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.

Serie A: Juve keep winning to remain 1 point back of Napoli

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TURIN, Italy (AP) Juventus closed the gap on Serie A leader Napoli back to just one point as the six-time defending champion eased past Genoa 1-0 on Monday.

Douglas Costa scored in the 16th minute, the first conceded by Genoa in five league matches. It was a less than convincing performance from Juventus but it was never really troubled, as goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny – standing in for the still-injured Gianluigi Buffon – was little more than a spectator.

“What was important was to win,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “At the end there was a bit of nervousness because we were lacking in energy a bit.

“We could have finished off the match in the first half, and again with a couple of occasions after the break. We didn’t manage to so compliments to Genoa.”

The battle for the Serie A title is shaping into a two-horse race. Juventus moved 10 points clear of third-placed Lazio, although the capital side has a match in hand.

“The season is still long and all those who are behind us can still get back into the race,” Allegri said. “It was important to stay in Napoli’s slipstream.”

Juventus needed to win after Napoli beat Atalanta 1-0 on Sunday.

Allegri’s side started brightly and had an early chance to take the lead but Genoa goalkeeper Mattia Perin did well to keep out a free kick from specialist Miralem Panic.

However, it did not take much longer to strike. Douglas Costa passed out left to Mario Mandzukic, who played a delightful return ball for the Brazil midfielder to slot into the bottom left corner.

League Cup semi: Man City take 2-1 lead into 2nd leg vs. Bristol

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Manchester City can move one step closer on Tuesday to claiming their first of four potential trophies this season, when Pep Guardiola‘s men take on Bristol City in the second leg of the League Cup semifinal.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday ]

After coming back to beat the Robins in the first leg at home, Man City must now go on the road and take care of business to reach the Feb. 25 final at Wembley Stadium. As he has done so many times — and so famously — in the sky blue of City, Sergio Aguero grabbed the late winner (91st minute — WATCH HERE) 14 days ago.

For a few not-so-insignificant periods of the game, Bristol were very much the aggressors and appeared more likely to make the score 2-0 than for City to get back to 1-1. Bobby Reid converted from the penalty spot in the 44th minute after her was brought down under John Stones‘ wild, sliding tackle. Kevin De Bruyne leveled things up 10 minutes into the second half, setting the stage for Aguero’s late heroics.

[ MORE: Alexis-for-Mkhi swap complete | De Bruyne’s new contract ]

Since the first leg on Jan. 9, City have failed in their bid to finish the PL season with an unbeaten record before bouncing back to beat Newcastle United on the weekend, courtesy of a hat trick from Aguero — Guardiola quotes, from Sport24:

“I said many times it was going to happen, we can lose, so (it is) important the reaction we have. Still we have 42 points to play (for). It is 14 games. It is a lot of games to play and difficult games like Saturday and like Liverpool. It is important to show the team is still there but I don’t have the feeling we give up.

“We want to go through to the final in the (League) Cup and the FA Cup, so (we have) a lot of games but I think the people have the desire to keep going, to keep going, to keep going.”

[ MORE: One dream January signing for each top-six side ]

Bristol, meanwhile, have fallen on hard times: it’s been nearly a month (Boxing Day, to be specific — five losses, one draw) since Lee Johnson’s side last won a game in any competition, and they’ve fallen from second to fifth in the Championship table — Johnson quotes, from the Guardian:

“We don’t want to be brave losers, we want to compete to win. It’s up to the players to be focused and tactically aware, and who knows what will happen if we can show the same quality as we have shown in the previous rounds?

“We have to make sure we’re really bold. If you’re going to deliver a corner, do it like you mean it. I’d rather fail bold than fail timid. We know we have to score. I hope Pep picks his absolute best team and we can give them a right go. I’m not sure you could go and play an under-23 side against us at the moment and I think he’ll know that.”

The winner of Arsenal versus Chelsea (0-0 after the first leg) awaits in the final.

The 2 Robbies: Alexis-Mkhitaryan Swap Becomes Reality

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe react to the Alexis Sanchez-Henrikh Mkhitaryan swap deal between Arsenal and Manchester United finally becoming reality (0:20), Swansea’s stunning 1-0 victory over Liverpool (9:20), Southampton’s much-needed draw with Spurs (22:30) and Watford’s decision to part ways with Marco Silva (36:20). The gents end the show sharing their memories of the late English striker, Cyrille Regis (39:45).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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Inter Milan sign Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan

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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan completed the signing of Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan until the end of the season, with a view to a permanent move.

Inter can sign the Brazil international permanently for $43 million plus $3.7 million in bonuses, and said on Monday that option “must be taken up before the end of the season.”

Rafinha, who was born in Sao Paulo, had been at Barcelona since 2006, when he joined its youth team. He spent the 2013-14 season on loan at Celta Vigo.

After nine months out after surgery on his right knee, he made his first appearance of the season last week as a late substitute in Barcelona’s Copa del Rey defeat at Espanyol.

“It’s an important stage in my life,” he said, “and I had a lot of desire to approach this new phase in my career.”

Inter has slipped to fourth in Serie A, 11 points behind leader Napoli.

It could slip out of the Champions League places if Roma wins its match in hand on Wednesday.

“I hope to play in as many matches as possible and help the team to reach our objective which is Champions League qualification,” Rafinha said.