Chiellini injury will hamper Juventus’ Champions League chances
Juventus are 5/1 outsiders with Coral to beat Champions League final opponents Barcelona in 90 minutes, and 11/5 to lift the European Cup for the first time in almost 20 years, but they will have to do it both against the odds and without influential defender Giorgio Chiellini.
They say great defenders get away with the dark arts of football, and Chiellini, who is closing in on a decade’s worth of service to Juve, is certainly a master at avoiding punishment.
While there is a body of thought this could be pre-match mind games coming out of the Turin titans’ camp, Barca are hardly going to change their philosophy because of Chiellini’s apparent absence with a calf strain.
Luis Enrique is sending his side out with a world-class front three full of South American goals, guile, flicks and tricks. In fact, losing Chiellini only serves to make a tactical decision for Old Lady coach Massimiliano Allegri.
With veteran Andrea Barzagli completing 90 minutes or more on just 10 occasions across all competitions during what has been an injury-hit campaign, and Uruguay defender Martin Caceres out until next season no matter what, Juventus cannot risk playing a back three.
This season they have largely abandoned that 3-5-2 system which served Old Lady predecessor Antonio Conte so well, as it landed them a hat-trick of Serie A titles. Juve now favour a diamond formation that allows Allegri to flood the midfield, and that level of prior success has been maintained.
Playing with a narrow foursome in the engine room is the only way to allow star trio of deep-lying veteran Azzurri playmaker Andrea Pirlo, France powerhouse Paul Pogba and Chile aggressor Arturo Vidal, plus clubman Claudio Marchisio in the same side.
In light of the news regarding Chiellini this advantage of numbers in midfield may be one way to stop Catalan giants Barcelona from supplying Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi.
All that remains to ask is this poser for Allegri; who partner Leonardo Bonucci? Barzagli is a World Cup winner, but not faced such exalted opponents for some time. His lack of pace is something that Barca would ruthlessly exploit.
Juventus’ only viable alternative is Angelo Ogbonna, who started three of the final Serie A fixtures of the season as they retained the Scudetto for a fourth consecutive title. What’s worrying is the Turin team haven’t kept a clean sheet in two months when he’s been in the team.
Allegri and co need to keep it tight, but shutting Barcelona out (Coral offer a matchday special of 10/1 for Juve to win to nil in 90 minutes, with punters able to stake a maximum of £20) will be no mean feat without key centre back Chiellini.