Chelsea can approach their Champions League tie at Juventus either in the manner in which Lazio closed up shop and played for a draw at the weekend or in the manner in which Inter caught the Old Lady on the hop with a fast-breaking, attacking game plan.
Both tactics produced the desired outcome for Inter’s respective opponents: Lazio were always content to gain a point while Inter were desperate to ensure that their most bitter of rivals did not extend their unbeaten run in Serie A to a half century.
The Nerazzurri under their young but forward thinking coach Andrea Stramaccioni, who has something of the Jose Mourinho swagger about him, tore Juve apart in their own back yard through the razor-sharp link play between Antonio Cassano and Rodrigo Palacio who played either side of Diego Milito who grabbed two goals in the 3-1 win.
This historic moment – the first home defeat at the new Juventus Stadium – was also built on a tigerish midfield three and a rock-solid back-line where the two full-backs pushed forward to nullify Juve’s attack-minded wing-backs, but where Stramaccioni really excelled in his preparation was harrying Juve’s greatest threat, Andrea Pirlo, at every turn.
Antonio Conte’s side play out from the back through their goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon who rarely punts the ball forward but instead passes to one of the back three, be it either Andrea Brazagli or Giorgio Chiellini out wide but more than often through the middle to Leonardo Bonucci who then seeks out Pirlo.
The little maestro in turn then finds Artur Vidal or Claudio Marchisio and the two midfield engines bring the man with the golden feet into the game a further 10 or 15 yards up the pitch where he can do untold damage with his rich array of passing
Stramaccioni made sure that his swiftest frontman Palacio would race back to the halfway line to either cut out the possibility of a pass to the playmaker or put him under pressure so that he was forced to twist and turn before delivering a pass.
England’s tormentor at Euro 2012 has been the fulcrum of the Bianconeri’s amazing run after being allowed to leave AC Milan at the start of last season as they felt his best days had gone at the age of the 32 and were unwilling to offer him a further two-year contract.
His vision and guile ensured that his Juve team-mates are always going forward and if they cannot find a way through or need to start again there is always one player who is always available to receive a pass.
Tellingly, Pirlo was rested for the weekend match against Lazio who returned Italian football to the years of catenaccio when teams travelled away from home and basically parked eleven men behind the ball and hoped to get a goal if not on the break then from a set-piece.
The Romans hardly managed a viable threat while at the other end goalkeeper Federico Marchetti pulled off a series of stunning saves and Bonucci rattled the bar.
Juventus may be the top scorers in Italy with 29 goals from the first 13 games and have had 12 different names on the scoresheet which is a positive return but at the same time the strikers are not carrying the major bulk of the goalscoring duties particularly against top-class opposition.
Fabio Quagliarella, who scored at Stamford Bridge earlier in the competition and found the net again against Nordsjselland, also leads the way in the league with six while Sebastian Giovinco has four on the domestic and also took advantage to hit one against the group minnows.
The diminutive frontman in particular has been very wasteful in front of goal as has Mirko Vucinic who also scored against the Danish champions in a draw that could yet come back to haunt the Turin side.
The feeling is that if Conte could call upon a true marksman then Juventus would be serious contenders to reach the latter stages of Champions League and there seems to be serious attempts afoot to bring Didier Drogba to the club for a six-month spell if they manage to get through to the knock-out stages.
For a club that has won either 28 or 30 scudetti depending whose version you listen to, Juventus have a poor record in Europe, having only two Champions League trophies to their name. There is a real belief within the camp that the league will take care of itself where they are have the strength and depth to see off the rest over a nine-month period, but the primary objective is to come out of the group ahead of Chelsea.
While the matches against Shakhtar Donetsk and Nordsjselland were sparsely attended, the Juventus Stadium as Conte put it will be “rocking” this evening in the manner it was for the visits of AS Roma, Napoli and Inter.
Ginaluca Vialli has called Pirlo Juve’s 12th man and he will be the main danger for the Blues, but when called upon the crowd have also played their part in driving the team forward on the big occasion although everyone is well aware of what happened when Inter went toe-to-toe with the Old Lady and silenced the Juventus stadium in stunning fashion.