The Champions League returns this week and there are five English teams that remain in the competition. Tottenham arguably had the most impressive group stage as they overcame both Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund to finish top, but the struggles of each team since have somewhat tainted that achievement. They have been drawn to face Juventus in the round of 16 and will travel to Italy for the first leg on Tuesday. It is a tough draw as they are coming up against the team that finished runners-up in the competition last season, but they have already beaten the holders and that should give them confidence that they can progress through this tie.
Juventus are currently in the midst of a title race for the first time in a number of years in Serie A as they trail Napoli who currently top the division. It will be interesting what effect this has on their Champions League campaign, as they won’t be able to fully focus on the European competition. However, the fact that the league is competitive could be a benefit to their attempts to win in Europe, as the players will remain in a must-win frame of mind. They have more experience than Tottenham in Europe and that could give them the advantage in this tie.
The progression at Tottenham since Mauricio Pochettino took over as manager has been huge and they go into this tie against one of the biggest clubs in Europe with a real chance of progression. However, it won’t be easy for them and they will have to be at their best if they are to make it through to the next round. They have good momentum after impressive wins against Manchester United and Arsenal, as well as a credible away draw against Liverpool. Spurs are usually very good in the big matches and they will be hoping that translates to the Champions League.
Juan Cuadrado, Benedikt Howedes and Blaise Matuidi are all not going to be fit to feature for the home side. Meanwhile, Andrea Barzagli and Paulo Dybala are huge doubts, which will be a boost to Tottenham’s chances on Tuesday.
Pochettino has a fully-fit squad to choose from and he is likely to rotate from the side that beat Arsenal. Danny Rose, Serge Aurier and Victor Wanyama are all players that could come into the starting eleven. Toby Alderweireld is also an option, but recent reports suggest he might not be risked for this match.
Juventus have won their last seven matches in all competitions without conceding a goal.
Harry Kane has scored six times in this season’s Champions League with a goal every 70 minutes.
At the age of 33, Chiellini is approaching the end of his career, but he remains one of the best defenders in world football at the time of writing. Juventus were hurt by the sale of Leonardo Bonucci during the summer and it has taken them time to get back to their best at the back. However, their recent run of seven matches without conceding a goal shows that they are going to be tough to beat again and that defensive record makes them a threat in Europe. They were blown away in last season’s final, but before that, it was their ability to keep things tight at the back that allowed them to progress to that stage. Tottenham have a lot of attacking quality, but they don’t have the experience of progressing in the knockout stages of the Champions League and Juventus will be hoping to manage the tie well due to that. Their first choice defender will be key as he will have the job of marshalling Harry Kane, who already has six goals in the competition and will arrive in Italy after bagging the winner in the North London derby. It is key that the Serie A side limit the chances given to him and their centre-back will be tasked with doing that.
Tottenham need to go to Turin and dominate the midfield battle if they are to leave with a positive result. Mousa Dembele was the man-of-the-match against Arsenal and he looked back to his best. If he can consistently deliver that level of performance, Spurs will benefit and it could see the club finish the season strongly after a mixed first-half to the campaign. In Claudio Marchisio, Miralem Pjanic and Sami Khedira, Juventus have a very good central midfield with plenty of experience at the top of the European game. It will be tough for the Premier League side to go there and have more of the ball. If they are, the Belgian international will need to be at his best. He is capable of winning the ball back and breaking up play, in addition to being a crucial part of transitioning the play. At the weekend, he completed four dribbles and ended the match with a pass success rate of 97%.
This is going to be one of the most interesting ties of the round of 16 as both teams have the potential to go deep in the competition and return to Champions League action in great form. Juventus have the experience of winning at this stage of the competition and they will look to keep a clean sheet at home. That will be their primary aim on Tuesday and it will be a tough ask considering the attacking talent that Tottenham have. A narrow home victory is the most likely result, but the visitors have every chance of nicking an away goal.