to the next round. The loser will likely need help to advance. And if they tie, well, things could get interesting.
Here's what we know: Shakhtar Donetsk and Chelsea currently sit atop the group with seven points, while Juventus is in third on six points (FC Nordsjaelland has been eliminated).
Let's say Shakhtar Donetsk wins. That would mean a Chelsea win would eliminate Juventus. Meanwhile, a Juventus win would put Chelsea in serious trouble since Juventus and Shakhtar could simply tie and still keep the Blues out of the quarterfinals (depending on goal differential).
And if the two teams tied, Juventus would need to either win to advance or tie and have Chelsea lose. Chelsea would move on automatically with a win against Nordsjaelland, and could move on with a tie if Juventus failed to win against Shakhtar Donetsk.
Phew. Take a deep breath, everyone. Got all of that?
Obviously, if Shakhtar either loses or ties, both Chelsea and Juventus will still be in a solid position to advance. Either team would control its own destiny in that event.
Of course, since Shakhtar plays at the same time as Chelsea and Juventus, the two sides will each be looking to lay it on the line to win. Neither side will want to put their fate in the result of the other game in two weeks.
Trailing the top two teams by a point, Juventus is in slightly dire straits since they could be eliminated with a loss on Tuesday. But they'll also have the home crowd behind them and the confidence that they tied Chelsea 2-2 at Stamford Bridge after trailing by two goals.
I wouldn't be surprised if Chelsea came out buzzing early, hoping to take an early lead and neutralize the Italian crowd. But if they can't crack Juventus in the first 15 minutes or so, I would expect them to settle into a more cautious, defensive-minded approach and look to earn a point in the tie.
Chelsea would obviously love a win, but earning a tie would allow the Blues to simply focus on beating Nordsjaelland and advancing to the quarterfinals.
It doesn't get much better than a match with huge stakes that pits players like Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo against Eden Hazard and Juan Mata.
Honestly, is there anything better than the Champions League?
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