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The Big Match Tactical View: Juventus v Chelsea

Marchisio's runs caused Chelsea problems at Stamford Bridge

Marchisio opened the scoring in Juventus' previous European game
Back Claudio Marchisio to score first at 16.015/1

Michael Cox considers the strategies of two promising young Italian coaches.

Juventus v Chelsea, Tuesday 7:45, ITV1.

Match Odds: Juventus 1.8910/11, Chelsea 4.57/2, The Draw 3.953/1.

The 2-2 draw between these sides at Stamford Bridge was a fascinating tactical battle - and although both managers will have learned lessons from that match, the line-ups are likely to be very similar in Turin.

Antonio Conte's 3-5-2 system caused Chelsea problems - although Oscar scored two goals from long-range to give Chelsea the lead, the Italian champions piled on the pressure as the game went on, and fully deserved their point.

As Liverpool also demonstrated in the recent 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea aren't sure how to play against three-man defences - their wide players drop too deep and allow the opposition back three time on the ball to play intelligent forward passes into midfield, meaning Roberto Di Matteo's side often see little of the ball.

This also leaves Fernando Torres badly isolated - and as a player who likes to work the channels and depends upon his clever movement to draw opponents out of position, I don't think he finds enough space when battling one-versus-three. His form shows no sign of improvement, and against three good centre-backs I think he's worth laying to score at around 3.711/4.

The battle on the flanks is crucial. Juventus' wing-backs (probably the ex-Udinese duo of Mauricio Isla and Kwadwo Asamoah, although Stephane Lichsteiner could replace the former) will be highly aggressive and energetic with their positioning when Juventus have the ball, and will stay close to the touchlines, stretching the play. 

Here, Di Matteo must decide how he wants to play this defensively - he won't want Eden Hazard and Juan Mata tracking them back all the way, but equally he'll be reluctant to give Juve too much time to cross the ball, especially after Chelsea conceded two goals at West Bromwich Albion from crosses at the weekend. It might be wise for the wingers to stay high up the pitch and let the full-backs deal with Juve's wing-backs, with the other three defenders shuffling across the pitch to form a temporary back three against Juve's two forwards.

That would leave Chelsea exposed to quick switches of play from flank to flank, and the man they have to stop in this respect is Andrea Pirlo, Juve's wonderful deep-lying playmaker. In the fixture at Stamford Bridge, this was arguably the most impressive part of Chelsea's game - Oscar stuck tight to Pirlo, preventing Juve from playing through him. That the Brazilian came up with two goals was almost a bonus - preventing Pirlo from running the game is worth a goal in itself.

Instead, Juve will look to Arturo Vidal, but the other man Chelsea have to watch out for is Claudio Marchisio. At Stamford Bridge, he constantly made driving runs from a left-of-centre midfield position, reminiscent of a younger Frank Lampard. Ramires and Jon Obi Mikel failed to track his runs, and I think Marchisio is a fine bet as first goalscorer at 16.015/1.

Ramires' job in the centre of midfield is very important - at West Brom the combination of Mikel and Oriel Romeu was too flat and cautious, whereas the Brazilian provides irreplaceable directness from central positions, connecting the defensive five players with the attacking quartet. Juve play an interesting midfield triangle, with the creator located at the bottom in conjunction with two powerful, energetic players higher up - and Ramires must match the stamina of Vidal, in particular.

Conte's forward partnership is the game's key tactical decision. Although he has five decent options - Sebastian Giovinco, Alessandro Matri, Fabio Quagliarella, Nicklas Bendtner and Mirko Vucinic - to call upon, he lacks a clear first-choice. I think Quagliarella and Giovinco is a decent bet - they provide clever movement and a good mutual understanding, and their link-up play with Marchisio is a real danger to Chelsea.

Recommended bets:
Lay Fernando Torres to score at 3.711/4
Back Claudio Marchisio to score first at 16.015/1

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19 November 2012

Champions League

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