Thomas Tuchel looks uncertain of himself for the first time at Chelsea FC as Juve expose his muddled thinking

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Defeat in Turin is unlikely to provide much of a dent to Chelsea’s Champions League progress, but it is the nature of a second successive loss that will be of greater concern to Thomas Tuchel.

The German looks uncertain of himself and uncertain of his players for the first time since taking charge at Stamford Bridge in January.

Tuchel is in no danger of suffering the same fate as the last Champions League-winning Chelsea manager to be overturned by Juventus — Roberto Di Matteo, who was sacked six months after conquering Europe in the wake of a 3-0 defeat — but he cut a desperate figure last night, not least when making a triple substitution just after the hour mark to try to overturn a 1-0 deficit.

He looked completely bewildered by the impotence of his team and, by the time he sent for Ross Barkley to save the day, it was clear he was at his wits’ end.

Barkley would be out of the club if Chelsea had found anyone willing to take him in the summer, but here he was being thrown on to salvage a point on one of the grandest stages of European football.

Even he must have thought these nights were behind him after seeing his career plummet in recent years.

This is not a criticism of Barkley, rather evidence of Tuchel’s muddled thinking, as deadline-day signing Saul Niguez was left on the bench, despite Chelsea using all five of their allotted substitutes and going into the game without the injured Mason Mount and Covid-hit N’Golo Kante. Just how far down the pecking order is the Spain international?

Likewise Ben Chilwell, who came on for the ineffective Marcos Alonso at half-time and had only been on the pitch for 10 seconds before Federico Chiesa had struck the decisive goal.

That was the fifth time in Chelsea’s last seven games that Tuchel has made a half-time change.

At what point does it stop being about his in-game management or more a question about why his pre-match strategy needs to be altered so often, so soon?

He is increasingly critical of his players, whether that be in victory against Tottenham or in defeat to Manchester City and now Juve.

Perhaps it is the heightened pressure that comes with success. He admits he relishes the role of the underdog, which he used to such impressive effect when conquering Europe last season.

By his own admission, Chelsea are now a scalp for the majority of their opponents. It is why Juve were happy to defend deep and concede 73 per cent of possession to their visitors, while still creating by far the better chances.

Chelsea went from being starved of the ball against City and, with it, goalscoring opportunities to dominating possession but posing only marginally more of a threat.

Tuchel, the man who had all the answers last season, is struggling to find the right balance.

Romelu Lukaku was signed to provide the cutting edge, but is increasingly being asked to do most of his work outside of the box.

Chelsea are starving one of the deadliest strikers in the world of service — and his own frustration is evident with his exasperation at another run ignored. It was not until Callum Hudson-Odoi’s introduction that crosses started to make their way into the Juve box.

Lukaku will know, himself, that he cannot afford to waste chances like the one that fell to him late on, which he blasted over from close range.

But having been presented with so few openings, it is not totally unexpected that he snatched at it.

On another day he would have taken it and Chelsea would have left with a much-celebrated point. Still, it would have been impossible to ignore the manner in which Juve so expertly lured them into a trap. Juventus boss Max Allegri ruthlessly exploited his rival in a fashion we have come to expect from Tuchel.

Instead, Chelsea’s manager was left frantically throwing lifelines to players like Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the hope they would suddenly become saviours.

It did not work — and it is not often that has been said of Tuchel since taking over at Stamford Bridge.

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