Juventus have got their reputation at stake on Wednesday when they face Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley in the second leg of their Champions League Round of 16 fixture.
Last month’s fixture, which was played at the Allianz Stadium was the first competitive meeting between the two sides and the game ended in a 2-2 draw. The highly anticipated tie looked to be over within the first ten minutes after Gonzalo Higuain brilliantly volleyed a Miralem Pjanić free-kick into the bottom corner of Hugo Lloris’ net and then Higuain doubled the hosts lead, with a penalty two minutes later.
Despite the brilliant start made by La Vecchia Signora they allowed Spurs to dominate the remaining 80 minutes of the game and Tottenham made a comeback thanks to goals from Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen.
Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus now find themselves as the underdogs when they play Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham on Wednesday night as the two away goals scored by the latter’s side in Turin mean that Juventus have to ultimately beat the North London side or draw 3-3 and so on.
Juventus are Italy’s dominant team at this moment in time and The Old Lady have appeared in two of the last three Champions League finals, but what can they do to progress through over an impressive Tottenham side at Wembley?
Start with three men in midfield
During the first leg, Spurs won the midfield battle and dominated possession as they had 67% of the ball, this was due to the fact that Juve started with a 4-2-3-1 formation. Allergi’s starting line-up was his team’s downfall, despite scoring twice in the opening ten minutes.
Juventus’ midfield was overrun for the entire match and the Bianconeri only had 33% of the ball as Sami Khedira was the worst player on the pitch for Juventus. In addition to this Federico Bernardeschi started in the ‘Trequartista’ role but the Italian International drifted out wide to his natural position and this left Miralem Pjanić isolated in the midfield for the entire match.
In order to win the midfield battle on Wednesday, Allegri must start with three men in the middle so that his Juventus side can dominate the midfield as Pochettino’s Spurs team tend to play with two central midfielders and are focused on the attack, meaning at times they might leave a gap in the midfield.
An extra man in the middle will help the two-time European Champions in having more of the ball which will allow the Turin based side to move forward more often and provide extra cover for the defence when they are without the ball.
Take the game to Spurs
If Juventus score an early goal the whole game changes as it means that Spurs will have to score in order to level the tie. Le Zebre scored twice in the opening ten minutes of the first-leg so they are capable of scoring early again as Spurs’ Defence is somewhat of a liability at times.
If Juventus’ attack on Wednesday, that will have the returning Paulo Dybala starting, play to the best of their ability they will cause numerous problems for The Lilywhites at the back.
Juventus must take the game to Spurs and they simply cannot afford to sit back and risk conceding a goal as the world-class Harry Kane will punish the 33-time Scudetto winners if La Madama sit back as deep as they did in the first-leg.
If Dybala, the current Juventus number 10, wants to be remembered by fans of the Bianconeri as a true club legend he must emulate the performances of those who have worn the number 10 before him. It can be argued that Dybala has been inconsistent in the big games for Juventus but the Argentinian International can start to prove his doubters wrong if he performs against Spurs.
La Joya has the talent to win the game on his own and he must be on top form if Juventus want to progress through to the Quarter-Finals of Europe’s elite tournament. The 24 year-old recently returned from a hamstring injury and scored a 90th minute winner for The Old Lady at Lazio’s Stadio Olimpico on Saturday. Dybala has scored 18 goals in 31 appearances for Juventus in all competitions this season and Le Zebre missed his attacking contribution in the first leg. La Signora Omicidi struggled to create chances in the first-leg as Dybala’s creativity and skill on the ball was missing as Benardeschi and Douglas Costa don’t have the same ability as the Juventus number 10. There is a chance that Gonzalo Higuain might not start Wednesday’s game and if the striker fails to regain fitness, Paulo Dybala could be paired with Mario Mandžukić or play in the False 9 role, so it is likely that the Argentinian might be leading the Juventus front-line on his own.
The previous number 10’s of Juventus include legendary players of the game such as; Omar Sivori, Michel Platini, Roberto Baggio and Alessandro Del Piero. Those four players created their legacy in games like the Spurs one and Dybala can start to make a name for himself in the white and black colours of Juventus if he plays to his potential on Wednesday.
Blaise Matuidi’s time to shine
Matuidi, like Dybala, was out injured in the first leg for Juventus and his absence was most certainly felt. The French International has been a dominant force in the midfield for Juventus this season. Spurs pose a creative threat with Delle Alli playing behind Harry Kane but Matuidi is more than capable of stopping the English International from posing a threat to the Juventus defence.
Moussa Dembele’s physical dominance was too much for Sami Khedira in the first-leg but Matuidi is a different player to the German International and the Spurs Midfielder will face a tough task this time round.
Matuidi joined Juventus from Paris Saint-Germain in the summer in order to win the Champions League and the midfield star will want to help his side get one step closer to achieving this with an outstanding performance at Wembley.
The Defence must not lose concentration
Harry Kane’s goal for Spurs in the first-leg was created by Giorgio Chellini being dispossessed in his own half and Gianluigi Buffon rushing out of his goal like a madman and this essentially gifted the English International a goal. Christian Eriksen’s lovely free-kick, which equalised the game, was a result of Chellini committing a clumsy foul on Dele Alli just outside of the Juventus penalty box.
There is just simply no room for mistakes of this kind in Wednesday’s fixture. Juventus’ Defence is extremely strong and the Bianconeri have conceded only one goal in their last 13 games in Serie A. Domestically the defence has been playing to a world-class standard and this will need to be maintained again in the second-leg.
Kane is arguably the best striker in the world and despite the English International scoring 35 times this season, Juventus’ defence shut out Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar over two legs last season and the current defence of Juventus is capable of shutting out Kane, even though it’ll be a tough task.
Juventus Captain Gianluigi Buffon is most likely retiring at the end of the season and the legendary Goalkeeper has never won a Champions League. Buffon desperately wants to win the trophy to enjoy the perfect send-off to a fantastic career.
The former Parma Goalkeeper isn’t the player he once was but at the age of 40 his experience and his ability to organise the defence can help his team shut out Spurs and ensure that ‘Super Gigi’ has one last chance to win the ‘Big-Eared Cup’.
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