Despite the fixture taking place in Turin, Juventus would begin the night as under dogs against the defending European Champions, Chelsea. As fate would have it the previous occasion these sides met on this stage in 2012 occurred in similar circumstances. The Old Lady unfancied underdogs, Chelsea reigning Champions of Europe and expected to top their group with little fuss. Back then Chelsea failed to register a single victory in two attempts, a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge, and a 3-0 defeat in Turin. Now in 2021 the question was, could Juventus once again defeat Chelsea? And do it with important players missing due to injury.
Juventus would begin the evening in a 4-4-2 formation, at least on paper, as many watchers of Allegri’s Juventus sides over the years know that there’s more than meets the eye with tactical set ups on paper. One thing that was guaranteed however is that Juventus wouldn’t have a natural striker in the front two partnership, as Chiesa and Bernardeschi took to the field in the absence of both Morata & Dybala who missed out due to injuries, surprisingly Moise Kean (the only natural striker available) took his place on the bench. Szczesny would once again start between the goal posts after spending the previous fixture against Sampdoria on the bench, the defence consisting of Danilo, De Ligt, Bonucci and Alex Sandro. In midfield would be Cuadrado, Bentancur, Locatelli and Rabiot.
Early on in the game Juventus felt they should have had a penalty in the opening ten minutes as Bermardeschi went to ground inside the penalty area, however replays showed that Kovacic got his timing spot on and a penalty was rightfully not given. With Chelsea controlling the tempo and possession of the game it became apparent that any chance Juventus would see come their way needed to be taken. Unfortunately, the best chance of the opening couple of minutes not only wasn’t taken, but it was also wasted, as Rabiot failed to apply the correct power and accuracy on a pass that could have seen Bernardeschi 1 v 1 on the Chelsea GK. With 20 minutes on the clock Juventus again had an opportunity to open the scoring, as Chelsea lost possession to Chiesa who ran towards goal but failed to hit the target from an awkward angle. The signs were promising though, Allegri instructing his team to sit back and wait for an opportunity to hit Chelsea on the counterattack. Chelsea continued to dominate possession, at one stage registering 71% on the stats, however it largely amounted to nothing as Chelsea were held at bay by focused defending, something that Juventus has not been known for during their opening games of the season. Juventus on the other hand were less concerned with winning the possession battle and solely focused on playing direct football towards the Chelsea goal, time and time again looking the more likely of the two sides to score. Fans could only watch on and wonder how different the outcome could have been during those attacks had either Morata or Dybala been on the pitch. With 5 minutes of the half remaining Juventus would have a free kick in a good position, however in a strange twist Juventus players would form their own three man defensive wall alongside Chelsea’s, the only conclusion being that its purpose was to block the GK’s view of the shot. Instead Bernadeschi effort was blocked by his own team mates who failed to move out the way of Bernadeschi strike and the chance was wasted. With the referee’s whistle bringing the opening 45 minutes to a goalless close, many watching would surely be wondering if Juventus would come to rue not making any of their chances count by hitting the back of the net.
Juventus quickly learnt their first half lesson by scoring within the opening 11 seconds of the second half straight from kick off. Bonucci began the move with a long range pass from defence that found the head of Rabiot out wide who’s pass connected with Bernardeschi, as Bernardeschi held the play up for a brief moment, it was Chiesa that made a darting run to break through Chelsea’s defence and struck the back of the net for 1-0 with a fantastic strike. Tuchel wasted little time in responding to watching his side go behind, making three changes on the 60th minute. Azpilicueta, Jorginho and Ziyech all leaving the pitch to be replaced by Loftus-Cheek, Chalobah and Hudson-Odoi. Juventus had a wonderful opportunity to double their lead, Cuadrado finding Bernardeschi central in front of goal but the Italian horribly misfired with a first time shot that failed to hit the target. Shortly after his miss Bernardeschi would be replaced by Kulusevski. Throughout the second half Chelsea once again dominated possession, and just like the first half were met with a black & white wall preventing a sought-after goal for the blues. No doubt Lukaku silently being grateful not to be duelling with either Bonucci or De Ligt on a regular basis, as both had reduced the Belgian to a blunt instrument in Chelsea’s attack. With 15 minutes remaining Juventus made two changes, off went Rabiot and goal scorer Chiesa (who has been crucial in Juventus positive results so far) replaced by McKennie and Moise Kean. With 4 minutes remaining The Old Lady had a late penalty scare via those three dreaded letters, VAR. However the officials decided that the supposed handball by Danilo was not enough to warrant a penalty for Chelsea, as the ball brushed off the back of the Brazilian’s arm and was clearly not deliberate or preventing a goal scoring opportunity. Common sense for once prevailing in such circumstances. Chelsea would have one last chance to try and take something positive from this game, in the final minute of stoppage time Havertz headed over from a Ben Chillwell corner kick and was soon met with the final whistle to end the contest. Full time Juventus 1-0 Chelsea.
For most of the season so far Juventus fans have been waiting for a turning point to take The Old Lady’s season in a positive direction, and it doesn’t come much bigger than not only beating the European Champions, but doing it with confidence, defensive efficiency and deservedly ending the night with three massive points in Group H. The question now going into the upcoming Derby with Torino, is can The Old Lady finally build momentum and ride a wave of confidence into some tough games ahead that await in October.