Juventus are past the tricky part in the Champions League this season, having already qualified for the knockout stages of the competition. Now, the Bianconeri’s primary objective is to claim the top spot in Group H, ensuring a potentially easier draw in the round of 16.
However, the task that lies ahead of them is a difficult one with a trip to Stamford Bridge on the horizon. Juventini witnessed a mouthwatering clash in the reverse fixture, at the end of which the Old Lady prevailed. It took a monstrous effort from Juve to nullify Chelsea’s attacking threat on that occasion and thanks to a moment of magic from Federico Chiesa, Thomas Tuchel’s Blues returned to London empty-handed.
Brimming with confidence these days, Chelsea have enjoyed a fine run of form on English soil, having lost just one game in the Premier League so far this season. On paper, the reigning UEFA Champions League winners are a far better team than Massimiliano Allegri’s Juve, but we saw the master pragmatist outwit Tuchel back in September. Could lightning strike twice?
Nevertheless, as Chelsea are certain to receive a massive amount of backing from the home crowd at Stamford Bridge, the task for Juventus is expected to be harder this time around. Although, the visitors need just a point to secure top spot in Group H.
3 battles to watch out for as Chelsea host Juventus on Tuesday
In recent times, Juventus have been shattered by injuries. As a result, players such as Aaron Ramsey, Giorgio Chiellini, Federico Bernardeschi, Mattia De Sciglio, and Danilo are unavailable and will be missing the midweek trip to London. That said, the return of Paulo Dybala to the squad is a massive boost for the Bianconeri.
Here are the three battles to watch out for at the Bridge on Tuesday night.
3. Manuel Locatelli vs N’Golo Kante
The midfield is often regarded as the heart of a team. And it is the battle of the midfielders that usually decides the fate of a match. Although those are the maxims of this mad game, fans of both teams should be looking forward to watching the encounter between Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante and Juventus’ Manuel Locatelli.
Since joining Chelsea from Leicester City, Kante has been a hero for the Blues. Last season, he played a crucial role in leading Thomas Tuchel’s side to Champions League glory. In a head-to-head comparison with Kante, Locatelli may not have crafted such a legacy with Juventus yet, but he has been an important cog since moving to Turin from Sassuolo in the last summer transfer window.
On Tuesday, it will be an eye-catching contest between Kante’s freakish engine and Locatelli’s technicality. Returning to his best under the management of Tuchel, Kante now plays in a much more advanced position – similar to the function he performed for Antonio Conte during his two-year spell as manager – compared to how he was used by Frank Lampard. Nowadays, he is more of a box-to-box midfielder. Furthermore, the stamina of the Frenchman suits the style of Chelsea’s high-octane approach.
He could be assigned to press down Locatelli and subsequently disturb the Italian’s penetrating passes from a deep-lying midfield position. Locatelli is likely to partner Rodrigo Bentancur or Weston McKennie in the middle, while the same positions could be occupied by Kante and Jorginho for Chelsea. Hold your breath, Juventini! There awaits a tough ride.