Tuesday March 6 2018
Buffon: 'Wembley theatre of football'

Gigi Buffon said Wembley is “a theatre of football” to host Tottenham Hotspur and Juventus, while comparisons between Harry Kane and Gabriel Batistuta are “apt.”

It kicks off on Wednesday at 19.45 GMT after the first leg ended 2-2 in Turin.

Tottenham are playing their home games at Wembley Stadium this season, while their new arena is constructed.

“It is a very enticing challenge, as it is played in a theatre of football that is historically incredible.

“We must also try to earn our qualification, which seeing the first leg result and the strength of our opponents, seems to be an uphill struggle.

“But then when it seems easy, that tends to trip you up more than the toughest tests on paper.

“Tottenham have a well-drilled approach to the game, it’s positive, attacking, physical and technical, that will certainly cause us problems. But it is also a type of football that allows the opposition opportunities to score, so I expect a very entertaining and balanced match where the most clinical side will win the game and qualification.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we conceded more than one goal in 2018 only against Spurs. Our solidity is and has always been one of the best qualities of the team. I said that even at the start of the season, when the team was attacked for the number of goals conceded.

“But there are also opponents, their qualities and characteristics. Tottenham are focused very much on attack and have their best weapons upfront. With players like Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen, they can score a goal. Maybe two was too many…

“We have become accustomed to the pessimism around Juventus, because the moment we don’t get a victory, people grimace and ignore the quality of the opponents we were up against. We spoiled people with our success!

“Having said that, we have what it takes to put in the right performance tomorrow. When Juve are somewhat under attack, struggling or wounded, I think the best comes out of us.

“A mistake or non-success irritates me so much that it drives me on to improve, learn and become a better goalkeeper going forward. That is what all the individuals as well as the team do, the mentality that got us to play games of this level so regularly.”

Buffon was asked if Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain are physically ready for this challenge after such a long period out with injury.

“I think my best performances have been when I had my mind in the right place, regardless of my physical condition. At times, being in physically great shape can be dangerous, as it makes you feel invulnerable and that’s when you get a kicking. I prefer to be mentally focused and fired up, even if I am less physically prepared.”

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino has compared Kane to Gabriel Batistuta, who Buffon did come up against in his long career.

“It’s true, the comparison is apt in terms of physical strength athleticism and finishing, there are many analogies between Kane and Batistuta. Kane is in an extraordinary period of form and inevitably leads him to do things that had before seemed unthinkable. He is right now one of the two or three best strikers in the world.”

Buffon is 40 years old now and could retire this summer, so has he thought that it might be his last Champions League appearance?

“I haven’t thought if it could be my last Champions League game. I am an optimist by nature and hope more than anything else that it isn’t the last Champions League game for Juventus this season, that we have many more going forward.

“As for my future, this is not the time or the place to discuss individual situations, including mine.”

It has not been a normal week in Italian football, as Fiorentina captain and Italy international Davide Astori passed away at the age of 31 on Sunday.

“We carry on because life forces us to, otherwise you let yourself become consumed by the tragedy that inevitably will strike you over the course of a lifetime.

“I think above all for we who are football players and had the honour of spending time with and knowing a person like Davide, considering he was in our profession, the best way to honour him and keep his sporting image alive is to keep playing and raise up the best values of the sport.”

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