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Juve and Blues in battle for last-16

Updated: 2012-11-20 08:14
By Agence France-Presse in Milan ( China Daily)

Juve and Blues in battle for last-16

Juventus' forward Sebastian Giovinco controls the ball during its Serie A match against Lazio. Juventus faces a do-or-die Champions League group match with Chelsea on Tuesday. [Photo/Agencies]

Juventus' hopes of challenging among Europe's 16 best soccer teams could be decided by its penultimate Group H clash against Champions League holder Chelsea on Tuesday.

After years of watching from the sidelines the former two-time winner has embraced its return to the competition after winning a 28th Serie A league title last season.

But so far, the Old Lady's group campaign has gone off with more of a whimper than a bang.

Antonio Conte's side managed only three draws before finally hitting form with a 4-0 rout of Danish champion Nordsjaelland in Turin two weeks ago.

That rather late surge, along with Chelsea's late winner against Shakhtar, has left Juventus third in Group H, one point behind the English giant and second-placed Shakhtar.

Although Chelsea and Shakhtar are delicately poised, Juventus, whose final group match is in the Ukraine, is in the unenviable position of hoping results elsewhere go its way.

Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon sees it another way - he believes Juve has its destiny in its hands: "The fact it all depends on us is a good sign. We're at home to Chelsea and then away to Donetsk.

"We're confident, and you can't always rely on other results."

Juventus suffered its first league defeat in over a year two weeks ago in a 3-1 defeat to Inter Milan and since then has been on a mission to make amends.

Juve hammered Pescara 6-1 last week and should have put several goals past Lazio on Saturday before the Biancocelesti held on for a scoreless draw.

It was a gutsy, attacking display from Juve and defender Leonardo Bonucci brushed off suggestions Tuesday's test had been preying on its mind.

"It was a great Juventus performance, we were the only team in the game. Lazio didn't have a shot on goal and (Lazio 'keeper, Federico) Marchetti was the best player on the pitch," he said.

"Now we turn our attention to Chelsea, it's a crucial fixture for us because we really want to progress in the Champions League."

Defeat would prove a hammer blow to Chelsea's title defense and while its record in Italy is far from illustrious, it is arguably its current dip in form that is giving Juve most hope.

Chelsea has only once before won in Italy in the Champions League - a 4-0 group stage success over Lazio, a team for which Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo once played.

And the Blues are in something of a mini-crisis.

On Saturday, Chelsea succumbed 2-1 to West Bromwich Albion, leaving the European champion with just two points from four games and prompting Di Matteo to hint it may soon start focusing more on defense than attack.

 

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