Juventus' Giovinco is celebrated by his teammates Vidal and Asamoah after scoring against Chelsea during their Champions League soccer match inTurin

Offshore drilling, UEFA Champions League: at Juventus 3, Chelsea 0

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It was Juventus’s best performance of the season, enough to not only vault the Italian champions to second place in Group E but leave the defending champions on Champions League’s precipice after defeating Chelsea 3-0 win in Turin.

Controlling the match from the opening whistle, Juventus converted their advantage into a lead in the 38th minute when Fabio Quagliarella deflected a Andrea Pirlo shot past Petr Cech. Second half goals from Arturo Vidal and substitute Sebastian Giovinco gave Juventus a deservedly decisive win, their second in a row after starting the tournament with three straight draws.

Chelsea, three points behind already-qualified Shakhtar Donetsk and two behind Juventus, need a Juve loss on matchday six to have a chance at advancing to the knockout round.

Man of the Match: Arturo Vidal probably deserved more credit than he’d received coming into the match (as James Horncastle noted). Tuesday’s performance might put the Chilean international on more English-language radars, even if his most valuable contributions were subtle. Scoring Juventus’s second goal, Vidal will get plenty of credit for his attacking contribution, but at the right apex of Juventus’s midfield triangle, the 25-year-old provided needed support to disrupt play Chelsea’s attacking midfielders use to break down opposing defenses. On the ball, Vidal completed a team-leading 64 passes at 94 percent of his passes (also a team high).

Threesome of knowledge: What we learned

Juventus has woken up.

It took four rounds of group play before Juventus recorded their first victory of Champions League. Even then, it was at home to lightly-regarded Nordsjaelland, a result that did little to dispel the notion that something was wrong. For all the success the Old Lady’s had domestically, they’d been unable to replicate that form in Europe.

That changed today. Not only did Juventus beat reigning the European champions, they controlled the match. True, they needed fortunate bounces to beat Petr Cech on two of their goals, but Juventus was playing well enough to generate other goals had they not been bless was a little luck (and on Fabio Quagliarella’s goal, the luck was their own doing). It was, by far, Juventus’s best performance of the tournament.

Perhaps they needed the wakeup call of being drawn in Denmark. Or maybe this improvement would have come on its own. Regardless, Juventus lived up to their billing on Tuesday.

With Torres, without – it’s all the same.

Roberto Di Matteo made the change many predicted, benching striker Fernando Torres. What made the choice more compelling was the absence of Daniel Sturridge, Chelsea’s other (and as it turned out, injured) striking option. That pushed Eden Hazard in from the left, the Belgian resuming a role he often played last year with Lille.

Torres’ absence wasn’t noticed. With defender Cesar Azpilicueta starting as a right winger, Chelsea’s attacking threat remained the same – Hazard, Oscar, Juan Mata, and little else.

At West Brom? That’s good for a goal. In Turin, you’re probably going get shut out.

It’s an area Chelsea needs to improve, but three months into the season (and 23 months into his Chelsea career), we know Torres is unlikely to supply that improvement.

Chelsea’s swoon continues.

We’ve talked about it before. Chelsea’s hit a rough patch, just as they’ve done each of the last two autumns. There’s little to add to the story other than note (a) the slide continues, (b) Roberto Di Matteo needs to find a solution, because (c) it would be a mistake to assume the club’s early-season form is more informative than last year’s results (results that left them outside of England’s top four).

Oh, and (d) Roman Abramovich.

Packaged for takeaway

  • Juventus outshot Chelsea 13-2 in terms of tries on frame. Overall shots: 25-11.
  • Ramires is a fine player. So is John Obi Mikel. Together at the base of midfield, it’s an adequate but (for Chelsea’s standards) not good enough solution, hence Chelsea’s recent defensive record: 21 goals allowed in 10 games. Injuries are forcing Di Matteo to use the duo, though it would have been nice to have somebody like Raul Miereles around.
  • Juventus got a strong day from their three central defenders — Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, and Giorgio Chiellini — though Chelsea helped. Juan Mata, starting on the left, spent much of his night playing closer to the middle, while Azpilicueta never provided a credible threat.

AT THE HALF: Man City 1-2 Monaco; Atleti lead in UCL round of 16

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21:  Radamel Falcao Garcia of AS Monaco celebrates as he scores their first and equalising goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Manchester City FC and AS Monaco at Etihad Stadium on February 21, 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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We’re only halfway through the first leg of Manchester City versus Monaco, and Bayer Leverkusen versus Atletico Madrid, in the UEFA Champions League round of 16, but the goals are coming fast and furious from England to Germany.

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Man City found themselves 1-0 up at the Etihad Stadium, when Leroy Sane turned on video-game mode to set up Raheem Sterling for the opening goal in the 28th minute. But, as City have so typically done in the Champions League, they began self-destructing four minutes later. Radamel Falcao‘s diving header brought Monaco level in the 32nd minute, and Kylian Mbappe’s finish over the head of Willy Caballero put the visitors 2-1 up eight minutes later.

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As for Tuesday’s other round-of-16 tie, Saul Niguez simultaneously opened the scoring and snatched the soul of every Bayer defender who dared to contest him. Antoine Griezmann added a second for Atleti, who hold their 2-0 lead at halftime, seven minutes later.

