2020 UEFA Champions League Preview: Chelsea and Juventus
In this latest edition of the 2020 UEFA Champions League Preview, attention turns to two more of Europe’s elite. I have previously examined Atalanta and Atletico and Barcelona and Bayern. Now it’s time to see what Chelsea and Juventus bring to the table…
West London based Chelsea Football Club are enjoying a better-than-expected debut season under the stewardship of club legend Frank Lampard.
After a steady first season in management, coaching SkyBet Championship side Derby County to a 6th place finish, Lampard replaced now Juventus manager Maurizio Sarri as the boss at Stamford Bridge.
Lampard inherited the squad in the midst of a transfer ban, meaning he was unable to make any new signings in his first summer at the club. This meant to bolster his side he would have to look to the Chelsea academy.
Reece James had previously enjoyed an impressive season at right-back on loan at Wigan Athletic, Tammy Abraham was clinical on loan at Aston Villa, whilst Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori formed part of Lampard’s midfield and defence on loan at Derby Country.
The four former youth players were seamlessly introduced to the first team and proved invaluable squad members in a season in which Chelsea currently sit 3rd in the Premier League.
An astounding achievement in a season in which many thought Lampard’s side might struggle, Chelsea have also done okay in the UCL.
Finishing second in the tightly contested Group H, which featured last season’s surprise Semi Finalists Ajax, Spanish side Valencia and French side Lille. Chelsea’s highlight of the group was a hugely entertaining 4-4 draw with Ajax, a game in which at one stage The Blues found themselves 4-1 down.
An extremely difficult tie against German champions Bayern Munich awaited Chelsea in the Round of 16. They lost the first leg 3-0 and are yet to play the second leg. Chances of progressing are slim to none, and frankly for Lampard it’s more a case of damage limitation at this point.
However, don’t count this Chelsea side out for future European success. They’ve already made impressive movements in the transfer market in preparation for next season, swooping fast to secure the signatures of Ajax playmaker Hakim Ziyech and lethal RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner.
Lampard’s Chelsea are certainly ones to watch…
Up next are iconic Italian side Juventus, managed by the aforementioned former Chelsea boss, Maurizio Sarri.
Famed for his unique style of play, ‘Sarri-ball’, the veteran former-banker-turned-manager has enjoyed a decent start to life in Turin.
Boasting a squad full of global superstars, of which none shine brighter than five time Ballon D’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, Sarri’s side top the Serie A with a handful of games left to play.
On the surface, it may appear Ronaldo has been carrying Juventus this season. He’s notched 28 league goals in 29 appearances, the next best by comparison at Juve is Paulo Dybala with 11 in 30.
But, it’s at the rear where Juventus shine. A back-line which centrally features colossal defenders such as Leonardo Bonucci, Matthijs de Ligt and Giorgio Chiellini, flanked by the industrious Alex Sandro and Juan Cuadrado. The Old Lady are a tough nut to crack.
In the UCL, Juventus finished top of Group D (Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen and Lokomotiv Moscow) without losing a game – winning five and drawing one – conceding just four goals in the process.
Ronaldo will however be disappointed with his personal contribution to the European campaign so far. The Portuguese forward is the leading Champions League goal scorer of all time with 128 (14 goals clear of second placed Lionel Messi). But the 35-year-old has only scored two in this years iteration of the competition.
After progressing from Group D, Juve were drawn against French side Olympique Lyonnais in the Round of 16, an encounter in which many assumed the Italian side would comfortably manoeuvre their way through.
However, midway through the tie Juventus find themselves trailing 1-0 after losing the first leg in France.
Still considered the favourites, Juventus will have to put in a thoroughly professional performance to advance to the Quarter Finals. Something that may help them progress is the fact that Lyon will not have played a fully competitive match between March and the end of July (where they will face PSG in the French League Cup Final on July 31st).
The second leg of Juve/OL will take place Friday 7th August.
You just can’t count out any side in the Champions League that features Cristiano Ronaldo…