After defeating Fiorentina 2-0 in what was a complete second-half performance from Juventus, how will the Bianconeri deal with their crucial Champions League clash against Tottenham Hotspur?
Occupied in a two-way Scudetto race with Napoli, Juve will need to emulate the pragmatic approach they have been using in this Serie A campaign when they host an underrated Tottenham in the first leg of the Last 16 on Tuesday evening.
This match-up will be the first time these sides play against each other in European club competition, which makes it an intriguing affair for 888Sport Betting.
Juventus may be satisfied facing Spurs rather than battling with the big guns Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester City, but that’s probably what Real Madrid thought too.
There is no denying that the English outfit was one of the Champions League’s top performers in the group stages, as the statistics don’t lie. Bagging upset wins against European Champions Real Madrid and an experienced Borussia Dortmund propelled the Premier League side to a first-place finish in Group H, amassing more points than any club in the competition’s group stage.
Massimiliano Allegri’s men must be vigilant of their opponent’s fast passing and smooth transition with the ball. Tottenham are the complete opposite to the Italian champions – playing with unpredictability and pressing high up the pitch. With veterans Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli occupying the centre-back positions in the Juve backline, it will be essential that the defending duo use their tall stature and tenacity to deny Tottenham’s aerial threats in set-pieces.
Mauricio Pochettino is known for utilising his traditional 4-2-3-1 formation, allowing the team to be flexible and switch to the basic 4-4-2. The trio of Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Son Heung-Min providing through balls and crosses to No.10 hitman Harry Kane has often overwhelmed opposition defenders, including Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos and Marcelo.
If there is one vital thing the Bianconeri defence can do well in this fixture, it is to keep Kane at bay without giving the Premier League’s leading goal scorer any space around the 18-yard box. Juve’s Alex Sandro must limit any crosses and low passes from the left flank being delivered to the Spurs forward. This is to ensure the Englishman doesn’t get the chance to display his clinical finishing in the air or with his lethal right-footed shot - the last thing La Vecchia Signora want is to concede a fatal away goal that could change the entire complexion leading into the second leg at Wembley.
As the 2017-18 Serie A season has progressed, Juventus have rediscovered their true defending. To be honest, it has only improved under the 4-3-3 formation, demonstrating that the Turin club has moved on from the Leonardo Bonucci era. With Juve only conceding once in 16 consecutive fixtures in all competition, due to a robust defence and Wojciech Szczesny or Gigi Buffon between the posts, this has been a testament to Allegri’s pragmatic approach towards weekly games.
One of the main vulnerabilities that exist within this Tottenham side this season is defending set-pieces. The Bianconeri should get players like Mario Mandzukic – the potential replacement for Paulo Dybala - and Chiellini to expose Spurs’ flaws in corners and free-kicks.
Given Juve’s current form, they should feel full of confidence ahead of this Tottenham clash. While Blaise Matuidi is ruled out due to a thigh muscle injury, Claudio Marchisio will most likely be performing alongside Sami Khedira and Miralem Pjanic, continuing to provide crucial tackles and passes.
Allegri might also give Federico Bernardeschi – the hero from the Fiorentina match - the chance to start ahead of Douglas Costa, as the Italian youngster is finding tremendous form. With the Scudetto holders boasting a deep squad with Champions League knockout experience, they should be the slight favourites to beat Tottenham by playing their traditional style of calcio – absorbing the pressure and capitalising on their chances in attack.
A win without conceding an away goal will put Juve in a commanding position for the second leg in London next month.