Chelsea vs Juventus: Five things we learned as injuries undercut Blues’ dazzling Champions League win

The Independent
The Independent

Chelsea produced one of their finest performances of the season on Tuesday night, thrashing Juventus 4-0 at Stamford Bridge to reach the knockout stages of the Champions League .

Trevoh Chalobah, Reece James , Callum Hudson-Odoi and Timo Werner all scored for Thomas Tuchel ’s team, who usurped their beaten opposition at the top of Group H with this result.

Unfortunately for the Blues coach, N’Golo Kante and Ben Chilwell left the pitch due to injury, but there were still far more positives than negatives for the German to take away from this game.

Here are five things we learned.

James continues to excel

Against elite opposition, James was once more one of Thomas Tuchel’s outstanding performers. In fact, he was the outstanding performer across both teams here.

The right wing-back barely featured for England at this summer’s Euros, but he has since established himself as his country’s best right-sided defender. That is not to say James would have altered England’s fortunes in the Euro 2020 final, and a lot can happen in the year that remains between now and the 2022 World Cup, but Gareth Southgate cannot keep overlooking the 21-year-old. It’s not often that this is said of defenders, but he can be a player to build a team around.

On Tuesday evening, James was almost faultless on the right flank.

As the first half neared its conclusion, he lashed a fine half-volley towards the far bottom corner, barely denied by a fine Wojciech Szczesny save. An almost identical effort in the second half beat the Juve goalkeeper, as James scored for the fifth time this season – with five assists to his name, too.

If he remains healthy and is rewarded with the right contracts at the right times, James could be a stalwart for Chelsea for the next decade.

Chalobah thrives in another big moment

Back in August, Chalobah marked his Premier League debut by scoring in Chelsea’s 3-0 win against Crystal Palace. On Tuesday evening, he marked his first Champions League start by scoring in this victory over Juventus.

In the Palace game, the 22-year-old showed he’s not fazed by a big moment and that he can strike a ball particularly well for a defender.

The centre-back reinforced both notions here, opening the scoring with a well-taken half-volley into the top corner.

A first Champions League start, a first goal in the competition, and those accolades clearly mean the world to Chalobah – it was evident in his celebrations.

Ill-timed injuries to Chilwell and Kante

Kante did not make it to half-time before being replaced due to injury, while Chilwell was helped off with just over 20 minutes remaining at Stamford Bridge.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek replaced Kante and performed well, showing terrific footwork to set up Hudson-Odoi’s goal, but Tuchel will be frustrated to be without his World Cup-winning midfielder – who was this week nominated for the Fifa Best men’s player award – especially given Mateo Kovacic’s ongoing absence.

Chilwell, meanwhile, will be another big miss for as long as he is out. Thankfully he did not need a stretcher to leave the pitch, but he seemed to be in considerable pain after his coming-together with Adrien Rabiot.

With Werner returning to the pitch at the weekend and Romelu Lukaku fit enough to sit on the bench here, Tuchel will at least be glad that Kante and Chilwell’s injuries do not overlap with those of his forwards, yet he will be very much disappointed to still be without a full-strength, first-choice XI.

No love lost for Morata

Alvaro Morata was booed heavily throughout, Chelsea fans clearly holding little fondness for the Juventus striker’s time at Stamford Bridge.

Morata’s promising start to life at Chelsea is often forgotten, but in any case he failed to achieve any consistency with the Blues in a season-and-a-half spell. That’s partly due to one of the odd elements to Morata’s career, which is that he’s not even a confidence player, with goals even failing to alleviate periods of poor form.

On Tuesday night, the Spain international was denied a goal in the first half by Thiago Silva, who sprinted back towards his own net and made a last-second clearance to keep out Morata’s flicked lob over Edouard Mendy.

Elsewhere, the 29-year-old did little to get his own back on sneering Chelsea supporters.

Chelsea favourites to go all the way?

Chelsea are well-positioned to retain their Champions League title, a feat that has historically been impossible for clubs not named Real Madrid.

Of course there is still a long way to go, and Juventus were not at full strength here, but this was an emphatic victory for the Premier League leaders and as good as it gets against a club like Juve.

It was also a terrific result achieved without Lukaku on the pitch, and with Kante departing very early.

Tuchel has the foundations in place to take Chelsea to the trophy again, though a lot can happen between now and next spring, and luck is always vital at one point or another in this competition.

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