The opening match between Chelsea and Juventus in Group E of the Champions League is not only a game between the reigning champions and a team that hasn’t heard the league’s anthem from the pitch in almost three years, it is a matchup between two of the world’s best and most respected goalkeepers.
Gianluigi Buffon has kept the Old Lady’s goal since 2002 and is the only man left standing on the team from before the match fixing scandal six years ago when Juventus had two of their titles taken away and were relegated to Serie B. As Independent reports, Wednesday’s match will be Buffon’s 400th appearance for the Bianconeri.
Chelsea’s Petr Cech moved to London in 2004 and has been an immense part of the team’s following success ever since. The Blues won their first Premier League title in 50 years and set a then-record for clean sheets keeping out the opposition for nine successive games, according to ESPN.com. Cech did not allow a goal for 871 minutes during their streak.
Buffon has a scoreless record of his own. He massively contributed to Italy’s World Cup championship in 2006 while booking a 453-minute scoreless streak and conceding just two goals, one of which was an own goal.
Both Buffon and Cech are authoritative when the play is in the box and dictate the action in their area. Buffon is not as quick as he was a few years back because age the age of 34 years old, but as he showed during the European Cup tournament this summer, age is irrelevant and there is no substitute for experience.
Cech is unfortunately not in the best of form at the moment. He is suffering from an elbow injury but surgery won’t be necessary until the end of the season, as reported by the Guardian. As a result, Cech cannot stretch his arm entirely and it hurts him when he tries to do so. This could potentially cause a problem as his reach is one of his biggest strengths as a goalkeeper.
Both Buffon and Cech have quick reflexes that have helped them make what seems to fans ‘impossible’ saves. Remember one of Buffon’s most famous saves during the 2003 Champions League final? Both goalkeepers are thinkers on the pitch, and are seldom caught out of position.
Cech does not really have significant weaknesses on the pitch, aside from the injury mentioned above. Following his head injury in 2006, which put him out of play for three months, Cech doesn’t seem to go out to get the ball when too many players are fighting for it. He still wears a protective mask even though clinically he doesn’t have to.
Chelsea and Juventus are on top in their respective leagues. Chelsea has played four games, winning the first three. Cech conceded only two goals in the match against Reading. Juventus continues to top the Serie A having played three games and winning them all. Buffon also conceded two goals.
Chelsea vs. Juventus will surely be a tough match as Chelsea are eager to defend their spot as kings of Europe after a frustrating humiliation at the hands of Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup. The Bianconeri are eager to show they are still among the grand teams in the world with all problems behind them. It will surely be an entertaining match for the fans.