x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Dress to impress the Old Lady

Chelsea will be in their finery in Turin tonight, but a visit to Juventus in the Champions League is not usually a refined sort of evening.

Chelsea's Didier Drogba scores aganist Juventus. He could be reunited with midfielder Michael Essien tonight.
Chelsea's Didier Drogba scores aganist Juventus. He could be reunited with midfielder Michael Essien tonight.

Chelsea will be in their finery in Turin tonight, but a visit to Juventus in the Champions League is not usually a refined sort of evening. Juventus have every right to emit optimistic noises before a second leg projecting such an air of widespread unpredictability. Claudio Ranieri's side were only undone by the swiftness of Didier Drogba's goal in the first leg of this last-16 gathering.

They retain an avid interest in a competition they have won twice. At the behest of their coach Guus Hiddink and his quest for players to project a professional sheen, Chelsea will arrive at the Stadio Olimpico dressed in their Armani suits. Hiddink's men will need to don the footballing equivalent of overalls to get the job done. A place in the last eight is available, but this could yet get rather messy for Chelsea.

The London side have already come up short in Italy this season. Under Luiz Felipe Scolari, Chelsea succumbed 3-1 to AS Roma in the group stages. Such an outcome would leave the Old Lady singing. Ranieri, a former Chelsea manager, rates his side's chances as "45-55 per cent" probably due to their failure to register an away goal. Juventus are used to overcoming such obstacles. They have recovered from a first-leg deficit four times in the knock-out stages of the Champions League, a feat unrivalled in the tournament, but are without a win in their past eight outings against English sides. They will also be mindful of that harrowing night in 1999 when they blew a 3-1 aggregate lead against Manchester United.

A timeless Juventus side boast sparkling campaigners in Pavel Nedved and Alessandro Del Piero. They are hardly creaking. A 1-0 win over Torino on Saturday saw them maintain second place in Serie A behind Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan. Chelsea were sent to Coventry in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Saturday. They returned with a 2-0 win. Michael Essien returned as a substitute after six months out with a knee injury.

Essien is likely to start. Such a match seems ideal for his versatility and robustness. Whatever is said, Hiddink is now overseeing a cup campaign at Chelsea, relying on the FA Cup and Champions League to signal whether or not this season has been a rich experience. Like Liverpool, any hope of landing the Premier League depends on the collapse of Manchester United. Such a scenario sounds as likely as the Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich hosting a tea party for Ranieri and Mourinho during his time in Italy.

Mohamed Sissoko has broken a bone in his left foot and will not play for Juventus, while Chelsea could be without Nicolas Anelka due to an ankle problem. The visitors will look the part tonight, but even with their club ties knotted to perfection, they are unlikely to leave Juventus tied up in knots. @Email:dkane@thenational.ae