It certainly would not have been a surprise to expect Chelsea to walk away with all three points from Tuesday’s Champions League clash with Juventus. But the Blues made it look way easier than many people expected and it looked quite the opposite of the first meeting between the two clubs. This one featured one club on top of England and another sitting mid-table in Italy and those two things shown bright throughout the match.
Chelsea came out on top, controlling every aspect of the game and running away with a 4-0 win that pushed the hosts in front of Juventus in the Group H table with just one matchday remaining. The loss marked the largest margin of defeat in a Champions League match in Juventus history and it ties the record for the club’s second biggest defeat in European play, only beaten by a 7-0 loss to Austrian club Wiener Sport-Club in the 1958 European Cup.
It was always going to be difficult night for Juventus and a difficult selection for Max Allegri because of a large group of players who are unavailable. In a game where Juventus needed to be strong in the back to limit Chelsea’s chances, they were without two of their top defenders. Matthijs de Ligt and Leonardo Bonucci started in front of Wojciech Szczesny and Alex Sandro was on the left, but Juan Cuadrado was forced to shift back into a more defensive role in the absence of Danilo, who will be out injured for the next two months. Allegri opted to go with four central midfielders to take up the midfield. Adrien Rabiot went back to his spot on the left wing with Weston McKennie moving further out wide on the right side and Manuel Locatelli and Rodrigo Bentancur getting the starts in the middle. Federico Chiesa and Alvaro Morata teamed up for the attacking line which spent most of its time in its own half.
Chelsea weren’t without some injuries of its own, missing Kai Havertz and Romelu Lukaku. Thomas Teuchel elected to go with Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech in the attack with Callum Hudson-Odoi giving support from the wing. Reece James and Ben Chilwell took up the wing back spots with Jorginho and N’Golo Kante in the midfield. Trevoh Chalobah, Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger started on the backline in front of Edouard Mendy.
As expected, the hosts started on the front foot and used its width to create several chances in the opening half hour with the biggest threats coming from the feet of Chilwell and James. De Ligt was forced into action in the second minute with a big clearance in the 6-yard box which began what seemed like a constant onslaught of corner kicks for Chelsea.
Chelsea finished the night with 13 corner kicks — which doesn’t even include the handful of set pieces won on the wings. Juventus looked uncomfortable defending any of the balls into the box with several awkward clearances and often led to unmarked attackers getting a decent look at goal.
Those moments eventually cultivated in the opening goal for Chelsea in the least surprising fashion, coming from yet another corner kick. The ball was played in by James and Rudiger rose to win the ball, bouncing off his left hand then his chest before falling to an unmarked Chalobah, who rocketed it into the roof of the net with a half volley. There were immediate appeals by the Juventus players, but it was a quick VAR check and it ended with Rudiger being awarded with the assist.
Despite the goal, Juventus still appeared to be in the game and had a decent response with some high pressure after going down. The best chance of the night came just three minutes after the opener when Locatelli played in Morata with a lovely ball over the defense but the Spaniard’s chipped effort was just a bit too slow and Silva raced back to clear it off the line to deny Juventus of an equalizer.
WHAT A CLEARANCE BY THIAGO SILVA pic.twitter.com/1440NEyYYF— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) November 23, 2021
There were not many positives for Juventus from that point forward, as it became clear which team was on top of their game for the night. Chelsea quickly piled up more chances, one coming off a bad giveaway from Rabiot and another falling to James whose shot forced the first of several great saves by Szczesny.
Juventus continued to look lost on Chelsea’s corner kicks with Silva and Rudiger each winning headers but nothing being directed on target for the rest of the first half, allowing the visitors to escape the first half with just a one-goal deficit.
That feeling would not last too long though and it was clear from the kickoff of the second half. Chelsea won three more corner kicks in the first six minutes after the break including one which was pinged off Rabiot’s face, encapsulating the entire night for Juventus players.
