LONDON • Chelsea's 4-0 thrashing of Juventus on Tuesday sent a resounding message from west London to the rest of Europe - the Champions League holders are determined to retain the title they won against all odds last May.
Thomas Tuchel's players executed their coach's game plan to perfection against the Italians, seizing control of Group H with one round of fixtures left before the knockout stage.
From kick-off until the final whistle at Stamford Bridge, the Blues smothered Juve with a pressing game that penned the Italians in their own half for much of a match which could have seen a bigger scoreline but for inspired goalkeeping by Wojciech Szczesny.
"It was a very strong performance, an outstanding result. To score so many goals against a team who defend so well is a fantastic result for us. We will keep the feet on the ground but it was a very strong match," Tuchel said.
Chelsea are above Juventus on goal difference and will guarantee a first-place finish if they win at Zenit Saint Petersburg in their last group fixture on Dec 8.
Asked if he felt Chelsea were on course to retain the title they won in May, four months after Tuchel took over an erratic team that sat mid-table in the Premier League, the German simply added: "We need to do it step by step."
A first-half goal by Trevoh Chalobah and two strikes shortly before the hour mark from Reece James and Callum Hudson-Odoi - all three are from Chelsea's academy - smashed the little resistance Juventus could muster.
All the more remarkable is that Chelsea stormed into their 3-0 lead with their two main strikers, Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner, on the bench as they returned from injury, although the latter came on to round off Chelsea's night with the final goal.
At the back, the Premier League leaders were just as impressive, led by imperious Brazilian Thiago Silva, who ensured another of Tuchel's trademark defensive shutouts with a spectacular hook off the line to deny Alvaro Morata at 1-0.
The Blues have now kept 31 clean sheets in Tuchel's first 50 games in charge, more than any other side in Europe's top five leagues over the same period.
The one blemish on Chelsea's night were injuries to midfielder N'Golo Kante and fullback Ben Chilwell ahead of Sunday's Premier League home clash against Manchester United, but Tuchel said he was hopeful that neither would be out for long.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE