Paulo Dybala Faces Fight To Be As Juventus Host Tottenham Hotspur
February was always going to be a decisive moment in Tottenham’s season. If Mauricio Pochettino had been offered seven points from three games against Manchester United, Liverpool, and Arsenal, as well as progression in the FA Cup, he’d certainly have taken it.
The consensus was that the Gunners were lucky to escape with just the one-goal deficit on Saturday, who else but Harry Kane leaping above the defence with a well-executed header into the bottom corner.
However, the Premier League’s top scorer, as well as Heung-Min Son, Dele Alli, and Erik Lamela were all guilty of wasting chances and will have to be more clinical when they meet a Juventus side who have conceded just one goal in their last 15 games – an astounding run that stretches all the way back to November.
The Lilywhites are looking to become the first side since Verona, on December 30, to put a goal past either Gianluigi Buffon or Wojciech Szczesny – on this occasion it is more likely to be the former, who returned between the sticks for the victories over Fiorentina and Sassuolo.
Max Allegri’s side went all the way to the final last year, where they were beaten by Real Madrid. Tottenham have already improved massively on their last European campaign, but they will be looking to make sure they are still in the tie when they welcome the serial Italian champions to Wembley on March 7.
Serie A’s second-placed team – for now, as they trail Napoli by a solitary point – will be well aware of the threat their visitors pose, since Spurs dominated the so-called ‘Group of Death’ with comfortable wins over Madrid and Borussia Dortmund.
Whereas Tottenham have almost a fully fit squad to choose from, Allegri has a host of concerns. Paulo Dybala is aiming to recover from a thigh strain and it remains to be seen whether he is able to shake it off in time having missed Juve’s last four games.
Juan Cuadrado, Bendikt Howedes, and Andrea Barzagli are expected to miss out. Crucially, so is Blaise Matuidi, which could have huge implications for the central midfield battle. Throughout their recent run, Mousa Dembele has been imperious for Spurs and seeing him face off against the former PSG man would have been an intriguing battle of both strength and tactical astuteness.
Toby Alderweireld recently came through 90 minutes against Newport County unscathed but Pochettino did not select him for the north London derby. This time, he isn’t expected to travel at all, instead staying behind to work on his fitness. The upside to that is that Davinson Sanchez’s pace was too much for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and it could prove the same story for the hulking Gonzalo Higuain.
Juventus: Buffon, Lichtsteiner, Benatia, Chiellini, Sandro, Khedira, Pjanic, Marchisio, Bernardeschi, Mandzukic, Higuain
Tottenham: Lloris, Aurier, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Rose, Dier, Dembele, Eriksen, Alli, Son, Kane
Did you know?
The two clubs actually played the first game of Tottenham’s season at Wembley in a pre-season friendly, with the hosts winning 2-0 thanks to goals from Kane and Christian Eriksen. This will be their first competitive match.
The last time Juventus played English opposition was over five years ago when they triumphed 3-0 over Chelsea.
How Tottenham fare will chiefly depend on whether they can find a way through a pretty impenetrable defence. The number of injuries Juventus are having to contend with should work in the away side’s favour, though, and this would not be the first time they have pulled off the unimaginable in the Champions League this season.
There is no longer any doubt about Kane’s world-class credentials and with a tally of 11 goals in his last 10 games in all competitions, he could be the man who finds the cracks in Juventus’ armour.
Juventus 1-1 Tottenham