Juventus and Shakhtar will make Chelsea´s group the most interesting of all
Published: 10.10.12 / Written by: David Gold
The glamour Champions League group of Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Ajax and Manchester City may have caught the imagination, and has already provided plenty of thrills after just one matchday, but perhaps the most intriguing of the sections is the one involving the reigning champions.
Chelsea find themselves in with the Danish side Nordsjaellend, as well as Juventus and Shakhtar Donetsk. The Danes, on their debut, are unlikely to make much impression, although they have shown that they are a decent team deserving of respect.
But in Juventus and the underrated Shakhtar, this promises to be the most intriguing group of all. Shakhtar Donetsk drew 1-1 in Turin on Tuesday night in a match which went relatively unnoticed in England, but it was a significant result for the Ukrainians. It brought to an end a remarkable 25 match winning streak, but they looked like the better team at times in Turin against Juventus, who themselves have not lost for 45 matches in Serie A, and whose only defeat since the 2010-11 season was against Napoli in last year’s Italian Cup.
Shakhtar have Brazilian flair in abundance despite the departure last year of Jadson, with Alex Teixeira opening the scoring and Willian a focal point up front. They are a team with slick passing and skill, not to mention defensive capability, and their organisation and consistency will be a real test for a Chelsea team in transition. Roberto di Matteo is managing that transition very well though, and they showed uncharacteristic style in Denmark on Tuesday night. Their goals were the result of carving open their opponents with rapid passing rather than the direct physical route taken in the past. It is a sign of a new, more exciting Chelsea, the excellent Juan Mata pulling the strings.
Juventus too, cannot be discounted. The Italian champions and unbeaten in so long, they have already taken a point from Stamford Bridge which could be vital for them over the course of this group. They have a superb defence and midfield, which gives them a significant basis on which to build going forward. Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini are fearsome defenders, whilst the midfield trio in the centre of Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and Arturo Vidal are a test for anyone.
These next three matchdays will be intriguing. Next time out, Chelsea meet Shakhtar at home. That will be an extremely hard match to win, and if Chelsea do not come away from their two meetings with the Ukrainians with more than a point, then they would go to Juventus on matchday five effectively needing to win to give themselves a realistic chance of progress. For Shakhtar, if they come off worse from their clash with Chelsea, they would go into their final match at home to Juventus needing to beat them to potentially steal their place in the last 16.
Three into two just will not go, and in this particular tussle, we may have one of the most interesting fights in the group stages for many a year. A genuine three way fight for two places between evenly matched teams. That can only be good for UEFA and the Champions League.