Group H’s top two clash in London this Tuesday, as Chelsea and unbeaten leaders Juventus battle it out for supremacy in their Champions League section.
While the Old Lady triumphed in Turin when the clubs last met – before going on to seal progress to the last 16 with four wins from four – the reigning champions are just a point away from confirming their place in the knockout stages
After maintaining their three-point lead at the top of the Premier League table with a routine win at Leicester City on Saturday, in-form Chelsea will shift their focus to prolonging their defence of the Champions League trophy they lifted for the second time last May.
Sitting second in the group behind this week’s opponents, their only defeat so far came in a close-fought encounter at the Allianz Stadium back in September, as a 1-0 Juventus win was secured by Federico Chiesa’s goal at the start of the second half.
Those were the only points dropped by the Blues to date, after an opening win at home to Zenit was followed by dominant victories against Malmo on each of the last two matchdays. Though Thomas Tuchel’s men only prevailed by a single goal in Sweden last time out, they assumed complete control once again, and won the two games by a 5-0 aggregate scoreline.
The Blues’ league form since first disposing of the Allsvenskan champions will give Tuesday’s visitors serious cause for concern too, as they strode to a 7-0 victory over Norwich City and put three past both Newcastle and Leicester. Those goals have been coming from all quarters of a confident side, as Chelsea’s 30 Premier League strikes this term have been scored by 15 different players.
Tuchel ensures they keep things tight at the back as well, with the capital club having kept six clean sheets in their last eight matches. Not only that, but they are also yet to concede more than once in any game during the 2021-22 campaign.
Such defensive solidity – and a forbiddingly deep squad – means that they will be one of the teams to avoid in the draw for the last 16, should they confirm their place in the coming weeks. With fixtures piling up between here and Christmas, their head coach will want to do so at the first possible opportunity.
In stark contrast to their patchy domestic form, Juventus sit atop Group H with maximum points so far, after they sealed a double over Zenit St Petersburg earlier this month.
Having won their first three fixtures without conceding a goal, the Bianconeri finally succumbed to a Leonardo Bonucci own goal in Turin, but were still able to run out 4-2 winners over the Russian champions. As a result, Juventus will be confirmed in first place if they avoid defeat against Chelsea this week, following improved fortunes in Serie A.
Since his much-heralded return in the summer, Max Allegri has seen his side stumble to defeats against several mid-table teams, such as Sassuolo and Verona, but back-to-back wins either side of the international break have lifted them to seventh in the standings – still well off the Scudetto pace.
Juve ended a three-game winless run in the league with a home victory against 10-man Fiorentina at the start of November – marking Allegri’s 200th win as the club’s head coach – and they followed that up with a gritty 2-0 success against Lazio in Rome, when a penalty in each half from stand-in skipper Bonucci secured the points.
As they return to continental action, Juventus can boast a remarkable record of 14 wins from their last 15 group games. For that reason, they will bring some hard-earned confidence to English soil, where they remain unbeaten in five matches since a notorious 4-1 loss at Chelsea’s west London rivals Fulham in the 2010 Europa League.
Chelsea Champions League form:
Chelsea form (all competitions):
Juventus Champions League form:
Juventus form (all competitions):
We say: Chelsea 1-0 Juventus
Chelsea can gain a measure of revenge for their defeat in Italy earlier this season by ending Juve’s flawless record and ensuring the race for top spot goes down to the final matchday in Group H.
Though the visitors can be flaky against some of the more modest sides they encounter, they rarely concede many in big games, so will be edged out by the odd goal at Stamford Bridge due to their hosts’ wealth of attacking options.