As Juventus prepare to take on Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League on Tuesday, Football Italia gets the lowdown on the opposition.
Words: Tom Scholes
This Tuesday, Serie A champions Juventus play host to last season’s Premier League runners up Tottenham Hotspur in Turin with both sides eager to make a big impression in the latter stages of the Champions League, albeit for different reasons.
While Juve have established themselves as one of the top sides in Europe, they will be determined to go one better than last season and deliver the Champions League, but a Tottenham side who are in great form stand in their way. So what do the Old Lady need to be wary about when coming up against the North London club? How will Mauricio Pochettino set up his side and can they put one past the Italian giants?
Of course, when you’re talking about key men and Tottenham there’s only one place to start. Arguably the best striker in the world at the moment, Harry Kane has been in electric form, recently scoring his 100th Premier League goal and coming off the back of a wonderful header to win the North London Derby against Arsenal.
There is way more to Kane’s game than just goalscoring though. This season he’s developed his game a lot more and he now drops a bit deeper from his central forward role to bring out the defenders marking him, giving the likes of Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Heung-Min Son the space in behind to exploit.
Speaking of which, all three of the other Spurs attacking players mentioned can pose a huge goalscoring threat. Son has the pace to really get at a defence, Dele has the habit of being in the right place at the right time - similarly to Thomas Muller at Bayern Munich - and Christian Eriksen has the ability to open up pretty much any defence, even this watertight Juventus one. Defensively for Spurs, it’s important that they keep Gonzalo Higuain in check and with Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen having such a formidable partnership at the back alongside Davinson Sanchez, Higuain may find it hard to get room for a shot on goal. With Paulo Dybala missing through injury, Spurs will be able to focus the majority of their attention on shutting down Higuain and the wide players due to their defensive solidity.
Style of play
This is potentially what makes Spurs such a tricky customer to come up against in the Champions League, as they showed against Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund at Wembley.
In domestic competition Spurs like to have a lot of the ball and go down the flanks, either with direct pace or with crossing. However in Europe, they’ve allowed their opponent to put pressure on them and hit them directly on the counter which worked so well at home to Real Madrid and really stifled a Merengues team that were heavy favourites to win. Could this work against Juve? Potentially, because the direct pace of players like Son will be a threat to the back line of Juventus who may not know how to deal with him, and let’s not pretend that this Juventus midfield is quick enough to prevent a blistering counter attack.
That being said, a lot of work goes on the defence in this system where it may come unstuck for Spurs. Wide play could be what makes the difference and with players like Douglas Costa, Federico Bernardeschi and Mario Mandzukic likely to be available, that directness could actually affect Spurs.
As mentioned previously, Tottenham will be coming into this clash on a rich run of form, getting seven points out of a possible nine against Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal as well as advanced to the next round of the FA Cup. They haven’t lost since December 17 and even that was against a rampant Manchester City side, and have picked up eight wins out of 12.
In the Champions League this season they’re undefeated too, only dropping points in one game which was at the Bernabau against Real Madrid, even though they took the lead.
On paper this may look somewhat of a favourable draw for Juventus considering who else they could have been paired with, but this will be anything but easy against a Spurs team that look hungry and look like they know how to handle themselves on a European stage.