When and where: The Champions League Group E match kicks-off from Stamford Bridge at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a live stream available on FoxSoccer2Go.
Preview: After an incredible run to their first ever Champions League crown last season, Chelsea begin the defense of their crown with a tricky home match with Italian champions Juventus. Unusually for the holders, Chelsea are not among the leading favorites for a repeat performance. Certainly few could claim that the Blues were the best team on the continent over the past campaign, with even John Mikel Obi claiming in the buildup to Wednesday’s encounter that “we were kind of lucky.”
Since that historic night in Munich back in May, Chelsea have undergone a significant transformation. Efforts have clearly been made to try and ensure that not only is the team successful, but that they do so in the attractive manner demanded by owner Roman Abramovich.
Powerhouse striker Didier Drogba has left, while a host of quick footed and/or quick of mind attacking midfielders have arrived in the form of Eden Hazard, Oscar, Marko Marin and Victor Moses. There is plenty of quality there, but now permanent manager Roberto Di Matteo faces a challenge to get his new look side to gel for a major tilt at this year’s trophy.
They look sure to be tested at the first hurdle too, with Juventus looking to return to the European elite. Once a regular participant in the Champions League’s latter stages, this is the Old Lady’s first appearance in the competition since 2009 and for the first time since Calciopoli there is a belief that one of European soccer’s great names are ready to challenge once more.
However, Juventus’ preparations for their campaign have been overshadowed by a 10-month ban to coach Antonio Conte, which has been extended by FIFA to cover matches worldwide. It is a blow to lose the immediate influence of a man that has yet to see his side lose in 42 league games since taking over last summer.
With Conte still preparing the side, though, his absence does not appear to have unduly affected Juventus. The Turin giants have begun the defense of their Serie A crown with three successive victories and nine goals scored.
It is the defense and midfield, stacked with several members of Italy’s impressive Euro 2012 squad, where the strength of this Juventus side resides, however. If there is a weakness it is in attack, where the club failed in their attempts to sign a top class marksman over the summer.
D: Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Cole
M: Mikel, Lampard
Ramires, Hazard, Mata
D: Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini
M: Lichtsteiner, Vidal, Pirlo, Marchisio, Asamoah
F: Giovinco, Vucinic
Prediction: The key to this match should be in the midfield. Juventus will pack that area of the field with a lineup featuring an ideal blend of energy and creativity—led by the great Andrea Pirlo. While Chelsea have spent big on attacking midfield talent, the likes of Hazard may struggle to make an impact if the ageing Frank Lampard and the suspect Mikel can't get a foothold.
It is hard to see Chelsea losing on home soil, but Juventus should push them close before both sides emerge with a point that each may secretly accept.
Chelsea 1-1 Juventus