While not quite winner takes all, the meeting between Juventus and Chelsea on Tuesday is almost as close as any match can come to being so.
Chelsea sit in second place in Champions League Group E, level on points with pace setters Shakhtar Donetsk and crucially just a single point ahead of Juventus. If Chelsea win they are guaranteed a spot in the knockout phase as they look to retain the trophy they won in dramatic fashion for the first time last May. But lose and their hopes will be hanging by a thread.
“We owe ourselves a good performance, then anything can happen,” said Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo, according to Uefa.com. “We have proved before that when it comes down to it, our players can be counted on.”
The situation could have been even more precarious for Chelsea had they not scored an injury time winner against Shakhtar Donetsk two weeks ago. That victory was one of only two in the Blues’ last seven matches in all competitions as the team’s positive start to the season has faded somewhat dramatically in recent weeks.
Di Matteo has come under fire, while there has also been speculation that £50 million striker Fernando Torres will be dropped for the crunch match in Turin. But 90 minutes is a long time in the world of soccer and Juventus could be the side left dejected by the end of proceedings at the Juventus Stadium.
The two sides drew 2-2 when they met back in September, but it is the two points that Juventus dropped away at Nordsjaelland that Antonio Conte’s side may be left regretting if things do not go their way on Tuesday.
Domestically, despite relinquishing their long unbeaten streak to Inter Milan earlier this month, Juventus sit four points clear as they look to retain their Serie A title.
Juventus will have Andrea Pirlo available for the clash with Chelsea after the veteran playmaker sat out Saturday’s goalless draw with Lazio through suspension. Forward Mirko Vucinic is still struggling with flu, however, and looks set to be assessed close to kick-off time.
Chelsea will be missing club stalwarts John Terry and Frank Lampard, but a third veteran Ashley Cole is expected to return from an ankle injury.
D: Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini
M: Isla, Vidal, Pirlo, Marchisio, Asamoah
F: Vucinic, Quagliarella
D: Ivanovic, Luiz, Cahill, Cole
M: Ramires, Mikel
Mata, Oscar, Hazard
Prediction: On a dismal run of form and in the back of a defeat to West Brom on Saturday, Chelsea face a daunting task in Turin against a strong Juventus side in desperate need of a victory. While the Italians had to come back from two goals down at Stamford Bridge, it was they that had the better of the match and were perhaps unfortunate not to emerge with all three points. If Juventus’ midfield three can dominate proceedings the way they did that night then they should get the victory this time around.
Juventus 2-1 Chelsea
Where to watch: The Champions League E match kicks-off at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel, with a live stream available on FoxSoccer2Go.