Juventus adopt a fluid formation to cancel out Tottenham counter-attacks and shift in transitions, explains Elio Salerno.
There has been a real sense of anticipation in the build-up to this second leg at Wembley. An exhilarating game in Turin three weeks ago has left this Champions League tie finely poised, with Spurs in the driving seat prior to tonight’s kick off.
For Italian Champions Juventus, this game provides an opportunity to put some demons to bed. Having thrown away a two-goal lead at the Allianz Stadium they also have to overcome an unwanted record against Premier League opposition.
Despite being undefeated in their last four visits to the UK, the Bianconeri have conceded in each of their last 12 visits to England and have never successfully overcome an English side in a Champions League knockout tie.
Favourites when the draw was made, there is sense that Max Allegri’s men are now the underdogs, and that could suit them perfectly.
If Juventus have genuine aspirations of progressing, they cannot allow Tottenham to control the game as they did last time out. Spurs domination of the ball and specifically the midfield area saw Juve restricted to less than 40% of the possession and in a game where they raced into a two-goal lead that is simply unacceptable.
This is highlighted further when looking at either side’s midfield pivot players that night, the duo of Miralem Pjanic and Sami Khedira registered just 80 touches and 56 passes between them. In comparison, Eric Dier and the mightily impressive Moussa Dembele registered 209 touches and 181 passes. The Belgian was solely responsible for 117 touches and 100 passes, completing 95% of them.
Incorporate the three attackers that lined-up in front of them and the gap increases, with Juve’s midfield five accumulating a paltry 194 touches and 121 passes between them while the Spurs collective midfield managed 369 touches and 386 passes.
Unavailable for the first-leg, Blaise Matuidi starts tonight in a move that would see The Old Lady switch back to the Christmas tree shaped 4-3-3. The change in formation will provide Juventus a midfield over-load that they must use this to their advantage.
Paulo Dybala and Douglas Costa will closely support the Juve midfield three. This will increase numerical superiority in central areas and should provide with a platform to retain possession better. Out of possession the energetic and infectious Matuidi will be the protagonist when it comes to pressing.
Juventus did not get close enough to the opposition and lacked midfield physicality in the first leg, but with Matuidi in the team this is likely to change. Backed up by Sami Khedira, Dybala and Douglas Costa, we will see Juve squeeze the Spurs midfield pivot and the likes of Christian Eriksen in-order prevent them building their team’s attacks.
La Joya is back…
The return of Paulo Dybala has come at the ideal time for Max Allegri and his team. There is a sense of relief and excitement that the Number 10 has returned, in a moment where the Turin club are searching for inspiration it will provide a huge psychological boost to see Dybala on the Wembley turf.
The Argentine’s superb last gasp goal at the weekend against Lazio will have only heightened that sense of belief and off the back of some lacklustre performances, it is exactly what the Juventus squad needed coming into this game.
Spurs will be fully aware of the threat he poses to them. If Mauricio Pochettino’s team do have any weaknesses defensively, they are at full-back, and defending spaces in-between lines. Those are areas Allegri will certainly look to target and exploit by using Dybala and Douglas Costa as both possess the necessary technical quality, variety and creativity to play across the attacking line.
Spurs are an expansive side, that will not change tonight and the big playing surface at Wembley certainly suits their style of play. While that is undoubtedly a benefit to them, the open spaces will be key in transitional phases. This an area Juve will need be wary of, as they do not want to concede as a result of a soft counter-attack.
Veteran Andrea Barzagli will start at right-back and this will be done with defending counter attacks in mind. A conservative full-back, the former Italian international will be able to form a three-man defence when his side are attacking, so this should offer Juve better protection in transition.
Going the other way, it will be the rocket-paced Douglas Costa and his dribbling ability that is best placed to exploit any potential counters for Juventus.
Wasted chances, cheaply conceded goals and a poor performance certainly left a bitter taste for fans of La Vecchia Signora after the fixture in Turin. That night they faced a Tottenham side at the top of their game and they deserved the advantage they left with.
If there was a consolation from the first leg, it was that despite all of those factors Juventus never lost the game and although they face a huge task tonight, a top performance will see them progress to another Champions League quarter-final.
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