Chelsea on the brink of UCL exit after Juventus lesson
Roberto Di Matteo went from Champions League hero to zero as Chelsea crashed to a 3-0 defeat at Juventus and to the brink of an embarrassing exit from the competition.
The Italian’s biggest selection gamble since he took charge backfired as goals from Fabio Quagliarella, Arturo Vidal and Sebastian Giovinco left the Blues facing the prospect of becoming the first holders to depart the competition before Christmas.
Chelsea slumped to third place in Group E with one match remaining and must win against Nordsjaelland in two weeks’ time and hope Shakhtar Donetsk beat Juve, despite the Ukrainian side having qualified for the last 16 themselves.
That would be the equal of any let-off the European champions enjoyed en route to last season’s astonishing triumph. With Pep Guardiola supposedly waiting in the wings, Di Matteo could find himself on borrowed time barring another dramatic turnaround.
The same could be said of the Chelsea career of Fernando Torres, who was axed from the starting line-up on Tuesday night, although David Luiz produced enough hapless moments for the both of them.
If the line-up was meant to ease the defensive jitters that had seen Chelsea fail to keep a clean sheet for nine matches, it took less than four minutes for them to re-emerge when they twice nearly gifted Juventus the lead, Stephan Lichtsteiner going close before Petr Cech somehow turned his volley onto the post.
The Blues were being penned in but almost scored a sensational breakaway goal in the ninth minute when Oscar ran 70 yards, beating three men before feeding Eden Hazard, whose shot ricocheted behind off Gianluigi Buffon’s legs.
Oscar almost produced a goal out of nothing again when he raced onto Ramires’ pass, Leonardo Bonucci getting back to block.
But Juve took the lead seven minutes from half-time, Quagliarella reacting to redirect Pirlo’s low drive past Cech.
A goal-line clearance from Ashley Cole prevented Kwadwo Asamoah’s cross being bundled home by Lichtsteiner. But their defence was nowhere when Asamoah picked out Vidal, whose shot deflected off Ramires and through Cech’s legs early in the second period.
Torres did come on eventually, but Juve were in complete control. Mirko Vucinic produced a bad miss six yards out and, as Torres made no impression, Giovinco came off the bench to seal the game on the break.
Afterwards, Chelsea keeper Petr Cech, at fault for Juventus' third, admitted his side's hopes of retaining their Champions League crown are now hanging by a thread.
"We said before the game we had our destiny in our own hands but not any more. Now we have to do our bit to win our last game and hope destiny will be kind to us," said the Czech custodian.
"Being realistic, Juventus played really well and they need a point. Shakhtar are already qualified so they don't need to take a chance on the result.
"It is a very sad moment because last season the Champions League was like a dream. I wouldn't say it's a nightmare but it's a huge disappointment."