All things considered, a Champions League Round of 16 meeting with Tottenham Hotspur represents a satisfactory outcome for Juventus at Monday’s draw in Nyon.
Though the ideal scenario on paper would undoubtedly have seen the Old Lady paired with Turkish champions Besiktas, Max Allegri and co will be relieved to have avoided paying the price for finishing second in Group D by being drawn against tournament favourites Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester City.
As would have been the case with either of Juve’s other possible opponents prior to the draw - Jose Mourinho’s functional Manchester United and Jurgen Klopp’s wildly unpredictable Liverpool – a two-legged tie against Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs is certainly winnable, but is likely to be fraught with danger along the way. Despite their relative lack of pedigree at this stage of European competition, the North Londoners cannot be underestimated.
A recent Premier League slump in form has seen Tottenham drop to sixth in the table domestically, but their Champions League group stage exploits show they are capable of competing with and beating anyone on their day.
Two victories against Round of 16 regulars Borussia Dortmund were one thing, but it was their performance in a famous 3-1 win over defending champions Real Madrid at Wembley last month that marked Spurs out as genuine contenders to go deep in the tournament.
Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen shared the goals on that night and could also pose a major threat to Juve come February, while stopping Harry Kane - scorer of six group stage goals and 18 in all competitions this season - will of course be key to Allegri’s hopes of progression.
A midfield engine room containing Erik Dier, Mousa Dembele and Victor Wanyama, who has missed a large portion of the season so far through injury, means the Old Lady are likely to have to do a lot of running if they are to match their dangerous opponents.
Nevertheless, Spurs are far from infallible. Despite his stellar performance against Madrid, Alli has struggled to hit the heights of last season in the opening few months of this campaign. There has been an over-reliance on Kane for goals at times, while as a team, Pochettino’s men often struggle to break down or even create clear-cut chances against sides who sit back in a low defensive block – as shown by home draws against Burnley, Swansea and West Brom and nervy 1-0 wins over Bournemouth and Crystal Palace.
Should Allegri decide to deploy similar tactics, he may well be able to stifle Spurs’ attacking threat, given that far inferior sides have already succeeded in doing so.
There is also a growing doubt regarding Spurs’ ability to get the job done when it really matters. Pochettino has done a fine job over his three-and-a-half years in charge in North London, but his side have squandered points at crucial times in the last two Premier League title races and were agonisingly beaten by Chelsea in last season’s FA Cup semi-final.
They have also lost three of their four matches this season against other teams from the League’s so called ‘Big Six.’ The tie against Juve will present another test of Tottenham’s aspirations to take that next step on the road to joining the elite.
Allegri and the Old Lady have had their own issues this season, but as things stand currently they will probably start February’s tie as very slight favourites to progress to the quarter-finals.
The two sides faced off at Wembley in a pre-season friendly over the summer, with Tottenham vastly more advanced in their fitness preparations and running out comfortable 2-0 winners. However, the stakes will be far higher in what is perhaps surprisingly the first ever European meeting between the teams.
Spurs’ exciting and dangerous young side will have the advantage of playing at home in the second leg, but Juve’s 50-year-old Coach has overseen runs to the Champions League Final in two of his three full seasons in charge in Turin.
He will be counting on his – and his core of players’ – superior European experience and big-game mentality to take the Old Lady a step closer to finally winning the trophy for a third time.