Gonzalo Higuain has spent what probably feels like his whole career defying the critics, so the pre-match talk surrounding Juventus’ Round of 16 clash with Tottenham Hotspur has been notable.
The likes of Paulo Dybala, Miralem Pjanic and Dele Alli have all occupied the column inches in the build-up, but none more so than Lilywhites star Harry Kane. The goal machine recently celebrated his 100th Premier League goal and is being positioned as the key man, while Higuain has gone under the radar.
This could work in the Bianconeri’s favour. Perception has cost Pipita equal billing and his record demands respect. While the England hitman has notched over three figures in under four campaigns, his opposite number has similar numbers, and this can fuel Higuain on Tuesday night.
The ex-Napoli hero is hitting his stride at just the right time, bagging six goals in his last four matches, and must continue this rich vein of form in a genuine 50/50 contest. The North London club are incredibly strong at Wembley and the onus is on Higuain to make his mark on the opening tie to give his teammates a good chance of progressing to the quarter-finals.
The scrutiny may be focused on Higuain, but Kane too will be closely watched, particularly by Real Madrid and fellow heavyweights on the continent. The Walthamstow talent will come up against Giorgio Chiellini and Medhi Benatia, two stalwarts who live for defending, and Kane is in for a real test.
This Juventus team has kept 11 consecutive clean sheets domestically and the visiting striker is unlikely to be gifted a host of chances the way he is on a Saturday afternoon in the Premier League.
Higuain may be six years Kane’s senior, but there are many parallels between the pair. The South American spent three seasons plundering the goals in Naples before accepting an offer too good to refuse from the Italian champions. Englishman Kane has hit over 20 goals in the last four terms and, realistically, will only have a golden boot to show for it in May.
Kane has racked up individual honours, but is expected to receive an offer, ironically, from Higuain’s former club in Spain either this summer or next, and he will have a decision to make. Kane’s obvious talent deserves to be winning team honours on a regular basis, just like Higuain.
The criticism most often levelled at Higuain is that he doesn't score in the knockout fixtures of the Champions League. He answered that last season with a brace against Monaco in the semi-final, yet it was also the only time he has found the net in a two-legged clash for Juve or Napoli. Kane has no comparison to make, as Spurs haven't been out of the group stage until now. Will he too prove to be a group game goal-getter and a do-or-die dud?
The attackers are also comparable on a playing level. Neither are particularly quick, though Kane is no slouch, and both are classic centre-forwards in an era where False Nines have shot to prominence. The most obvious link between the two is their ability to test the keeper and nine times out of 10 they will hit the target. The statistics speak for themselves and Higuain will relish the opportunity of showing he’s just as likely to hit the net as his rival.
Don’t write off the Bianconeri marksman just yet. Higuain may not be the fashionable choice, but he is ruthless through on goal and has the credentials to influence the outcome of a mouth-watering first leg in Turin.
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