Chelsea vs. Juventus: Presenting the PLAYERS

Fresh from the great minds of Gazzetta dello Sport, here is a look at ALL THE PLAYERS from UEFA Champion’s League Chelsea vs. Juventus.



Often tagged as the “second-best keeper in the world” (now down to third with Casillas, get over it Chelsea fans), Petr Cech has now the opportunity to go neck-in-neck with the nº1 guy, aka Gigi Buffon. His season so far has not been absolutely stellar, but the Czech keeper has made some key saves for the Blues and put his darkest moments of form behind him. Now he will have to face off against the headers of Amauri and the free-kicks of Del Piero.
After putting 2008 (and all the associated back strains and muscular problems behind him), Buffon took back his nº1 spot between the Bianconeri posts. And Juve will need every ounce of his talent, because every intervention, anticipation, save and mistake can be capital for the final victory.

Felipe Scolari may be gone, but the right-back he left to Guus Hiddink is among the world’s elite in that category. Bosingwa can push forward, cross, and even shoot from the distance. Sometimes however he falls asleep during the defensive phase, especially on man-on-man marking instances.
Now steadily employed by Ranieri as right full-back, the Czech player distinguishes himself essentially with his reliability: this star may not shine very brightly but it rarely has had any “off” days. And we can’t really expect him to play like Maicon, but Grygera be put to many other uses (including playing on the left or in the center).

Despite still solidly occupying the heart of the Blues defense, the Chelsea & England captain hasn’t been playing his best season (at least so far). And one has to wonder whether all of his Champions League appearances aren’t still marred by that penalty miss in last year’s final.
Through his top-notch Bianconeri performances Legrottaglie has also conquered the Italian national team back. Years may be going by, but his physique, experience, and spiritual faith (yes, religion) are helping him keep his playing level to high par. With Chiellini, he makes up one of Serie A’s most solid defensive pairs: a good test against the likes of Drogba & Anelka.

Much like Terry, this hasn’t been Carvalho’s best season (a few injury & teamwork problems during the Scolari era are to blame). He’s still one of the world’s best center-backs though, and if he’s healthy the Bianconeri strikers will have one hell of a time against him. He will skip the first leg at Stamford Bridge though.
His return to full fitness is absolutely fundamental for Juve’s qualifying chances: “Keyser Giorgio” often provides an insurmountable obstacle for opposing attacks. With great personality & intelligence, he dominates his center-back position and is likely to do so for many years to come also in the Italian national team.

Offensively, Ashley Cole’s performances have always been quite satisfying (both with Chelsea & the Three Lions). Defensively however, the ex-Gunners wing-back has been accumulating a few mistakes too many, and Blues fans are still waiting to see the player that was roaming and dominating his wing during his time at Arsenal.
Debates on this Salernitana youth-team product are raging and the verdict’s far from being out: some think he’s not Juve material, others praise his recent progress, physical efforts & defensive work (I am in the latter category). The match against Chelsea is a good opportunity to prove what he’s worth.

Like many times before his in career, Ballack’s post-Christmas performances have significantly improved compared to the early part of the season. He has become once again the protagonist of match-winning goals & performances, this player can shoot, is dangerous on headers and has also got a pretty decent set of set-pieces skills.
One of the Bianconeri’s key players, instantly able to turn the tide of a match to Juve’s favor, he’s Ranieri’s weapon of choice with his ball control, dribbling, and crossing abilities. The manager’s biggest concern? Health, as indeed Camo hasn’t been fit longer than 1 month this season (ably replaced by Marchionni however).

Waiting for Michael Essien’s knee to heal, the Nigerian midfielder has been guaranteeing the solidity of the Blues’ midfield to at least the bare minimum level. With their main players geared toward offensive work, Mikel’s interdiction capabilities are perfect to give the defense a hand. On the condition of keeping a cool head, which isn’t exactly this player’s speciality.
After his Liverpool experience Sissoko knows a great deal about English football. Playing against Chelsea sounds like a match made in heaven: physical challenges & rough tackling (or “British-style play” if you will) will be in high demand during this fixture, and these are the Malian international’s great specialty. Time to show the EPL crowd “Momo is still boss”.

