Juventus prove they really do belong among the elite

Posted by Mina Rzouki

Reminding everyone of what they had been missing, the Old Lady returned to dazzle Europe again with her confidence and effective football. As the English media nodded approvingly while Juventus tackled and created delicious passages of play, Italy was insulted by just how surprised so many were at the strength of Antonio Conte’s team.

No team goes undefeated in a top European league without being impressive and against Chelsea, the Old Lady showed off her ability and maturity to grab a point with only the crossbar stopping her from snatching the away win. However, the Londoners made her suffer and none more so than a young Brazilian who produced, not one, but two outrageous finishes to render Juve awestruck. Nothing was more delightful than Oscar’s second goal, which very nearly knocked the wind out of the Juventus sail.

More than goals, the youngster man-marked Andrea Pirlo to perfection leaving the Italian playmaker and his stylish beard contemplating ways in which they could make an impact on the game. Had it not been for his team-mates in central midfield, Juve would never have had the chance.

It took a while for the men in black and white to settle into the game. There were too many misplaced passes, the ball was given away far too easily and little Sebastian Giovinco who ran and ran and ran was easily dealt with by Chelsea’s muscular centre-backs. Displaying the strength of a mouse, Seba was never a threat - he looked about as tough as an old lady crossing the road.

Meanwhile his partner in attack lacked a striker’s killer instinct that would have made all the difference for Juventus on the night. Despite exhibiting the understanding between them at times, Chelsea’s tight-marking left them unable to strike. Luckily for Juve, they had a certain Fabio Quagliarella on the bench who actually did the job and came close to winning it with a classic PlayStation strike.

However, for much of the first half and despite their possession, Juventus were overwhelmed by the tempo of the game. Chelsea outmuscled them, won all aerial dues and relied on the long ball to overcome the Italian midfield. The Bianconeri could barely establish a rhythm to even attempt to impose their own style of play.

Despite their struggle to shine, they stayed true to their footballing ideals and remained compact so as to construct clever attacking movements and defend in unison without leaving their centre-backs exposed, like they were against Genoa. Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the game is that, as mentioned in the preview of the match, they dragged defenders away and exploited the spaces left behind in much the same way Diego Simeone advised them to do prior to the game.

While certain players disappointed, others produced man of the match performances and none more so than Juventus’ beating heart - Arturo Vidal. The machine simply never stopped playing or believing. He may not always pass accurately but when asked to describe his tough tackling, relentless running and exquisite positioning, one would be accused of indulging in hyperbole – such was the brilliance of his performance on the night. He tackled more than any other whilst he intercepted, dribbled and cleared to perfection. Most importantly, he scored a wondrous goal to reignite Bianconeri hope after Oscar threatened to blow out the Italian flame.

Claudio Marchisio also dazzled alongside him and played his part perfectly as he performed the one task asked of him – running into space to join the front-line. Causing the Chelsea centre-backs much trouble, Marchisio may have fluffed his chance in front of goal but he delivered two perfect assists to allow the Old Lady to claw her way back and grab a point. He was the midfield’s accurate passer. whose through balls and pin-point deliveries helped the team cope with the stifling of Pirlo.

Much should be made of the Old Lady’s character as it helped carry her through this game. She never looked to surrender and after going behind, tried even harder to secure footballing justice. Juve may not have deserved to win but they did not deserve defeat. That extra push, the extra pressure and the extra kilometres ran on the pitch made the difference for the Old Lady in addition to the quality of her midfield.

For many, there was an element of curiosity going into this game. Would Juve be able to replicate their league form on Europe’s grandest stage and against world-class opponents? On Wednesday night they proved they have what it takes to go far in this competition and perhaps provide the surprises they brought to Serie A last season.

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