Juventus vs Tottenham Hotspur –Pochettino Confident Following Run of Good Form
After Mauricio Pochettino guided his team to a highly convincing win over their north London rivals this weekend, the Spurs manager is feeling confident ahead of tonight’s Champions League clash against Juventus. He looks to have his team playing with focused power and there is the suggestion that in their present form they can pose a serious challenge to all of Europe’s best teams.
While the derby with Arsenal was not quite perfect, there were chances for the Gunners late in the match, things do seem to be going well at Spurs. The team have emerged from a fortnight in which they defeated Manchester United, drew with Liverpool and capped it all by winning the derby. Speaking about the period Pochettino said, “I think we showed great maturity, great character and the performance was so good. For me, it has been one of the best periods since I’ve been at Tottenham.”
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) February 13, 2018
He described Arsenal as the team’s “sworn enemy” and said that regardless of where Arsenal are in the table, it is important for them to win the derby matches. Going further he said, “It is more important to build something special at the club with these players. We are winning because we are building something special in the Premier League, here in England. We are close but not so close to win the title, but getting closer, no?”
While the team may still be 20 points behind Manchester City, it is clear that Pochettino is feeling optimistic about Spurs’ future and he wants to encourage his players and fans to think big, “When you beat Arsenal or United it means you have the quality to beat big teams in Europe too.”
However, he was careful not to dismiss tonight’s opponents, “Juventus is a great team, one of the best in Europe, and they have a lot of experienced players who know what it is to compete in the Champions League, in three seasons they have played two finals. For us, we don’t have that. But our belief, our confidence, our form are good and we will be ready to be very competitive.”
In the second half of Saturday’s match, while Arsenal was trying to find a way back into the game, Spurs seemed to take their playing up a level. Mouse Dembélé look particularly impressive and almost seemed to be better than the entirety of the opponent’s midfield. While Harry Kane was working extremely hard to keep Arsenal’s front line at bay.
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) February 13, 2018
Now Pochettino is calling on his team to try to up their game even more for tonight’s match. He knows how hard it will be to defeat Juventus. Tottenham is relatively inexperienced in the Champions League and Juventus are flying at the moment having conceded just one goal in their last sixteen games. However, he thinks they have a real chance of winning the match and said, “My idea is to keep playing the same, to try and be a little bit braver if we can, but being clever because their level is one of the best in Europe.”
On a more practical note, on Monday it emerged that Toby Alderweireld did not travel with Spurs to Turin, placing a huge question mark over the central defender’s future. Instead, he has been left behind to work on his fitness after a long period of absence.
Alderweireld missed over three months with a hamstring injury before he made his comeback playing the full 90 minutes against Newport County in the FA Cup last week. He claimed that he was fit for the derby over the weekend buy Pochettino left him out of the match day squad.
The Belgian is sure to be disappointed about missing these two key games and there is a high chance that this could affect his contract talks. He has not yet agreed a new contract and his current deal includes a one-year extension option that is due to come into effect in the summer of 2019 keeping him at the club until 2020.
However, there is also a £25 million release clause that can be activated in 2019 as long as a transfer is completed at least 14 days before the end of the closure window. As a result, Spurs may have to consider selling the player at the end of this season if he doesn’t agree new terms beforehand and it is known that Manchester City, Chelsea and Real Madrid are all keeping an eye on the situation
Returning to tonight’s match, all eyes are sure to be on Harry Kane and there will be immense pressure on him to continue his unbelievable scoring form this season. This form has extended to the Champions League where he has scored six goals in five games.
One of the key battles will be between Harry Kane and Giorgio Chiellini. If Chiellini can keep Kane under control then Juventus are the likely victors. However, if he doesn’t manage, then it is highly likely that Juventus will find themselves conceding at least one goal.
Chiellini is 33 years old and approaching the end of his career. However, he is still widely considered one of the best defenders in the world. Juventus suffered after selling Leonardo Bonucci last summer and they took time to return to their best at the back. However, their recent run shows that they are defensively extremely strong and Chiellini is a hugely important part of this.
Juventus are likely to be without their top performer Paulo Dybala who has scored seventeen for the team this season. However, with Gonzalo Giguain and an excellent defence, Spurs still have plenty to overcome. Juventus are suffering from a number of injuries including Andrea Barzagli, Benedikt Howedes, Blaise Matuidi and Juan Cuadrado so Tottenham do have the advantage in terms of the injury list.
Basel vs Manchester City – Guardiola Weary of Complacency
Basel are in the last 16 of the Champions League for the third time and are currently second in the Swiss Super League. However, they face a team that are looking to win the quadruple this season, the Premier League, the FA Cup, the Carabao Cup and the Champions League.
Manchester City have dominated the Premier League all season and this weekend saw them dismiss Leicester City 5 – 1. However, this is their first meeting with FC Basel in a UEFA competition and the team have hardly any experience playing Swiss teams. Basel on the other hand have plenty of experience against English teams and defeated Manchester United 1 – 0 in the group stage of this year’s competition.
One of the key battles in this match will be between Marek Suchy and Sergio Aguero. Aguero was fantastic over the weekend, scoring four times against Leicester, and he is a real contender for the Premier League’s golden boot award. However, Suchy is sure to have done his homework on Aguero and will be doing everything in his power to stop him scoring any away goals.
Another battle to keep an eye on will be between Nicolás Otamendi and Ricky van Wolfswinkel. Otamendi will be leading the defence against Basel and hoping that his side can keep a clean sheet. While Wolfswinkel is perhaps less experienced, he did score a European winner for Sporting Lisbon and knocked City out of the Europa League in 2013. Both Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure were playing in that match.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) February 13, 2018
Fans should also keep an eye on Taulant Xhaka and Kevin De Bruyne. Xhaka has made the move from right-back to defensive midfielder and has flourished ever since. However, Kevin De Bruyne is perhaps his toughest test yet. On Saturday De Bruyne showed just how dangerous he can be making three assists so Basel will have to keep a very close eye on him.
It is clear that last year’s tournament is still fresh in manager Pep Guardiola’s mind and he won’t be taking any chances this year. Last year they defeated Monaco 5 – 3 in the first leg of a Champions League knockout tie only to lose the second leg 3 – 1 and be knocked out on away goals.
This season Manchester City have been far more consistent than last. Last year they conceded three goals in a game twice to Monaco but this season they have only done so once at Anfield. However, this weekend Guardiola warned that another 10-minute collapse like the one against Liverpool would result in their exit from the Champions League.
Despite all of this, it seems likely that Basel will struggle against Manchester City considering City’s performance all season. However, Guardiola will be weary of complacency, from himself and his players, and he will know that Basel can’t be dismissed out of hand.