Our second toughest game of the group stage beckons with the visit of current European Champions Chelsea. With most juventini expecting very little, given our recent and long term form contrasts hideously with the amazing work Tuchel has done in a short space of time at the London club.
We are missing Dybala and Morata who join eternally unavailable Ramsey, Jorge and Arthur in the stands, which demands of Max to have trained with and to now deploy a new front line.
Rumours abound of Chiesa playing through the middle, flanked by Juan and Freddy B. And whilst Chiesa has played that role plenty of times for Fiorentina, it is not at all a common position since his move to Juve. Yet I can understand Max’s thinking, I believe…
It will be vital to push back the wingbacks/ fullbacks of Chelsea. Alonso especially has been in inspired form most the early season, and with Reece James out, Azpilicueta should start or even Hudson Odoi. Its mainly Alonso who is a serious threat, not only as a creative force, but as a direct goal threat. Makes sense to have Juan playing and pushing high up the field, with Danilo an extra wall remaining deep. This seems more solid and intelligent than a 3-5-2, as we have to prevent space for the spanish wide man.
On the other flank, Freddy has shown (on occasion) an ability to hustle, and make a nuisance of himself. Creating little, but at least a physical presence with good energy to chase and block. Whereas Chiesa is wasted if tasked with dropping deep to track runners and help defensively in the middle.
However, Max did mention Kean specifically in his pre-match press conference, confirming Kean would play as is our only focal point in attack. He did not though specify when he would play, from the start or from the bench.
To see McKennie’s name in a fair few expected line-up offerings is concerning, as he has been the poorest Juve player I have seen this campaign. His head may not be right since his issues with the US national team, and we can ill afford to be carrying any player in this match, let alone carrying a player in central midfield. Others keep suggesting that he had two shots each of his last few games, and could have scored, but he hasnt scored these chances, and the rest of his play has been ghost like or simply poor.
I am not particularly impressed with Rabiot either, but he is a damn sight more useful than McKennie presently. So will hope the frenchman joins Loca and Bentancur, rather than the american.
Expect Chiellini to reprise his partnership with Big Leo, Sandro on the left and Tek back between the sticks.
With Kean left to boil on the bench, yet will surely be involved, as I expect also the case with Kulu.
We have to attack Chelsea. Hope that Chiellini can keep Lukaku under control (again) with Alonso slamming into a Danilo wall or pulled back by Juan’s running behind the defence and with a bit of luck, we could emerge better off than many have assumed will be a terrible mauling.
Fortunately, Tuchel’s wounded beast – after the recent loss to Man City – are also missing some key players, with Mount, James, Kante and Pulisic all absent. Which is not to suggest in the slightest that they will be putting out a weak side. No chance.
This Chelsea squad is considerably stronger than ours in most areas of the field. They also have one of the brightest managers in the game, who took hold of them as late in the day as January of this year, proceeded to drastically improve the results, performances and many players. To such a stunning degree that he began with a 14 match unbeaten run, including five consecutive clean sheets at home, then onto the FA Cup final (lost to Leicester) and CL final victory over Man City. all in his first half season.
His success has been incredibly impressive.
Match report to follow…