Venue: Stamford Bridge
Date: Wed, Sept 19, 2012
Time: 19:45 GMT
So, it’s Champions League time again and a home tie to kick off this season’s campaign against Juventus.
If I’m honest, there were a few times last season I didn’t think we’d even make this year’s competition, nevermind go into it as the holders. We do though, even if we’re probably the least favoured Premier League club to get through our group, so there’s plenty of pressure on.
We could have done with a better display against QPR at the weekend in terms of confidence although we do go into it unbeaten so far and top of the Premier League. Our opponents are also unbeaten so far in Serie A, with their last game giving them a 3-1 win over Genoa, although probably more worrying than that, is that the current Serie A champions were also unbeaten in the league for the entire 2011-12 season.
In spite of achieving what seemed to be the impossible in his temporary role as Chelsea manager last season, Roberto Di Matteo goes into tonight’s game and indeed the competition, with no delusions of grandeur, saying “When you’re in a big club like Chelsea the pressure is always on to win more trophies and have more success. I think everybody was pleased to finally take the trophy home to Stamford Bridge, but that’s the past now and we have to look forward.”
And on our group, and tonight’s opponents, says “They’re (Juventus) a very strong team. They have a fantastic unbeaten run and they have some quality within their team, some young dynamic players, and it’s probably one of the most difficult teams we could have been drawn against in this Champions League. We have three champions in our group, the Danish champions and the Ukrainian champions so it’s going to be a difficult group for us.”
The Old Lady is without her man tonight, with Antonio Conte serving a 10-month ban for failing to report match-fixing while managing Siena, although stand-in coach Massimo Carrera seems more than up for the job in hand, saying “I’m not nervous. It’ll be a normal game for me. We are back in Europe and are very proud to be facing the holders of the trophy. It represents an important test for us. We still have to work in order to improve. We watched back the recording of the Genoa game and studied the mistakes made so that we won’t repeat them again. We have even more reason to prepare and wipe out those errors considering we are facing a strong side like Chelsea.”
For Chelsea, Marko Marin (hamstring) continues to work his way back to full fitness although we have no other injury concerns. John Terry and John Obi Mikel have shrugged off knocks suffered against QPR at the weekend and Juan Mata returns to the squad.
For Juventus, Simone Pepe and Simone Padoin are both out injured, whilst Vincenzo Iaquinta has been left out of the squad.
CHELSEA (from): Cech, Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Luiz, Cole, Bertrand, Mikel, Romeu, Lampard, Ramires, Mata, Hazard, Oscar, Moses, Piazon, Torres, Sturridge, Turnbull.
JUVENTUS (from): Buffon, Lucio, Chiellini, Caceres, Pogba, Marchisio, Vucinic, De Ceglie, Giovinco, Barzagli, Bendtner, Bonucci, Pirlo, Asamoah, Vidal, Giaccherini, Lichtsteiner, Quagliarella, Storari, Matri, Isla, Rubinho, Marrone
Juventus 2-2 Chelsea (March 10th 2009)
Chelsea 1-0 Juventus (February 25th 2009)
With players like Andre Pirlo, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard on show, this is the sort of game that could offer us some beautiful football skills rewarded with goals – it probably won’t though. Both defences should really be tested, with Buffon and Cech earning their keep although I have a feeling it could be a bit of a dull affair. I hope I’m wrong, but we’re struggling to find the goals so far this season and unfortunately, Juventus aren’t a team who struggle to defend. We’ll need to stay tight defensively though if we want to avoid them nicking it late on.