Juventus 3-0 Chelsea: Tactical Analysis of UEFA Champions League Thriller
The match carried prime billing, but it became clear within 15 minutes that the Blues would be travelling home with nothing. The tactical battle was an interesting one and Roberto Di Matteo's struggles against a three-man defence continued, while the Italian's own experiment with Eden Hazard ended in failure.
Here's a tactical breakdown of the match.
Juventus lined up in their typical 3-5-2 formation, using a regista in Andrea Pirlo and two midfield shuttlers in Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal.
Chelsea took their usual 4-2-3-1 shape and modified it slightly, with Hazard playing something approaching a false-nine role up front. Cesar Azpilicueta played an odd role on the right-hand side.
To Live and Die by the Wing-backs
When we talk about three-man defensive systems, we often underline the importance of the wing-backs creating penetration.
There are several reasons for this. Firstly, it allows two players the freedom to run with the ball and literally drag their team forward 15, 20 or perhaps even 30 yards. Second, it stretches the pitch to its widest, giving the central midfielders room to play football.
Di Matteo was clearly aware of the threat Kwadwo Asamoah carries from left-wing-back, as he deployed right-back Azpilicueta as an extra level of insurance in front of Branislav Ivanovic. On the other side, John Obi Mikel played a deeper role to help Ashley Cole defend against Stephan Lichtsteiner.
These were the most important individual battles on the field and because The Old Lady won them, they controlled the game.
Leonardo Bonucci vs. Eden Hazard
The second important battle on the field was key to the Bianconeri blunting Chelsea's attack.
Bonucci, who played the central role in a Juve back three, often found himself man-to-man with Hazard as he was sucked in to pressurise the false-nine.
Lesser players would have been bullied by the Belgian's crafty runs, but the Euro 2012 finalist was up to the challenge. He broke up play with ease, totaling six interceptions and looking like the complete opposite of Fernando Amorebieta's failed attempts to man-mark Lionel Messi.
This is the fourth time Roberto Di Matteo has come up against a three-man defence this season, and on no occasion has his team looked comfortable.
The opening day of the English Premier League saw the Blues dominated at DW Stadium, but still manage to squeeze a 2-0 win on the counterattack. A draw against Liverpool and losses to Manchester City and now Juve can only point to an increasingly evident fact—the Chelsea boss still doesn't know how to overcome a 3-5-2 or a 3-4-3.
Hazard was a pretty poor choice up front. With Victor Moses and Fernando Torres on the bench, opting to play the Belgian No. 10 was rather questionable.
With his team struggling to control possession against five-man midfields in the past, it's feasible to suggest the Italian was playing a 4-6-0 to try to grind out proceedings.
It didn't work.
Chelsea were disjointed from the start and that's due to the formation.
Azpilicueta played an entirely pointless role in this match, as Asamoah comprehensively owned the left-hand touchline despite being double-marked, and the Spaniard offered little in attack.
He was reluctant to break forward with Oscar and Hazard and was never in line with Juan Mata on the opposite flank. This caused Chelsea's formation to become lopsided, Ramires to storm forward and plug the gap and Mikel to motion haplessly at the gaping holes Vidal and Marchisio were running through.
Tactically speaking, this was an all-round disaster for Chelsea and Roberto Di Matteo.
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