UEFA Champions League: Juventus Put Europe on Notice with Big Win over Chelsea
Europe, take notice: Juventus are back.
Facing a must-win game against the current European Champions, the Bianconeri came out and completely dominated Chelsea.
The Blues were lucky to concede only three goals, as Petr Cech put in a great performance. The experienced stopper was one of the few Chelsea players able to play at the level of the Italian champions.
Fabio Quagliarella, Arturo Vidal and Sebastian Giovinco were the goal scorers, but this result was an incredible team effort that showed everyone in Europe just exactly how much quality this Juventus team has in its ranks.
It all starts with Gianluigi Buffon, who had a flawless game. Chelsea only came up with two chances during the game, but they were two big ones and Buffon was right there when needed.
He can thank his back line for the relatively easy night. Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli were their usual dominant selves, but it was Giorgio Chiellini who shone tonight and would be my pick for man of the match. He took care of any attacker that crossed his path and was able to contribute immensely to Juve's attack.
The three defenders were helped out greatly by Vidal, who I predicted would be the key to this game.
The Chilean international never allowed the Chelsea triangle of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar to get into a rhythm. His defensive contributions might be overlooked by fans, but he was the main reason for the Bianconeri's dominance in midfield.
Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio weren't at their best, but they did more than enough to help secure the win.
Pirlo had a rough night keeping possession of the ball, but he was his usual self in orchestrating the offense once he had space. As the Chelsea midfield grew tired, his mastery of the game shone brighter.
Marchisio has been struggling with his form a bit in recent weeks, but he limited himself to carrying out his duties tonight and never put himself in a position to make a mistake. It was a very mature performance from the former youth product, who allowed Vidal the room to roam the pitch while he took over some of the Chilean's responsibilities in midfield.
Stephan Lichtsteiner was a surprise inclusion in the team, as he seemed to have lost his position to Mauricio Isla in recent weeks. His defensive work was solid as always, but he didn't put in a particularly good offensive performance, and should have opened the scoring after three minutes with a close range effort that Cech deflected onto the post.
The better offensive performance came from Kwadwo Asamoah, who has quickly developed into one of the best left wingers in the world, an amazing feat for a young player who had never played the position prior to this season.
Asamoah is a particularly interesting case, as it is clear that he has far from mastered the complexities of the position when you watch him play. He dominates opponents on raw speed and physical skill, and if he could develop a right foot to go along with his fantastic left, he would be unstoppable.
Juve's strike force consisted of Fabio Quagliarella and Mirko Vucinic, and while both players put in commendable efforts, they were the main reason Chelsea got lucky with the score line.
Vucinic was unable to play his usual game of holding up the ball and creating space for his fellow players, but he did manage to create some danger. He seems to play his best football when paired with Giovinco, and had difficulties getting to the ball with Quagliarella's constant movement.
The latter scored the opener on a deflection and was the most active of the strikers. He took a lot of shots on goal and was very active in space, but most of his shots were rather weak and didn't disturb Petr Cech at all.
Overall it was a very good performance from the Bianconeri, but it was certainly not the best game they've played all season, and that's exactly why other teams should take notice.
As dominant as Juventus might have been tonight, they did it with Pirlo and Marchisio playing below their usual level, a strike force that lacks world-class talent and a left winger that has yet to learn how to play the position.
Assuming Juve make it out of Group E (and it certainly seems like they will), they'll go into the January transfer window with an opportunity to land a top class forward.
And what forward wouldn't want to come to Turin after witnessing this performance? The feed provided by the Juventus midfielders was incredible, and one can only imagine what a great forward (think Robert Lewandowski or Edinson Cavani) would have done with all those chances.
Can Juventus win the Champions League?
Add to that Kwadwo Asamoah, who will only get better as he gets more comfortable on the wing, and the return of head coach Antonio Conte, and you end up with a team that looks like they could take on pretty much anyone, any day.
Now, it's important we don't get ahead of ourselves. Juventus still need to manage a draw against Shakhtar Donetsk, which will not be an easy feat.
But if you're a fan of the Bianconeri, you should feel very optimistic about your team moving forward.
And if you're a fan of another team in contention for the Champions League title, you might want to start paying attenton to the giants of Italian football. Because this game made it official:
Juventus are back.
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