On Wednesday evening Tottenham are attempting to achieve something only Bayern Munich have done since 2014. If Mauricio Pochettino’s side do it, they will be one step closer to the lofty European status they crave.
Bayern are the only team to knock Juventus out of a cup competition since coach Massimiliano Allegri took over in July 2014. It will be a huge confidence boost if Spurs emulate the Germans. But many have tried to oust cup king Allegri, many have failed.
The slim boss from Tuscany has reached two Champions League finals in three seasons and won three consecutive Coppa Italias. His record in the domestic cup is 19 ties played, 16 victories. His sole elimination arrived in Munich in the 2015/16 round of 32.
Juventus have lost just one Champions League knockout game under Massimiliano Allegri
Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich side of 2016 bested Allegri and his team in the last 16
That 6-4 aggregate defeat by Thomas Muller and Co was after extra-time, proving that the Bianconeri never go down without an almighty fight. In Allegri’s other two tilts at Euro glory Juve have reached finals in Berlin and Cardiff. But losses to Barcelona and Real Madrid ended their dream.
Their mission to be European champions for a third time is under threat after the 2-2 draw with Spurs in the first leg. The Old Lady raced into a 2-0 lead, before inexplicably ceding possession, losing intensity and allowing their guests back in.
That leaves them with very few options. At Wembley the Italian champions must win or draw 2-2 and triumph in a penalty shootout. A high-scoring draw would also send them through, but that seems highly unlikely.
In Serie A they haven’t conceded a goal since December 30th (against Hellas Verona). In their last 13 league games that is the only time they have picked the ball out of their net. In the Coppa Italia their defence is yet to be pierced in four matches.
The 2-2 draw in the first leg, helped by Christian Eriksen’s strike, will give Tottenham a boost
That solidity renders their meek performance against Spurs three weeks ago even stranger. It was an untypically flimsy night’s work from the men in black and white. Millions of fans across the world were stunned to see Gianluigi Buffon and his team-mates throw away a two goal lead.
The squad know a repeat will not be tolerated in north London. Allegri is a flexible, pragmatic coach and has learned a lot from the first game. Wednesday is the perfect opportunity for a ‘classic’ 1-0 win, just like their doughty, hard-fought victory in Rome against Lazio on Saturday.
At Tuesday’s press conference Allegri said: ‘These kinds of games are all about weathering storms at one end of the pitch and taking your chances at the other. In that sense, our match against Lazio was good practice.’
You need someone to create and convert opportunities, and the bad news for Spurs is that their visitors have such a man. Paulo Dybala, who missed the first leg through a hamstring injury, could be instrumental. He has been easing himself back into form.
At Tuesday’s press conference Allegri said: ‘These games are all about weathering storms’
Paulo Dybala has been compared to Lionel Messi for his statue, speed and dribbling
The Argentine has been easing himself back into form in Serie A after missing the first leg
The baby-faced 24 year old has been compared to Lionel Messi for his statue, speed and dribbling. Against Lazio last weekend the player known as ‘The Jewell’ made his first start since January 6th after a couple of appearances from the bench.
Dybala won that showdown in Rome with a 93rd-minute goal which displayed his determination, inventiveness and skill. His pearls are common in Serie A, but supporters want him to transfer his genius to the Champions League on a consistent level.
Last season his double in the quarter-final first leg in Turin stunned Barcelona. The Bianconeri won that game 3-0, paving the way for a dogged 0-0 in Catalonia to advance to the last four. He couldn’t impose himself in the final against Real however.
Top coaches like Allegri are greedy, and correctly so. The Juve chief wants his little star to be a regular match-winner in the Champions League. Messi repeatedly decides big matches on his own, Dybala isn’t at that level yet.
Against Lazio last weekend the player known as ‘The Jewell’ scored the winner in 93rd minute
Indeed, he hasn’t scored in Europe this season. Six starts, zero goals. It’s not great reading, although the former Palermo ace showed against Lazio that he is hurtling back into top condition.
Spurs need to overcome a resolute rearguard which is determined not to be humbled by the English upstarts once more. And further up the pitch they must muzzle an elusive, agile livewire tipped to be Messi’s heir to the Argentina No10 shirt.
If the Lilywhites outfit can knock out the Italian champions they will join Bayern Munich in a very select group. Historically Spurs are known as a cup team, Allegri is the cup king. One of them is going to be disappointed.
Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino has a task on his hands to get one over on his opposite number
The north London outfit will need their own marksman to be on form to dump out the visitors