Szczesny grabbed another save in the 53rd minute when Silva won a header from a free kick delivered in by James. He was nearly called into action less than a minute later when a Bentancur giveaway led to a chance for Ziyech but his lay off to Hudson-Odoi went a little too wide and Bonucci eventually recovered enough to knock the ball away and it was eventually cleared by the late-arriving Cuadrado.
Szczesny would not be receiving that same help from his defense over the next few minutes with Chelsea tripling their lead before the 60-minute mark. The first came when a cross from Ziyech fell to an unmarked James at the back post. Chiesa and Sandro reacted way too late and James hammered his shot through Szczesny and past the outstretched leg of de Ligt on the goal line.
REECE JAMES.— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) November 23, 2021
CHELSEA'S DEFENDERS HAVE NOW SCORED 16 GOALS THIS SEASON. UNREAL. pic.twitter.com/bKVZorYYES
Ziyech was back to his typical maestro self a few moments later when he fed substitute Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the box. The Englishman did the rest of the work, dribbling through the Juventus defense before sliding it to his left to Hudson-Odoi, another unmarked attacker, who sent Szczesny the wrong way and easily finished into the back of the net.
THIS GOAL IS INSANE.— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) November 23, 2021
THE KINGS OF EUROPE ARE RUNNING RIOT. pic.twitter.com/eny2AmzfBM
With the result determined, the final half hour seemed like a formality as both teams seemed to be just going through the motions without many chances falling to either side. Chelsea turned the switch off or at least down, allowing Juventus to gain more of the ball but the visitors rarely turned them into chances. Paulo Dybala was subbed on to the field for Bentancur, but he wasn’t his usual lively self on or off the ball either due to not being at full strength or just being disinterested like most of us at that point in time. Arthur and Moise Kean were also introduced and both found themselves with shooting opportunities in the final 20 minutes but neither could hit the target.
Dejan Kulusevski came on in the 80th minute, but did not have many touches to make an impact. The substitution window also featured Koni De Winter coming on for his Juventus debut as a right back, a spot where he may be needed even more over the next few weeks with Danilo unavailable.
Szczesny was called upon a couple of more times late, making another fantastic save this time to deny Ziyech. But before the final whistle, it would be his defense letting him down again. McKennie made one of his few mistakes on the night, whiffing on a long ball from James to Ziyech. The Morrocan had plenty of space on the left side and picked out a pass to Timo Werner for a tap in from just a few yards out for the final goal of the night.
WOJCIECH SZCZESNY – 6.5. I get it. He allowed four goals. But not a single one of them was his fault and he really couldn’t have done anything differently to even have a chance on them. He was the reason it wasn’t 7-0. Some really good saves.
JUAN CUADRADO – 5.5. There is no doubt Cuadrado is not as solid defensively as Danilo, but he wasn’t terrible, either, especially considering he played 50-plus minutes on a yellow card. Three tackles, three clearances and a pair of interceptions isn’t bad. He was definitely missed on the attack though.
MATTHIJS DE LIGT – 4.5. He led the team with five clearances, but a couple of them were unnecessary due to a lack of communication or just de Ligt ignoring his goalkeeper. He was 0-for on his long ball attempts. He stepped up into the midfield too far on too many occasions. A weird, definitely not-good-enough night for de Ligt.
LEONARDO BONUCCI – 5. Basically the same night as de Ligt but he did help break the pressure on a couple of Chelsea attacks. He made a couple of crucial blocks to clean up mistakes from teammates. But it’s also not great for a defender to finish the night with zero tackles.
ALEX SANDRO – 4. It’s possible we just witnessed Sandro’s worst game as a Juventus player. I’m not prepared to say he shouldn’t be in the first team, but this was just a woeful night. He couldn’t control the ball, he couldn’t win any duels and he was barely even in the way of Reece James for most of the night.
WESTON MCKENNIE – 5.5. For a minute, I thought McKennie would have the highest rating on the night, but that mistake to allow the fourth goal was not good. I don’t care what the scoreline is already, that can’t happen. Still, he was very active on both ends of the field and showed himself to be a real option on the right side of the midfield if Allegri stays stubborn about his formation. He did have a key pass and a pretty wicked shot on target too.
