Defence defence. It’s all about defence. In my opinion, anyway.
Not theirs, ours. One look at Juve’s goals conceded column over the last three months (one in 17 domestic league & cup games) tells you everything you need to know about Chiellini, Barzagli, Buffon et al; one look (though I’d advise at least partially covering your eyes) at the goals we’ve conceded in recent big games, at Anfield and in Turin in particular, shows where our concessions mostly come from – mistakes.
Individual errors from Sanchez, Vertonghen, Dier and Aurier have all put us on the back foot in the opening few minutes of matches we’ve eventually dominated and been unfortunate not to win ultimately, but no thanks to the poor start handed to us by our own defenders.
Massimo Allegri’s comment at the weekend comparing Lazio’s defensive qualities glowingly to ours did not come in isolation. Post the draw in the first leg, a quick peruse of the English language version of the Italian papers showed up many a disparaging comment with regards to our back four and our full-backs in particular. If there’s one thing Higuain, Dybala, Costa and Mandzukic will be looking for tonight it’s signs of nervousness and vulnerability at the back. They’d be daft not to apply some pressure and hope that a wayward clearance, timid back pass or wild tackle doesn’t lead to reward.
On the other hand…
Our Wembley defensive form has been impressive. The last goal we conceded, when playing a full-strength back line, was Obiang’s flukey stunner for West Ham on January 4th. That’s only four games mind.
There’ll be no repeat of Serge Aurier’s penalty conceding unwise lunge tonight as he is suspended; Trippier is sure to start. On the other side, one assumes that Ben Davies will get the nod over Danny Rose, the latter’s ability to draw fouls and generally control events down his side of the field will tempt Pochettino however. In the middle Vertonghen and Sanchez will play behind Dier and Dembele and that, together with Hugo, will be our defensive ‘unit’. The seven players whose task it is to keep Juve at bay and at the very least allow them fewer clear chances than the Italians created in the first leg, a leg they could’ve won comfortably despite or general domination we should remember.
Up front I suspect it’ll be the usual foursome, Eriksen, Son, Alli and Kane though Lamela’s performance was a key feature in coming back from 2-2 and he may be start and be given instructions not to try anything risky. The thought of being able to bring both Son and Lucas off the bench if needed will please Poch.
Juventus played on Saturday evening and so have had a similar amount of rest to us. They did give extra time off to some key players, but not enough that should matter. Since we first played they’ve got two key players back from injury, Matuidi and Dybala which will allow Allegri to play his favoured formation (apparently) so I suspect it wasn’t be so easy for us to gain a foothold in midfield.
We do have the magnificent Moussa Dembele though.
To win we’ll need stand-up-and-be-counted performances from virtually everyone. Dele Alli was superb in Italy as was Eriksen and if those two are able to perform we should threaten up front.
The key though is at the rear. Keep mistakes to a minimum, don’t be afraid of a thumping clearance and if we’re pushed back, frustrate their forwards whilst taking our opportunities to break. Don’t let any foul tactics get the better of us and all the ingredients are there for a famous victory.
The match officials are from Poland.
It’s going to be a full house, it’s going to be fantastic.
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