After a Summer of hesitation, he finally decided to stay at Chelsea and it was a fundemental choice for the team: his contribution this season (goals & assists) has already hit double-digits, and that’s not even taking his ever-so-capital leadership role into consideration. He’s a true warrior with a vast luggage of technical skills: shooting, passing, movement, headers, etc. An irreplaceable piece.
From mysterious object to undesirable reject to key component of Juve’s midfield. Tiago’s progress in the Old Lady sure has had some ups and downs. It now finally seems the Portuguese midfielder’s adapted to the Italian playing style, complementing Sissoko’s rugged defensive work with good playmaking abilities. The cherry on the cake would be a goal against his ex-team Chelsea…

After his costly transfer from Lyon in the Summer of 2007, the Stamford Bridge crowd were hoping for far better performances from Malouda. So far his Blues highlights reel contains as many ups as downs, but the advantage for Hiddink is having a player which can occupy the left wing and give precious assists on a good day.
Perhaps one of the players at Juve who wants this Champions League trophy the most, you can be sure Pavel Nedved will give his heart & soul on the field against Chelsea. At 36 years of age he’s still a capital piece of Ranieri’s chessboard, and even though his physique doesn’t allow him to play many back-to-back matches, his contribution in charisma & leadership are invaluable for matches like these.

With Scolari out of the way, Blues fans hope Drogba will return to be the player he once was: extraordinary physique, excellent playing fundamentals, goal-scoring instinct in any situation. It’s easy to predict Guus Hiddink will promote him back to a starting role, hoping that he and Anelka can finally sing in tune with one another.
His first season in Bianconero has been excellent so far: with Trezeguet’s injury, the Brazilian striker has solidly occupied a starting spot in the Juve attack, accumulating goals left & right since the year started. With a devastating physique & pure Brazilian-style technical ability, the 28 year-old player has just reached professional adulthood and Chelsea’s fixture is a perfect opportunity to confirm that.

Kalou may not often find himself under the spotlight, but he’s certainly a player able to give the Chelsea attack another dimension. He moves between the midfielders and the front striker, always looking for the winning assist before taking a shot himself. It’s the kind of altruism which great teams strive for.
At 34 years of age, ADP has so far chalked up yet another season of world-class performances & inspiring examples of leadership. Not only has he lead his team to victories on more than one occasion (Champions League included), but his free-kicks are still the terror of many opposing goalkeepers. He has had the intelligence of adapting his playing style to his advancing years: where speed is lacking, Del Piero makes up with technique.

He’s the first alternative to Terry & Carvalho at the heart of the Blues defense: in other words a luxury substitute. He’s got a very good kick, which is an added weapon up front, and innate sense of positioning. But two weaknesses: he’s certainly no speed demon and has trouble defending set-pieces sometimes.
For a free transfer, the ex-Aston Villa center-back’s performances in Italy have been more than satisfying. Especially since the Swedish player can both play in the center and on the wings, and with Juve’s injury problems this season versatility is golden. With his international experience, no doubt Ranieri will be counting on Olof to pitch in when needed.

He may be one of Scolari’s “kids”, but the naturalized Brazilian will no doubt be highly esteemed by Hiddink as well. A bit harder to predict is exactly what kind of role he will have in the Goose’s tactics: playmaker or part of a three-man midfield? One thing’s for sure: whatever his position, the technical abilities of Deco aren’t up for discussion (his ability to control his temper might be).
Being the back-up plan to a great player like Xabi Alonso has weighed heavily on Poulsen so far, as many Juve supporters expected things the ex-Sevilla midfielder couldn’t deliver. The Danish international is essentially an interdictor, a shrewd tactical element which makes up for his lack of technique by being at the right place at the right time. But don’t ask to act as a playmaker: that’s not his thing.

He was Chelsea’s last shooter in the May 2008 UCL final, and we all know how that ended: VdS save and cup to Man Utd. This season however, with some help from Drogba’s health problems, Anelka’s been reborn: currently the Premier League topscorer the French international seems to be back to his golden Arsenal days. It’s likely Hiddink will give him a starter spot against Juve, the question is: with or without Didier?
With Juve’s mercato signings pretty much non-existent, one could say the Old Lady’s biggest Winter transfer has been David Trezeguet. In effect, the French international’s season begins now: out injured for over 4 months, David celebrated his return to a starting role last week-end with a goal. Although unlikely to start vs. the Blues, his predatory instincts inside the box may yet prove useful to Juventus once again.

Marco Pantanella is the Author & Editor of the mCalcio blog

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