Maybe it’s because the Sopranos prequel is coming out in a couple of days, but I just have this vision in my head of Max Allegri, after what Juventus just did against the reigning European champions, walking in and just laughing in the same way Paulie Gualtieri laughs whenever he enters the room.
With a completely makeshift attack and no natural striker on the field for the majority of Wednesday night’s game at the Juventus Stadium, Allegri went out and pulled the rabbit out of his black and white hat. Thanks to a herculean effort defensively and Federico Chiesa’s absolutely stunner of a goal 11 seconds into the second half, Juventus shook up the hierarchy in Group H with a 1-0 win against Chelsea. No, seriously. It happened, and Allegri was the mastermind behind all of it, pulling a classic kind of defensive performance out of a team that has been known for just about the opposite so far this season.
Just like we all predicted, right?
(Feel free to admit it and you didn’t think this was possible with how Juve were playing and who they were playing. This is a safe space. We won’t judge you here. At least not too much.)
This was the best-case scenario that wasn’t really even being considered in the build-up to this game. Go back a few days when we recorded the latest episode of The Old Lady Speaks Podcast, we barely even entertained the idea of Juventus beating Chelsea. The best-case scenario was essentially get a point, be happy with it and then put all of your attention on those two games with Zenit because that’s the main rival for second place in the group.
Ah, but guess who’s in first place in Group H through the first two group stage games?
That is what is the reward for beating Chelsea. Not that we thought a team that started Federico Bernardeschi over Moise Kean and Dejan Kulusevski against the reigning Champions League winners because who would think that’s something that would work in Allegri’s favor. But it did ... along with a massive team effort on the defensive side of the ball to ensure that Chelsea kinda-sorta got beat at its own game. (Look at the possession numbers from Chelsea’s win against Manchester City over the weekend and this game. It was Allegri almost out-Tucheling Thomas Tuchel.)
This was the classic Allegri win. It wasn’t for style points. It was for the points. The thing is, he did it with a team that entered the game allowing four goals over the last week in wins over Spezia and Sampdoria and allowed 10 goals through their first six Serie A games. It’s one thing to shut out Malmö because that’s kinda what Juve’s expected to do. But a Juventus team that is struggling defensively suddenly rolls back the years and shuts out this Chelsea team? With that amount of offensive talent on the field?
I get that Chelsea was shorthanded as well, but come on, folks — Juve is far from a vintage edition that can rattle off seven or eight clean sheets over a month and make it look like no big thing at all.
Instead, on this night, Juventus went out and recorded its most impressive win of the 2021-22 season, which just so happened to be against the team that won the Champions League last season. This was stressful, this was an emotional roller coaster, but damn does it feel good to see Juventus go out and win that kind of game again.
Now go out and do it more often in the Champions League and we’ll be all good, fellas.
All we’ll all be laughing like Paulie Walnuts along the way, too.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Juventus had one shot on target all game. It was the goal.
- This starting lineup sure was a doozy. Or at least a couple of parts of it. You can probably figure out which ones I’m talking about without even referencing them.
- And then Federico Bernardeschi goes and gets the assist on the opening goal, so what the hell do I know anyways.
- Seriously, though, Bernardeschi was really good. Like, so good that I think even the biggest Berna believers should be surprised by how well he played. Good things happen to good people, and Fede got his first legitimately good performance in a while. And I’m happy for him because he’s good people.
- Speaking of Fedes, are we starting to enter “What else can be said?” territory for Federico Chiesa? He’s simply a fantastic player and is so very much the heart and soul of this club right now. Sure, Giorgio Chiellini is still around and Paulo Dybala is next in line as captain behind King Kong, but Chiesa brings so much life into this team it’s crazy. He’s the best.
- Wojciech Szczesny touches: 41.
- Romelu Lukaku touches: 28.
- One player was on the team with 73.1 percent of the possession Wednesday night. The other is Juve’s goalkeeper.
- That just tells you how Juventus’ defense was able to absolute choke away most attempts to get Lukaku the ball, but also how Chelsea’s service to their big No. 9 was pretty crappy all game long. He wasn’t necessarily isolated up top because of how much possession Chelsea had, but man did some of their other attacking players let Lukaku down.
- There were so many players who were standouts defensively for Juventus in this game. But if Leonardo Bonucci and Matthijs de Ligt aren’t the first two on the list, then I dunno what you’re doing. Bonucci was glued to Lukaku all game long and didn’t let him do much of anything until the final few minutes when he had a couple of attempts on goal. De Ligt, meanwhile, just was everywhere and was that commanding presence at the back we know he can be. It was great on both accounts, and obviously something Juve desperately needed to pull this result off Wednesday night.
- Manuel Locatelli’s contributions defensively, too — amazing.
- Danilo’s overall game defensively — amazing.
- Alex Sandro’s rejuvenation this season — amazing.
- Six Juventus players had more clearances than the entire Chelsea team had.
- Giorgio Chiellini blocked a would-be Chelsea cross in stoppage time and didn’t celebrate it like he just scored a goal? I am disappointed. But only a little because Juventus won.
- Wojciech Szczesny played another strong game. Boy, is his confidence at a completely different place than it was about a month ago.
- Two Champions League games, two shutouts. Just like we all predicted, right?
- In conclusion, I feel like I blacked out for the last couple of hours. Juventus ... won ... against Chelsea?