The Champions League returns to action this evening after its winter hiatus and the spectacle does not get all that much bigger than Juventus taking on Tottenham in Turin, as both teams look to get an early advantage in the first leg of this Round of 16 tie.
There is no doubting Juventus’ Champions League pedigree, that is evident by the fact that they have made it to two three finals in the last seasons. But by the same token Tottenham will have little to fear after their European exploits this season.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men finished top of a group that included both Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, with many pundits believing that at this point we would see Spurs drop into the realms of Thursday night action and a return to the Europa League.
Not only did they make the Round of 16 but they topped the group and earned the most points out of all of the teams that moved onto the knockout stage of the competition, a string of results that included a draw with Real Madrid at the Bernabeu while beating them under the lights of Wembley.
Tonight poses something of a free hit though for Spurs, although they will be confident of getting something from this game they do also have to take into account the stature of their Italian opposition this evening, Massimo Allegri’s side have shown that they are no pushover as of late.
That is because the defending Serie A champions have only conceded one goal in their last 16 league matches, a simply phenomenal defensive record but one that somehow still sees them only second in the table as Napoli have managed to just edge proceedings at present.
A large reason for the fact that Juventus are not giving any gifts away in defence is due to the centre back partnership of Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli, one that we will not witness this evening due to the absence of the latter.
Tottenham are also missing a centre back of their own tonight with Toby Alderwiereld not making the trip to Turin, a decision that the Belgian is reportedly not all that happy about. The club decided it is due to a fitness issue or lack there of but already people are putting two and two together and getting five.
Whether there is more of an underlying issue here remains to be seen, the hope from Tottenham fans is that Alderweireld’s frustration are just due to not being a part of this fixture and nothing more overriding such as a refusal of a new contract.
That is something that will expand over the days and weeks to come but it should do little to deflect from Tottenham’s preparations going into this game, with the club undoubtedly coming into this game with their tails up after a trio of impressive league performances.
A difficult trio of matches involving clashes with Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal was always going to be a measure of just whether or not Tottenham could stay in the race for the top four, after earning seven points from a possible nine you would have to say that the test has been passed with flying colours.
The final module of that test came last Saturday when they earned local bragging rights for a few more months after diffusing the Gunners at Wembley. A goal from who else but Harry Kane would be the only one of the game but it was arguably the most one sided 1-0 you’ll ever see.
Even with that said, it was a a game that Tottenham nearly gave away right at the end as Arsenal threw everything but the kitchen sink on in the search for the equaliser, one that thankfully for the home fans did not come as Arsene Wenger’s men spurned a number of late chances.
You get the feeling that Tottenham will not be able to spurn what chances they have this evening especially with Juvenuts proving to be so tight at the back this season, if they are to get anything out of this game then they are going to have to be ruthless in front of goal.
To be honest I think the wave of optimism might be tempered slightly tonight, but if the visitors can get an away goal then even in defeat it would set the tie up very nicely for the return at Wembley on March 7. I’ll go for a 2-1 win to Juventus.