Juventus have a very good midfield three and one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Aside from that, there’s little that impresses about their squad when you compare them to Europe’s best (as many are inclined to do). The regard they’ve been given at the early stages of Champions League is based on their history, a fanbase dedicated to the mythology behind the stars, the continued, disproportionate respected garned by the Italian league.
Juventus shouldn’t have been able to keep up with a team of Chelsea’s talent, especially after going down two after 33 minutes. That they came back to earn a draw in London speaks as much to Chelsea’s failings as it does Juve’s capabilities.
The result raised a number of questions about Roberto Di Matteo who, with some justification, pointed the finger at the players after the 2-2 draw. But there were also issues with his team: their inability to close out the match; the lack of intensity they showed throughout the match; their inability to threaten Gigi Buffon beyond some Oscar individual brilliance.
What would Chelsea have done, if it weren’t for Oscar? Because that couldn’t have been the plan going into the match: Rely on a player getting his first start.
The whole night was reminiscent of the last year’s post-AVB Chelsea, when the team was largely unimpressive except for their results against Barcelona and Bayern Munich, victories obtained with tactics untenable over the course of a larger season (who wants to go 0-6-0 in their Champions League group?). Roberto Di Matteo earned his job based on Champions League and (to a lesser extent) the FA Cup, but he still needs to prove he can implement a style that doesn’t give every underdog an avenue to a result.
Yet as I deride Di Matteo, he deserves credit for the most important tactical decision of the match – starting Oscar and having him shadow Andrea Pirlo. As a result, Juventus’s best player was a non-factor.
But that’s just another reason Chelsea should be extremely disappointed with this result. They are the better team, they neutralized their opposition’s best player, and they had a two-goal lead. What more could they ask for?
Players you’d want on your team (starters only):
Chelsea: Ashley Cole, Oscar
Juventus: Gigi Buffon, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Arturo Vidal, Claudio Marchisio
Want more like this? Oh, you glutton: More soccer notes.