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Manu’s Grab Bag: Bullied

We talk getting outclassed, the one saving grace and where do we go from here.

Chelsea FC v Juventus: Group H - UEFA Champions League Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

That was ugly.

More than ugly, it was sad.

Despite Juventus’ shock win on the first matchup against Chelsea on Sept. 29, it was clear that one squad was leaps and bounds superior to the other and that very little could be done to change that reality.

I know saying that one team is better than the other after a final result of 4-0 in Tuesday’s clash between Chelsea and Juventus is not precisely a huge insight, but sometimes the facts are just right there on display for everyone to see.

We can discuss formations or the all mythical “grinta” or whatever you want until we are all red in the face. But there was no formation on earth or attitude change that could have stopped the absolute steamroller that Juventus faced on Tuesday. Sometime you get dog walked and that’s that.

Let’s cook.

LVP: Rodrigo Bentancur

If we are being completely honest, this could have gone to half the starting XI. I can be easily talked into the LVP going to Adrien Rabiot or Juan Cuadrado or Alex Sandro or Alvaro Morata, even.

Bentancur is an incomplete player and he’s not the only one in the squad, but he gets the nod just because he was the one that stood out the most to me in terms of just being out of his depth. He’s a shell of the guy who was getting minutes against Real Madrid in big European games a few years ago or even the guy who was the heir apparent to Miralem Pjanic under Maurizio Sarri.

There’s nothing that he can do at an elite level. He has some decent ball-recovering skills and he’s not an atrocious defender, he can run a lot, too, I guess. But in all honesty, there’s hundreds of guys that you could bring in to do what Bentancur does. He was an average player in a sea of superstars against Chelsea, and by God that difference showed.

Unfortunately for Juventus, they currently employ a lot of guys that can be described as such and that is a rough reality to accept. But it was the reality that was in full display against the defending European Champs.

Grab Bag MVP Season Leader: Manuel Locatelli (8 Points)

Snap Back to Reality

Here’s the thing.

Losing to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge is really not some scarlet letter. They are the reigning Champions League winners and, at worst, one of the best three teams in the world. They currently lead the Premier League and have one of the best overall squads in Europe.

Hell, when the matchup was announced, I think by and large most every Juventus fan was already chalking up that game as a loss and with group qualification already secured, in the bigger picture this defeat is not the end of the world.

I think what sticks in the crow of Juventus faithful everywhere is just how completely outgunned Juventus was. It was a gulf of difference between the two squads and it was a stark reminder of how far this team is from being a legit competitor in the biggest competition in the continent. Sure, we can get lucky here and there and play the perfect game with a gimmicky formation and a tough defense and sometimes get a win like they did at the Allianz Stadium a few months ago.

But truly elite teams — like Chelsea — won’t get beat twice in the same way, and once Max Allegri and Juventus ran out of luck, they ran out of it quick. Every goal was its special kind of sad, but it was the third one that really made the difference in class evident as it seemed like the entire home team passed the ball around the helpless Juve defense to score an easy goal and kill the game for all intents and purposes.

I don’t really remember seeing a Juve team being manhandled like this since the 2013 season when they faced Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of this very same tournament. Granted, in that tie the aggregate scoreline was 4-0, but the experience was rather similar. Juventus fought and tried their best, but in the end they were just a plain worse team and Bayern defeated them easily. The helplessness is the real killer and as the team is currently constituted, I don’t see that changing any time soon.

Winner: Wojciech Szczęsny

Despite the result, its only fair to shoutout the one Bianconeri player who didn’t metaphorically piss down their leg in this game.

(Weston McKennie had an argument for being the other player to get this distinction as he had a fairly decent game, but that last mistake to allow the fourth score of the evening really soured his whole performance. It was a meaningless goal but that’s a mistake you see in junior high football matches.)

Sure, he allowed four goals, but he had not shot at stopping any of those while making a few outstanding saves that could have made the result a lot worse. It continues to be a wild turnaround for a guy who most of us would have gladly driven to the Turin-Caselle Airport in September and now looks like one of the few areas in which Juventus does not have any huge issues.

Loser: Max Allegri

I don’t think this loss is 100% on the coach. Like I mentioned above, Chelsea is a fundamentally better squad than Juventus and I doubt anything Allegri could have done on Tuesday night was going to change that fact.

With that being said, it could have also been slightly more respectable, no? His decision to start an out-of-form Bentancur — a guy who is not getting minutes in Serie A lately — was puzzling, and while the idea of parking the bus and hoping for a counter had some merit in the early goings of the match — hey, it worked once! — the team had no response once they went down and struggled to hold the ball or generate chances in any meaningful way.

Much like we sang his praises after the Lazio match in which Allegri — correctly — decided to let Lazio control the midfield by design and smartly bottle up their attacks, the fact that Juventus could not even sniff possession this time around was definitely not by design.

With no Federico Bernardeschi and with Juan Cuadrado playing as a makeshift fullback, the team had no outlets to attempt counter attacks other than Federico Chiesa and a consistently doubled up Alvaro Morata.

Allegri had a stroke of genius when Juventus defeated Thomas Tuchel in Italy. This time around, though, he was left without any more tricks up his sleeve.

(Also, why bring a recovering Paulo Dybala on down three goals in a completely doomed effort? I get the whole never give up attitude, but this is not a knockout round, this is not a final, save your bullets, man.)

Parting Shot of the Week

This game might be the literal definition of a burn the tape effort.

Nothing to learn from this, nothing to analyze, you got dragged and it was bad but it is what it is. Forget it, move on, hope you get a lucky draw in the round of 16 and pray on it.

Because the season doesn’t stop - not even after an ass whooping like this one - Juventus turn around and play Atalanta on Saturday for a shot at some measure of redemption. They are going to have to have a short memory and put their best foot forward because its not like they are cruising in domestic competition either.

See you Saturday.