Chelsea’s 2012 Turin turmoil: Outclassed in Italy, dumped out of the Champions League and Roberto Di Matteo sacked in the morning… why Azpilicueta and Co will want to avoid another nightmare against Juventus
- Chelsea’s Champions League defence continues at Juventus on Wednesday
- The Blues also faced the Old Lady when they were defending their 2012 title
- Chelsea lost 3-0 to Juventus in November 2012 as they exited at the group stage
- Roberto Di Matteo was sacked the morning after in a nightmare Blues scenario
- The Italian played a front three of Cesar Azpilicueta, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata
Chelsea as champions of Europe, taking on a Juventus side in a transition period. We’ve been here before.
Unfortunately for the Blues fans who recall their November 2012 encounter in Turin, this was not an away day to remember. It was historic, yes, but for all the wrong reasons.
A 3-0 drubbing by the Old Lady, then-managed by Antonio Conte, all but knocked Chelsea out of the Champions League at the group stages. Roberto Di Matteo’s side would go on to be the first ever European champions to be eliminated at the first hurdle in the following season.
Thomas Tuchel’s (above) Chelsea play Juventus on Wednesday looking to avoid history in Turin
The Blues lost 3-0 to Juventus back in 2012 when they last defended the Champions League
Defeat on matchday five did not knock Chelsea out of the competition directly, but Roman Abramovich had certainly seen enough. Di Matteo, already in the firing line after a poor run of fixtures, was relieved of his duties the following day.
The Italian had taken Chelsea to their first ever Champions League title six months earlier as interim boss. That achievement landed him a two-year contract but the Chelsea legend barely managed a quarter of that allotted time.
That first full season in charge had started so well for him. Di Matteo’s Chelsea were unbeaten in their first eight Premier League matches, which included seven wins and victories at fierce rivals Arsenal and Tottenham.
A 4-2 win for Di Matteo at White Hart Lane in October proved to be the final piece of joy the Italian manager would get at Stamford Bridge.
The loss saw Chelsea knocked out at the groups and Roberto Di Matteo was sacked a day later
JUVENTUS 3-0 CHELSEA, 2012 – MATCH STATS
Juventus: Buffon, Chiellini, Barzagli, Bonucci, Lichtsteiner (Caceres 68), Marchisio, Pirlo, Asamoah, Vidal, Vucinic (Giovinco 83), Quagliarella (Pogba 89)
Subs not used: Storari, Caceres, Pepe, Giaccherini, Matri
Booked: Bonucci, Marchisio, Giovinco
Goals: Quagliarella 38, Vidal 61, Giovinco 90
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Cole, David Luiz, Cahill, Azpilicueta (Moses 60), Ramires, Mata, Oscar, Mikel (Torres 71), Hazard
Subs not used: Turnbull, Bertrand, Romeu, Marin, Piazon
Referee: Cuneyt Cakır
The Blues threw away points from winning or drawing positions in their next three games to Manchester United, Swansea and Liverpool, before a 2-1 defeat away at West Brom started rumours of Di Matteo’s impending sacking.
Chelsea’s defence of their Champions League crown took a similar route to their Premier League form. New signing Oscar scored twice at home to Juventus to put them 2-0 up, but points were dropped yet again in a 2-2 draw.
Danish side FC Nordsjaelland, known as the whipping boys of Chelsea’s Champions League group, were routinely beaten away from home but a 2-1 loss at an in-form Shakhtar Donetsk put the Blues’ head on the Champions League line.
The Ukrainian side were beaten at Stamford Bridge in the return fixture to put Chelsea back in the driving seat, but the out of form Blues needed something in Turin to keep it that way going into the final round of fixtures.
Di Matteo, at that point, was desperate for any sort of result and was willing to try anything new to change the tide. And his line-up for the Turin fixture showed it.
Chelsea’s front three consisted of Cesar Azpiliciueta on the right, Eden Hazard through the middle and Juan Mata on the left, with Oscar in the No 10 role.
In terms of strikers, Didier Drogba had left the club in the summer, Daniel Sturridge was injured and Fernando Torres was consistently inconsistent with six goals in 18 matches before the Turin trip.
Di Matteo (far left) left £50million striker Fernando Torres (far right) on the bench in Turin
Di Matteo’s line-up was defensive and relied on the pace of Hazard through the middle on the counter-attack. The tactical switch was not a great surprise given it was heavily used in the Champions League-winning triumph the season before and a point would have been enough to keep Chelsea in a good position for the last-16.
Though was such a defensive set-up needed against this Juventus side? The Italian champions had quality in most areas of the pitch, yes, but it was a side still finding its feet under Conte and was nowhere near Europe’s best.
Arturo Vidal and Andrea Pirlo were the metronomes in midfield that kept a certain Paul Pogba out of the team, while Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci were at the back in front of Gianluigi Buffon.
But the front three of Kwadwo Asamoah, Mirko Vucinic and Fabio Quagliarella is far from the best we saw of Juventus in that era and had failed to guide their teams to wins in their last two league games against Inter Milan and Lazio.
Chelsea lined up defensively in Turin and looked to hit the Italian champions on the counter
But still Di Matteo’s defensive-minded Blues were camped in and, at first, it looked like the Blues’ defensive game plan of a point was working.
Meanwhile, Chelsea were knocking on the door at times with Oscar going on a mazy 60-yard run early on before feeding Hazard, who saw his shot saved by Buffon.
Di Matteo was showing why he was a manager for the big stage. But a cruel twist of fate arrived on 38 minutes.
Pirlo’s long-range shot took a wicked deflection off Quagliarella, which wrong-footed Petr Cech who watched on as the ball bobbled into the bottom corner.
Chelsea’s Italian boss looked on in shock, was this a sign that things weren’t meant to be?
The Blues fell behind when Petr Cech (middle) was wrong footed by Fabio Quagliarella’s strike
Quagliarella (above) got in the way of Andrea Pirlo’s long-range effort which bamboozled Cech
After half-time, Juventus kicked on and were two in front 15 minutes after the break. Asamoah’s cross from the left found Vidal, who finished past Cech. Chelsea were not out, but they were down.
Di Matteo then introduced Torres as his side entered last chance saloon in Turin, and the Chelsea boss in his job, but there was no impact from the £50m man.
In fact, it was Juventus who struck again with Sebastian Giovinco, who ran clear as the clock ticked to 90 before prodding home below the onrushing Cech from 30 yards out.
Arturo Vidal (second right) doubled Juventus’ lead on the hour mark to stun Chelsea
Sebastian Giovinco poked past Cech to dump Chelsea out of the Champions League
Chelsea owner Abramovich was waiting for the moment to cut the axe and this was it. A day later, Di Matteo was out the door – though the drama was not finished yet.
Rafa Benitez was installed as interim boss much to the disgust of large sections of the Chelsea fans after comments the Spaniard made about the Blues during his time at Liverpool.
Even the experienced Champions League-winning Spaniard struggled, at first, with this crop of Chelsea players. He failed to win his first three games in charge but did enough to lift the Blues up to third in the table and also won them the Europa League.
Di Matteo was sacked the morning after the loss in Turin and was replaced by Rafa Benitez
Fast forward nine years and Chelsea are champions of Europe again, though are evidently stronger this time around.
Last season’s European triumph was by no means a fluke: the Blues were one of the top sides on the continent and have got even stronger with the addition of Romelu Lukaku up front.
Though if Chelsea captain Azpilicueta ends up leading his side out in Turin on Wednesday night, he will be reminded of a game that brought the Blues right back down to earth.
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