It’s been a big old fortnight what with beating various rivals in front of record crowds and indulging in a spot of late drama at Liverpool but the suspicion must be that it’s tonight’s game in Turin that has been the one the players have been looking forward to most.
In some ways the excitement surrounding this game captures a lot of what European football was like before the all seeing eye of television meant that it was possible to know anything and everything about the opposition one is likely to face. Thirty/forty years ago there was a real sense of mystery about most encounters. They were always knockout for one, plus you might have heard of a couple of players through major tournaments but in general the numbers one to eleven turned up almost anonymously, without even the names on their backs of course when they took the field. A visit to European royalty, as Juventus surely are, would have an impossibly exotic air.
These days we know about Chiellini, Higuain, Pjanic, Mandzukic etc but somehow as we’ve never played them before, as they are the perennial Italian champions, as they are showing the traditional characteristics we like to characterise Italians with (one goal conceded in their last 15 games) and they are the Old Lady, there’s a romance that is missing from games against Man United, Liverpool or the Gooners.
Those names mentioned above are all likely to take the field for the home team tonight from what I can gather, some important players are likely to miss out though. Matuidi, Howedes and Cuadrado are knacked and there are doubts about Dybala and Barzagli.
We on the other hand are almost at full strength with the Alderweireld the biggest absentee of course. The fact that apparently Poch and his team had to spend two hours explaining to Toby why he wasn’t even travelling shows the importance that the players put on this tie and the disappointment of Alderweireld at not featuring.
Our side will almost certainly be based on the team that has done so well over the last 2 weeks with perhaps Aurier for Trippier being the most likely swap. Again Pochettino will be tempted to introduce Wanyama but with Dembele so imperious and Dier being one of his favourites, Victor will have to settle for the bench I suspect. Lamela’s performance of late have been good enough for him to get Poch thinking but so much of our manager’s game plan involves mental preparation and fortitude, he’ll prize the belief of the current starting eleven above most tactical tinkering.
Juventus beat Fiorentina in Florence at the weekend despite the home side having 61.5% possession. Poch will want to attack, they seem like a team built to soak up pressure though. The balance between showing them who’s boss and remembering that there’s a second bite at the cherry at Wembley in a few weeks’ time is an important one.
An away goal can be such a psychological tool – once more, Harry will be crucial to the outcome.
The officials are from Germany.
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