Chelsea generally played terribly on Tuesday, and very much deserved to lose to Juventus.
Due to the dreadful form of Fernando Torres and an injury suffered on Monday by Daniel Sturridge, Chelsea ran out one of the stranger starting lineups that I've ever seen the club field on Tuesday. Eden Hazard was called upon to start at center forward, with Cesar Azpilicueta moving into the right side of the midfield. The rest of the starting eleven was more or less what you would expect from Chelsea this season, but to keep the same 4-2-3-1 shape that we've been using seemed a bit of an odd decision.
Chelsea looked good immediately following the opening kickoff, they passed the ball around comfortably for the entire first minute of play before Juventus touched the ball for the first time. It was clear from the start that Chelsea were content to sit back and defend, looking to break on the counter attack in the same way that they handled Barcelona and Bayern Munich last season.
Just three minutes into the game, Petr Cech was tested for the first time. The Blues were slipping and falling all over the back, and Juve took advantage and manged to get a cross over the top to the onrushing Stephen Lichtsteiner. Petr Cech made a spectacular looking save, but in reality he was positioned so well for it that Lichtsteiner had very little chance of beating him on that shot. Still, it was a worrying sign that Chelsea had already allowed a shot from that close on a cross.
Chelsea should have created the next chance of the game, but Ramires was denied a free kick in a very dangerous position on the counter attack when marauding down the center. They continued to absorb Juventus pressure, and almost took advantage when Juve seemed to push too aggressively just a minute later.
For some reason, Giorgio Chiellini was caught losing possession in the Chelsea 18-yard box, leaving acres of space for Chelsea on the counter attack. Oscar made a fantastic run, eventually feeding Eden Hazard for a point blank shot that certainly should have seen Chelsea up 1-0. He'd fire straight into Gianluigi Buffon though, and the game remained scoreless.
Juventus created several chances from corners, and Chelsea did fairly well with the first few. The third in quick succession saw a fancy play from the training ground though, that forced Petr Cech into an excellent save. It's hard to find too much fault with the defending on that one, as that was simply one of the better executed set pieces I've seen this season. Worrying, but a tip of the cap moment rather than something to criticize.
Juventus continued to press forward, and Chelsea did a nice job defending them for the next bit of the game. Juve managed quite a few shots form outside the box, but none of them did much to test Petr Cech. Juventus were controlling possession, but Chelsea were generally creating the more dangerous looking opportunities (although their shooting was absolutely dreadful).
Thirty seven minutes in, this would all change. Andrea Pirlo took a relatively harmless shot from 30 yards away, but a brilliant deflection by Fabio Quagliarella left Petr Cech wrong footed. Cech still made an excellent play to get a hand to the ball, but it wasn't enough to keep it out of the back of the net. Juventus led 1-0 on the back of a fantastic bit of play from Quagliarella.
Juventus nearly made it 2-0 minutes later, but Ashley Cole made a brilliant goal line clearance. The Blues almost leveled it just seconds later, as Cesar Azpilicueta laid a perfect cross in the path of Juan Mata. Unfortunately Mata barely connected with the ball, rolling it harmlessly to Buffon. Oscar was also denied by some brilliant last ditch defending, as the game went into the break 1-0.
The second half got underway with no changes to either side, and Chelsea created the first opportunity of the half when Juan Mata was taken down 20 yards from goal. His free kick didn't get over the wall though, and Chelsea would continue to chase the lead.
Over in Denmark, FC Nordsjaelland would concede a third and fourth goal to Shakhtar in quick succession, and it became clear that Chelsea would need a result in Italy in order to keep their fate in their own hands. Roberto Di Matteo responded by taking Azpilicueta off for Victor Moses, but the lead was quickly doubled as Arturo Vidal found the back of the net.
Kwadwo Asamoah easily beat Branislav Ivanovic on the right before picking out VIdal at the edge of the box. Vidal fired an entirely save-able shot at Petr Cech, but the ball took a deflection off of Ramires and caught Cech wrong footed for the second time. Unlike the first Juve goal, this was a bit of a fluky one. Vidal never should have had the space to shoot though, and Ivanovic didn't exactly cover himself in glory with his work on Asamoah. 2-0 Juve, and that would pretty much wrap it up as Chelsea looked defeated after the second Juve talley.
Chelsea brought Fernando Torres on for John Obi Mikel with 20 minutes to go as they pushed forward for goals, but Torres was never likely to make much of an impact against a team parking the bus and defending a two goal lead. Petr Cech got caught a mile out of goal for a third in the game's closing minutes, but by that point most of the players on the pitch had more or less checked out anyway.
Chelsea head into Matchday 6 needing help if they want to make it out of the group stage this season. It's certainly not impossible though, as a Shakhtar Donetsk win at home combined with a Chelsea win would see the defending champions through. Shakhtar will almost certainly be playing to win the group, as it will be their last game before the knockout round, and rest will not be an issue. There is definitely hope, especially as Shakhtar were a bit unlucky not to take three points in Turin earlier in the season.
Chelsea have concerns of their own at this point though. Eden Hazard did a decent enough job filling in for Fernando Torres, but at this point in his career, he's just not a good option at center forward. Fernando Torres has been woefully poor, and Daniel Sturridge is hurt. Chelsea just don't have many options to lead the line at the moment, and they desperately need help in that regard going forward.
There is also far too much space being left between the midfield and the center of the defense, and it's causing problems when the fullbacks are struggling to prevent easy crosses. This is not a problem with individual talents, but a group-wide failure to shut down dangerous spaces for the opponents to shoot from. This is the same general group that Di Matteo managed to turn into a well oiled machine last season, so some work at the training ground should be able to fix these issues. It needs to be done soon though, as this unit capable of being far better than they have been playing.
In the end, Chelsea very much deserved to lose this game. We drew a tough group, and this is a very young team. It's hard not to have expected better though, as at times this club hasn't looked like they belonged on the pitch with their opponents. All we can do now is take care of Nordsjaelland and hope, but let's save the over-reaction until the fat lady has sung.