LIVE: UCL last 16 – Man City v Monaco; Bayer v Atletico Madrid

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 06:  Sergio Aguero of Manchester City celebrates after scoring his sides fourth goal during The Emirates FA Cup Third Round match between West Ham United and Manchester City at London Stadium on January 6, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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Two more UEFA Champions League Round of 16 clashes get underway on Tuesday.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores

Manchester City host AS Monaco at the Etihad Stadium with Pep Guardiola knowing his shaky defense must stay strong against the leading scorers in France’s top-flight. Monaco have already come to England and beaten Tottenham Hotspur in the UCL group stage and under talented manager Leanardo Jardim the likes of Radamel Falcao looks fired up and ready to go.

That said, City have been much better in recent weeks and have shown their best form this season in the UCL. Remember, Pep has never failed to reach the semifinals of this competition as a manager. Quite the record.

Elsewhere Bayer Leverkusen welcome Atletico Madrid to the BayArena with Mexico’s Javier Hernandez back among the goals and aiming to give the Bundesliga outfit a lead to take with them to Madrid.

The runners up late season, Atleti are currently fourth in La Liga but Diego Simeone’s side have looked stellar in Europe this season once again as they finished above Bayern Munich to win their group. Expect a tense, tough game in Germany.

Click on the link above to follow live commentary on both games, while we will have reaction and analysis on all of the UCL knockout games here at Pro Soccer Talk.


Tuesday’s UCL Round of 16, first legs

Manchester City vs. AS Monaco – 2:45 p.m. ET
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Atletico Madrid – 2:45 p.m. ET

Bayern defends Ancelotti for middle-finger gesture to fans

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MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich has defended coach Carlo Ancelotti for raising his middle finger to Hertha Berlin fans after supposedly being spit at following a dramatic 1-1 draw in the Bundesliga.

[ MORE: Shaw in betting investigation ]

Bayern says “basically we find the human reaction of Carlo Ancelotti with the gesture to be emotionally understandable after the nasty spitting attack.”

Robert Lewandowski’s injury-time equalizer for Bayern on Saturday prompted altercations between Bayern and Hertha players in a heated atmosphere at the Olympic Stadium.

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The German soccer federation ended its investigation into the matter after Ancelotti agreed to pay 5,000 euros ($5,300) to its foundation for social work.

In 2014, Norbert Duewel, then-coach of second-division club Union Berlin, was fined 3,500 euros for raising his middle finger in a 4-1 loss at home against 1860 Munich.

Sacha Kljestan ready to take reigns as Red Bulls captain

HARRISON, NJ - MARCH 6:  Sacha Kljestan #16 of New York Red Bulls dribbles past Steven Beitashour #33 of Toronto FC  during their match at Red Bull Arena on March 6, 2016 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
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When news began to spread of a trade regarding one of Major League Soccer’s most recognizable faces, Sacha Kljestan was with his New York Red Bulls teammate at the U.S. Men’s National Team’s January camp.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The clarity over Dax McCarty’s move to Eastern Conference foe Chicago Fire is very much uncertain — even a month after the fact — but the veteran midfielder’s absence left an opening for the Red Bulls captaincy.

[ MORE: PST talks with Atlanta president Darren Eales ahead of 2017 ]

And that was an opportunity that Kljestan was honored to be named.

“I was just proud. My first feeling was that I’m thankful for Jesse [Marsch] having that trust in me and my teammates having that trust in me as well, which is very important,” Kljestan said. “But I just feel very proud to represent Jesse and the coaching staff and represent every member of the club that works with the New York Red Bulls. Most importantly I want to represent the fans in a way that they are proud of.”

Fortunately for the Red Bulls, what they have had over the past two seasons in Kljestan is a player that not only provides flash and brilliance on the pitch but also stability off the field and in the locker room.

Since making his return to MLS in 2015, Kljestan has notched an astounding 34 assists — the most of any player during that span — to go along with his 14 goals.

Red Bulls manager Jesse Marsch has been impressed with Kljestan’s work ethic since bringing in the Designated Player, and he says little thought needed to be put into naming the U.S. international his squad’s next captain.

“It almost wasn’t even a choice at all,” Marsch said in regards to naming Kljestan his primary captain. “He had served as basically a vice-captain for two years and it was an natural fit. There were discussions with the staff but I think it was pretty clear that this is a guy that is a top leader. That being said, we’ve said all along that the captain isn’t a one man job.

“It’s about a community of people and certainly the two guys that will support Sacha the most will be Luis [Robles] and Brad [Wright-Phillips]. I think the three of them will take on big leadership roles and there’s room for young guys to blossom into bigger leadership positions as well.”

The Red Bulls have undoubtedly proven their success in the regular season since rebranding to the aforementioned name in 2006 when the Global giant, Red Bull, acquired the franchise.

The last 11 seasons have provided the club with plenty to cheer about, including two Supporters’ Shield crowns and only missing out on the postseason once, but the Red Bulls have struggled to get past one major hurdle.

Winning an MLS Cup is challenging.

It’s only something that 11 teams have accomplished in the league’s history. Of those 11 teams, only five of them have won two or more titles since MLS’ inception in 1996.

Marsch’s approach since day one has been very clear to both his team and the opponents that the Red Bulls face. The goal has been to play an attacking-minded press, similar to that of Barcelona in the club’s hay day.

While that pressing style likely won’t change, the team is prepared to add another dimension to its attack by switching to a two-forward setup starting in 2017.

“With our little tweak in formation that we’re doing now, we’re trying to be less susceptible to opening ourselves up and creating too much space between our lines,” Kljestan said. “We’re working on ways now to become more connected and become harder to break down and really make teams earn their chances against us. We might go through some growing pains with the formation but I think it’ll make us stronger in the long run.”

The Red Bulls begin their 2017 journey on Wednesday when they face the Vancouver Whitecaps in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. The two sides will meet a second time on March 2 in Vancouver.