By Carlo Garganese
Scudetto holders Juventus don't need to reinvent the wheel in order to topple Chelsea. Six of their starting XI starred in the Italy team that outplayed Germany on the way to a Euro 2012 silver medal, with the majestic Andrea Pirlo many people's player of the tournament. The fact the Bianconeri are 41 Serie A games unbeaten is proof that their fast and fluid 3-5-2 formation is adaptable to any opposition.
First and foremost, Juventus must play to their own strengths. The midfield is the most important department in modern football – if you control the centre third of the pitch then your chances of success are significantly increased. In Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal, Juve boast a centre midfield that in Europe is second in quality only to Barcelona. Pirlo, along with Xavi, is the world's premier midfield dictator, while Vidal is arguably the globe's best ball-winner.
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If the Juventus trio perform to their usual levels they will win the midfield battle against a rather immobile Chelsea duo of Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel, who in their last outing against Atletico Madrid couldn't cope with the energy of Koke and Gabi.
The Blues often revert from their starting 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-1-1 when not in possession, with wide-men Juan Mata and Ramires dropping. This ploy was successful en route to Champions League glory last season as Chelsea defended deep in numbers, cutting off the space for Barcelona and Bayern Munich to exploit. However, such a tactic would play right into the hands of Pirlo, who relishes such a scenario and famously ran the show for Italy against England at Euro 2012 when Roy Hodgson's men retired into their own half.
Touch of class | Pirlo could repeat England masterclass if Chelsea defend too deepJuventus hold the better midfield cards regardless of whether Roberto Di Matteo sticks or twists. Chelsea were criticised for 'parking the bus' last season, but the perils of throwing too many men forward were evident in their 4-1 European Super Cup thrashing by Atletico Madrid a fortnight ago. The Blues are susceptible on the counter due to a lack of pace, and in the first half Atletico created two one-on-ones direct from Chelsea corner kicks, breaking five on three and five on four respectively – Falcao completing his hat-trick with the latter opening. Juventus possess the pace throughout their line-up to similarly punish the English.
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Playing at home, Chelsea will need to show some adventure – and the summer signing of Eden Hazard makes that a guarantee. How Juventus cope with the raids of the Belgian wonderkid and lone forward Fernando Torres will also be key. Torres' movement troubled Italy's Juve-dominated backline in both Spain v Italy games at Euro 2012; he missed two sitters in the former and scored in the latter.
Torres will float across the Bianconeri back three, meaning he will not have a designated marker. Thus, Leonardo Bonucci in the centre must read the game and sweep up – something he has struggled to do in the past, having failed to read a predictable through pass for Jordi Alba's goal in the Euro 2012 final.Chelsea's main weapon is their physicality and power from set pieces. At Stamford Bridge last season the west Londoners bombarded Napoli into aerial submission during their 4-1 second-round, second-leg Champions League comeback, three of their goals originating from elevated crosses.
Juventus, player for player, should be able to cope with this facet of the game - the back three and Stephan Lichtsteiner are outstanding in the air, while the strength and stamina of the entire line-up - barring Pirlo and the front two - is impressive. Where Juve must be careful is in their organisation and concentration – an exam Napoli failed so spectacularly at the Bridge.
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The European champions contain clear weaknesses, though, as Los Rojiblancos will attest. The biggest blemishes in Monaco were right-back Branislav Ivanovic and centre-back David Luiz. The former was roasted for speed from start to finish by Filipe Luis, Adrian and Cristian Rodriguez. Pacy left wing-back Kwadwo Asamoah will be licking his lips at the prospect of attacking Ivanovic one on one if the Serbian is preferred to new signing Cesar Azpilicueta. Luiz, on the other hand, continues to be blighted by lapses in concentration and positioning, and he was at fault for Falcao's first two goals.John Terry will return from suspension against Juventus, and Chelsea will be better organised as a result. But, with the Blues conceding nine goals in five games, and Manchester City, Wigan and Atletico all registering 13-18 shots against Chelsea this term, Juventus will create chances. The question is whether the likely strikeforce of Mirko Vucinic and Sebastian Giovinco will be clinical enough to take them. Profligacy was Juve's biggest weakness last season, with their top scorer Alessandro Matri hitting a meagre 10 goals. This led to the failed attempt to sign a world-class attacker in the summer.
Juventus are handicapped by the absence of coach Antonio Conte – controversially suspended for the season following the betting scandal – who is replaced on the touchline by Massimo Carrera. Conte's motivational influence and live tactical tweaks will be missed – especially as this is a squad returning to the Champions League after two years away.
While a draw at the champions on matchday 1 would be a good result, this is a Juventus who never settle for second best and if they play the right tactical game there is no reason they can't return to Turin with all three points.
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