In what will be one of the most highly anticipated matches this February, Italian champions Juventus will go head to head with Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur as the UEFA Champions League knockout round is all set to get underway this midweek.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men will be coming into this game on the back of a morale-boosting win over arch-rivals Arsenal, where they had earned themselves the bragging rights of North London. In UCL, Spurs finished top of their group, which consisted of defending champions Real Madrid, German giants Borussia Dortmund as well as APOEL.
Juventus, on the other hand, finished second in their group, just behind FC Barcelona. The Old Lady have been somewhat off-colour this season, currently second in their domestic league but they’ll be regarded as favourites, considering their pedigree in this coveted tournament.
Here are three key battles which may decide the outcome of the game this midweek.
Gonzalo Higuain vs Jan Vertonghen
Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen will have a huge responsibility of leading the Spurs backline, especially due to the absence of defensive lynchpin Toby Alderweireld. The Belgian International marshalled the backline really well against Arsenal but it will be a totally different ballgame this midweek as he’s likely to face the likes of Mario Mandzukic, Gonzalo Higuain and Douglas Costa.
Higuain, in particular, is the one man Spurs need to be aware of and hence, it will be up to Vertonghen to provide the necessary solidity in the defensive department and to stop the dangerous Argentinian who is more than capable of scoring goals against top sides.
Harry Kane vs Giorgio Chiellini
Giorgio Chiellini has been a defensive lynchpin for Juventus this season, despite the departure of his trusted partner Leonardo Bonucci to AC Milan last summer.
The Italian International will be tasked with the responsibility of stopping the dangerous Harry Kane, who can change the complexion of the game all on his own. The English superstar is the most lethal scorer in the Premier League, scoring 23 goals and will be full of confidence after scoring in the recent North London derby against Arsenal.
Stopping him will definitely be imperative for Massimiliano Allegri’s men as they look to keep Tottenham at bay in the attacking third.
Miralem Pjanic vs Eric Dier
In what might turn out to be the most important head to head battle of the game, Eric Dier’s presence in the holding midfield position will be key as Tottenham look to prevent Juventus from creating chances in the final third.
And the onus will be on the English International to stop the creative spark of Miralem Pjanic, who has transformed into a key creative midfielder for the Italian giants. The Bosnian International is the main source of creativity for Juventus and the main man, who feeds the likes of Mario Mandzukic and Gonzalo Higuain upfront. It will be interesting to see how he manages to evade the bulky English defender this week.