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Spurs Odyssey Preview - Juventus v Spurs, 13.02.18

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Spurs' record in Europe:-
The official crest of Tottenham Hotspur
U.E.F.A Champions League
 P  W   D   L   F - A
24 12   5   7  46 - 29
European Cup
P   W   D   L   F - A
8   4   1   3  21 - 13
(Semi-Finalists 1962)
European Cup Winners Cup
P   W   D   L   F - A
33  20  5   8  65 - 34
(Winners 1963)
UEFA Cup/Europa League
 P    W   D   L   F - A
140  78  36  26  276-121 
(Winners 1972, 1984
 Finalists 1974)
  The club logo of Juventus 
P    W   D   L   F - A
205 114 47  44  408-197

Beware of "The Old Lady"!

Spurs are travelling to Turin, Italy for a tough Champions League Round of 16 game against Serie A Champions and last year's Champions League finalists Juventus. We have never met Juve in competition, but we did play them in a pre-season friendly at Wembley which we won 2-0 with goals by Harry Kane (who else?) and Christian Eriksen. That was then; this is now, and this will be tough.

This fixture inevitably brings back memories of a historic European night for Spurs 7 years ago - almost to the day. That was a Round of 16 game against the (then) mighty AC Milan, who went on to win Serie A that season. No Spurs fan will ever forget one of the greatest Tottenham nights ever and neither will our goalscorer Peter Crouch, goal maker Aaron Lennon, all members of the Spurs squad, and of course head coach Harry Redknapp. The occasion is, of course, also remembered for Joe Jordan versus Gattuso! The Milan team that night included Seedorf, Robinho and Ibrahimmovic. I shall be travelling to Turin via Milan, and I hope to take some good 2011 luck with me!

That pre-season friendly game did feature some key members of the Juventus squad, but no comparision should be drawn between the performance then and the quality and status of the squad now. "The Old Lady" is captained by someone who every sports fan should regard as a hero. 40 year old goalkeeper Gianlugi Buffon played his 500th Serie A game for Juventus on Friday night when they beat Fiorentina 2-0 away. Buffon's career started way back in 1994/95 with Parma, for whom he played 168 league games, before his move to Juventus. Apart from his personal ability and achievements I admire Buffon for being one of the Juventus players who stayed with the club when they were demoted to Serie B because of financial iregularities. Another such player was fellow Italian World Cup star Alessandro Del Piero, who topped the Serie B scorecharts as Juventus romped back to the top flight. Another to stay loyal was Frenchman David Trezeguet, who also scored highly in that 2006/07 season. Buffon's tears following his country's failure to qualify for this summer's World Cup Finals were understandable.

It took four seasons for Juventus to get back to title-winning ways, but they have reigned supreme at home for the last 6 seasons, in fact since AC Milan won the title. Juve have also become a true force in Europe again. They are the most successful club in Italian football history, and have won the league title a record 33 times, and every other trophy going at home and abroad including two European Cup/Champions League Finals in 1985 and 1996.

Juventus used to ground share with Torino, but moved in 2011 to the Allianz Stadium which holds some 41,500 people. Around 2,000 Spurs fans will be making the trip for this game. Juve were established back in 1897 and their black and white striped kit is a homage to Notts County, who were one of the founders of the Football League.

Mauricio Pochettino will have to beware of "The Old Lady"! Juve are in a magnificent run of form at the moment. They are unbeaten in 16 games in all competitions and that run consists of 14 wins and two draws. They have won their last 11 matches. The only games they have lost all season have been a pre-season game against Lazio, 3-0 away to Barcelona, 2-1 at home to Lazio and 3-2 away to Sampdoria. Yet, they are still only second in Serie A to Napoli, who are just one point ahead. Juve have a derby game away to Torino to look forward to next Sunday.

Joint top league goalscorers for Juventus are Argentineans Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain. Dybala was the only Jueventus player to play for 90 minutes against us in that pre-season game. Juventus also have Mario Mandzukic, Miralem Pjanic, Sami Khedira and defender Giorgio Chiellini as prominent members of the squad. Dybala and midfielder Blaise Matuidi are expected to miss tomorrow's game. Higuain has scored 6 times in the last four games, including a hat-trick in a recent 7-0 win over lowly Sassuolo. Juve have failed to score in only three games all season, two of which have been 0-0 draws.

One of those goal-less draws was against Barcelona, and it is our bad luck that as Group H winner, we drew Juventus as one of the runners-up. We should, of course, take confidence from our own umbeaten run in all games, which now stands at 12. You can make that one defeat in 17 games, which was 4-1 at Champions-elect Manchester City. Put into the mix our recent excellent form against Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, and Mauricio Pochettino takes a fully fit squad full of confidence to Italy.

There has been a negative slant in the papers regarding Toby Alderweireld's absence from the squad travelling to Turin, but the sensible view is that Toby is staying at home to work on his full match fitness. It will be interesting to see Mauricio's formation for this game, which may be three at the back, including Eric Dier alongside Davinson Sanchez and Jan Vertonghen. I am assuming a switch of our full backs with Serge Aurier and Danny Rose playing. The downside of three at the back is that it hampers our usual front four, so we will just have to see.

Despite a couple of injuries, Juventus are clearly a formidable challenge. Incredibly they have conceded only one goal in their last 16 games. I understand that Wembley is sold out for the return game on 7th March, so a draw would be a great result. Even a one-goal defeat as long as we get an away goal would give us lots of hope for the home match, but of course I am hoping for another historic Round of 16 win!

Did you know?:-

1. Southampton's Mario Lemina, who was signed from Juventus in August, was an unused substitute in our pre-season friendly against the Italian side.

2. Former Fiorentina and Chelsea midfielder Juan Cuadrado, who is a Colombian team-mate of our own Davinson Sanchez, was on loan to Juve for two seasons when with Chelsea, but was signed fully last summer. Cuadrado has made 11 Serie A starts (3 substitute appearances) and has scored 4 goals in all competitions this season.

3. Our own Fernando Llorente had two full seasons with Juventus and made a substitute appearance in the Champions League final against Barcelona in June 2015. Juventus lost that fimal 3-1. Last year they lost 4-1 to Real Madrid in the final.

Match referee Felix Brych has a high profile on the UEFA and FIFA circuit. He and the team of officials are from Germany. The only time we have encountered this referee was in the April 2011 4-0 defeat away to Real Madrid, when Peter Crouch was sent off for a second bookable offence after only 15 minutes. Despite the sending off, which was generally viewed as stupidity by Crouch, Herr Brych was not too badly graded by Spurs Odyssey voters on that occasion (5.7).

"It was Twenty Years ago today!" - On Valentine's Day, 1998, Spurs drew at home to Leicester.

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