The star-encrusted balls have decreed that the holder, Chelsea, will take on Juventus, Zenit Saint Petersburg and Malmo in the 2021/22 UEFA Champions League group stage. Juventus is expected to provide the Blues with the toughest challenge on paper, while trips to Saint Petersburg and Malmo won’t exactly be a walk in the park either. All three teams boast some incredibly talented players, a few of whom might be of interest to the Chelsea faithful—and perhaps, one day, even the club.
The Pride of London shortlists three opposing players from the group fans should keep an eye on:
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1. Federico Chiesa (Juventus)
Position: Right winger
Individual Achievements: UEFA Euro 2020 Team of the Tournament
Did you know? Federico Chiesa is the son of footballer Enrico Chiesa, a former national team striker and one of the greats of Italian football. Enrico helped Fiorentina win the Coppa Italia in 2001, and it was in Florence his son Federico spent his formative years.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s waning influence in Juventus colors presented a unique opportunity for the club’s young hotshots. It was an open invitation to come forward and claim the throne for themselves, an opportunity in which Chiesa grabbed with both hands.
Juventus had hastily completed a deal to sign the right winger from Fiorentina in the summer window of 2020, which risked making him look like one of the side notes in a squad already brimming with talent and big names. However, over the course of the season, Chiesa showed why he was, and is, considered one of Italian football’s brightest young prospects. The 23-year-old grew in influence and scored some pretty crucial goals for the Bianconeri, including all three in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie against FC Porto.
Chiesa scored the winner in the 2021 Coppa Italia Final and scored on the final day of the domestic season to help his team secure Champions League football. He finished the campaign with 14 non-penalty goals and 10 assists in 43 appearances, which earned him a spot in the Italian National Team squad for the European Championships. Chiesa found the net in the round of 16 and the semifinals as Italy won the tournament.
With Ronaldo having left the club for pastures renewed in Manchester, expect Chiesa to grow further in influence at Juventus. The youngster is technically gifted, fast, direct and skillful. He often plays on the right, from where he can fire in crosses, but also has a tendency to drift inside and attack the box. Chiesa’s work rate is impressive, as is his finishing ability. His talent reportedly attracted the attention of Chelsea this summer, who was said to have submitted a €100 million bid for his services.