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Chelsea are on the brink of becoming the first reigning champions in the history of the UEFA Champions League to be eliminated in the Group Stages of the following year's competition after having suffered a humiliating 3-0 defeat at the hands of Italian Champions Juventus. Goals from Fabio Quagliarella, Arturo Vidal and Sebastian Giovinco saw Juventus leapfrog Chelsea into second place in Group E with 9 points and their better head to head record against the Blues means that should they pick up a point in their final group game against Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine next month, Chelsea will be relegated to playing in the Europa League the rest of this season. Shakhtar booked their place in the last 16 of the Champions League with a convincing 5-2 win against FC Nordsjaelland.
Chelsea had made an electric start to their 2012-13 season, going top of the Premier League, but have in recent weeks had a dip in form and are win-less in their last 4 league games. The Blues though did sneak a narrow win in the UEFA Champions League a couple of weeks ago at home against co-group leaders Shakhtar Donetsk, and came into this game with Juventus tonight knowing that any result should be good enough to see them through as they are facing the group's whipping boys FC Nordsjaelland at home on Matchday 6.
With that in mind, it was perhaps no surprise to see Roberto di Matteo employ a back five for the first time this season with Ashley Cole and Cesar Azpilicueta deployed on the wings while Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill and David Luiz sat in front of Petr Cech in goal. Ramires and John Obi Mikel were the two men sitting deep in front of the back five while the holy trinity of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar were given the license to thrill. One man not so thrilled was Spanish striker Fernando Torres, who was benched for the first time in a big game this season.
Juventus meanwhile are unbeaten in the Champions League thus far, but their penchant for draws has not deserted them, and with just 1 win in 4 games in the competition sat third in the group, needing to win or risk a tough away trip to Ukraine in what could become a must-win encounter. There was no holding back from the Italian giants in their team selection with veteran midfield maestro Andre Pirlo the conductor with goal machine Arturo Vidal deployed further up the pitch in an attacking midfield role. Mirko Vucinic and Fabio Quagliarella started in a two man attack with another in-form striker in Giovinco available on the bench should Juve require his services.
It was expectedly the home side who settled quicker, and could have had a goal in just 3 minutes only for Petr Cech to produce a fantastic save to deny Stephan Lichsteiner, pushing the ball onto the woodwork from Vucinic's cross. A couple of minutes later, Juve had a half-chance fall to Giorgio Chiellini, but the Italian international header from Pirlo's corner failed to hit the target.
The early exchanges soon turned into a goalkeeping tutorial session for youngsters as Gigi Buffon showed off his class between the sticks to deny Eden Hazard after a mazy run from Oscar, who of course scored twice against Juventus in the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge.
Back in Turin, it was soon Petr Cech's turn to showcase his skill once again, first denying Claudio Marchisio by diving full length to his left, and then keeping out Quagliarella's effort after the striker had got clear of the Chelsea defence.
The Chelsea goal was under constant threat, and it appeared the Cech was in a training session where he was being used for target practice, however, like he did so often for the Blues last season, the Czech international was proving near impossible to beat. Mirko Vucinic and Andrea Pirlo were the latest to try their luck, but their efforts lacked their usual guile and were easy meet for the Chelsea no.1.
There wasn't much to cheer about for Chelsea fans with the exception of Cech's performance thus far, but Oscar did threaten to produce something from nothing once again, only to be denied by a sliding block from Bonucci.
Juventus though did get the goal their performance on the night merited with Pirlo's strike from distance in the 38th minute taking a deflection off Quagliarella, and sneaking into the goal despite Cech getting a hand on the ball.
The first half was drawing to a thrilling end with Ashley Cole clearing the ball off Chelsea's goal line after Kwadwo Asamoah's cross took another deflection, this time off David Luiz and was on its way in before the left-back got in to clear the danger. Right back up the other end, Juan Mata was denied just in the nick of time by Buffon from Hazard's cross.
Juve were good value for their lead at the break, and it was time for Roberto di Matteo to make some tough decisions on his options in the final third.
Juventus started the second half just as they had the first, and Cech was soon called into action, denying Pirlo and then Quagliarella in quick succession.
With nothing really going their way, the Blues made their first change, switching back to a good old fashioned back four by bringing on Victor Moses for Azpilicueta. However, it was Juventus who were celebrating just a minute later as Arturo Vidal's strike on goal took another massive deflection, this time off Ramires, and made its way into goal in between Cech's legs.
News of Shakhtar Donetsk taking a 4-2 lead against Nordsjaelland had obviously reached Chelsea's ears, and in a final act of desperation, Roberto di Matteo threw on a beleaguered Fernando Torres with 20 minutes to go in the game.
There was to be no joy for Chelsea though with Di Matteo's negative approach to the game putting both Chelsea's future in the Champions League and his own job in grave danger.
And as if to drive the point home, Juventus grabbed a third on the night through substitute Sebastian Giovinco, who capitalized on a rare error by Petr Cech on the night, smashing the ball home from distance past a stranded Cech, who had inexplicably rushed off his line despite Ashley Cole being on hand.
It finished 3-0 to the Italian champions, who would need just a point in their final group game against all already qualified Shakhtar in Ukraine to book their spot in the knockout rounds of the Champions League. Chelsea meanwhile may well win their last game against Nordsjaelland comfortably, but that may not be good enough to send them through to the last 16.
Juventus: Buffon, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini, Lichtsteiner (Caceres 68'), Vidal, Pirlo, Marchisio, Asamoah, Quagliarella (Pogba 89'), Vucinic (Giovinco 83').
Subs: Storari, Caceres, Pogba, Pepe, Giovinco, Giaccherini, Matri.
Chelsea: Cech, Azpilicueta (Moses 60'), Luiz, Cahill, Ivanovic, Cole, Ramires, Mikel (Torres 71'), Hazard, Mata, Oscar.
Subs: Turnbull, Romeu, Torres, Moses, Marin, Bertrand, Piazon.
Final Score: Juventus 3-0 Chelsea (Quagliarella 38', Vidal 61', Giovinco 90+1')
File Photograph Copyright: Ryu Voelkel
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