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Buffon: “Very enticing challenge”

Buffon: “Very enticing challenge”

Juventus Captain Gianluigi Buffon discussed Wembley Stadium and comparisons between Harry Kane and Gabriel Batistuta.

Juventus take on Tottenham tomorrow in the second-leg of the Champions League Round of 16 but Buffon’s side find themselves as the underdogs heading into the match after the first-leg ended in a 2-2 draw in Turin.

Spurs have played their home games this season at Wembley Stadium as their new stadium is still under construction for the duration of this footballing season.

“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 concede; 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”.

Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain have both recovered from injuries in the past few weeks and Buffon commented on how important their contribution will be in tomorrow’s massive game.

“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 compared Spurs gunman Harry Kane to Gabriel Batistuta who is widely considered to be one of the greatest striker’s of all time. Buffon had the honour of playing against Batistuta when ‘Batigol’ was playing for Fiorentina, Roma and Inter.

“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 turned 40 in January and the Juventus skipper has hinted that he will most likely retire at the end of the season. ‘Gigi’ commented on whether or not tomorrow’s game could be his last in the Champions League.

“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”.

Italian football is in mourning after Fiorentina Captain and Italy International Davide Astori passed away in his sleep on Sunday. Buffon commented on the loss of his friend.

“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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