RODRIGO BENTANCUR – 4. Not … good. Not good. Just bad actually. Really, really bad. Constantly losing possession and just seemingly not trying at all to get it back.
MANUEL LOCATELLI – 6. Four tackles, two blocked shots and some pretty good passing for most part. Would’ve liked to see him get more touches on the ball (finished with 42) but a lot of that isn’t his fault. His key pass to create the chance for Morata really deserved an assist.
ADRIEN RABIOT – 5. The stats aren’t terrible — four clearances, three tackles, two interceptions — but actually watching the game told a different story. He’s still not a left winger and he’s not comfortable over there at all. The moment late in the game with him not understanding how to overlap and just standing right next to Sandro should be shown to Allegri on a loop for the next 10 years.
FEDERICO CHIESA – 5.5. It is kind of hard to blame the attackers for this one. They did look threatening when the ball made it to the final third. Chiesa had a successful dribble and a pair of key passes but he also only finished with 25 touches and didn’t even record a shot attempt.
ALVARO MORATA – 5.5. Morata definitely gets some credit for his work coming back and he did well to hold up the play trying to spring a counter attack in the first half. Can’t blame him for his chipped shot either because I think it was the right idea. Still, when you’re the only striker on the pitch, you have to have more of an impact.
PAULO DYBALA – 6. It’s possible he shouldn’t have even played and while he didn’t look as lively, he was trying to make things happen when the ball came to him. A pair of key passes, a shot off target and 30 total touches in just 35 minutes of play. Just be healthy enough for the weekend.
MOISE KEAN – 5.5. Not too much to say. He probably should’ve done better on the one chance that fell to him at the top of the box. He did make a nice tackle late in the game which was good to see.
ARTHUR – 6. His 92 percent pass accuracy was a pleasant surprise even if most of those passes were simple and not threatening to a defense dropping back with a three-goal lead.
DEJAN KULUSEVSKI – NA. It’s true, I can confirm Kulusevski was on the field in this game.
KONI DE WINTER – NA. Debut! It’s good to know he is on Allegri’s radar and even though he may be forced into action sooner than we hoped, it’s exciting to see. He was pretty calm with the ball and made some impressive passes from well inside his own half.
I think the reaction to this game has been very extreme on both sides, which is to be expected after that result, but I think it falls somewhere in between the extreme opinions on both sides. I think it is reasonable to cut Allegri some slack because of the players he had available for his selection. But I also believe his stubbornness to the tactics and formation left the players out to dry from the outset. You could argue six players were playing outside of the position where I would say you could get the most of them and it starts with playing four central midfielder across the middle of Allegri’s 4-4-2 that he is clearly married to at this point.
McKennie looked good on the right, but that’s not where he belongs, and guess what — Rabiot still isn’t a left winger. I do think an interesting move would have been to allow Arthur and Locatelli to play together so neither had to be so ball dominant, allowing Locatelli to work back on defense while still have a deep-lying distributor role to another player because Bentancur certainly isn’t cutting it. Maybe even take off one of those midfielders for Rugani and play a back five, allowing Cuadrado and Sandro to match the width of Chelsea.
Chiesa also isn’t a striker and while he belongs on the front line, there clearly has to be an adjustment to the second-striker role, especially in a match like this, and there hasn’t been since the first match of the season. And that also brings us to the decision to bring in Dybala which is a little confusing. If he didn’t get hurt, I’m sure it is good to get some minutes on his legs but still, that was a gamble I’m not sure I would have taken.
Well, the week may get easier in comparison to a trip to Stamford Bridge, but it still isn’t going to be an easy weekend. The Bianconeri will head back home for a Serie A matchup against Atalanta on Saturday. The team will then travel to Campania to take on Salernitana in a midweek clash next Tuesday. Juventus is still through to the Champions League knockout stage, but will need some help from Zenit to get a result against Chelsea on the final matchday while Juventus needs a win at home against Malmo on Dec. 8 to have a chance at moving back into the group’s top spot.