Tottenham’s away form is concerning and they are about to face a team that has conceded just one goal in 16 matches
By Martin Laurence for WhoScored, part of the Sport NetworkShare on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via Email View more sharing options Share on LinkedIn Share on Pinterest Share on Google+ Share on WhatsApp Share on Messenger Close
Tottenham have emerged from a tricky run of league matches against Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal with seven points from nine, but Max Allegri’s Juventus represent an entirely different and more resolute proposition. The Serie A champions may be under pressure from Napoli to retain their crown but they have been looking back to their imperious best of late.
Juventus began their run of six successive titles back in 2011-12 by going unbeaten all season and conceding just 20 goals in 38 games under Antonio Conte. They have not lost that tenacity at the back, boasting by far the best defensive record in each of the last six seasons in Serie A. The 27 goals they conceded in the league last season was the most they had let in since the 2009-10 season, when Inter won the treble.
Leonardo Bonucci’s move to Milan last summer threatened to destabilise the platform on which Juventus had built their success. After three months of the season, they were third in the table following a 3-2 defeat at Sampdoria, having conceded to minnows SPAL and Benevento in their two previous home games. Things seems to be unravelling slightly. Having conceded 14 goals in their first 13 games of the season, they only had the fourth best defensive record in the league.
However, 11 games later, they have let in just one more goal. Normal service has been resumed, with Juventus not conceding a single goal in 2018. The only goal they have conceded since that defeat to Sampdoria in mid-November was scored by Bianconeri old boy Martín Cáceres in Juve’s 3-1 win at Verona; it is the only goal they have conceded in their last 16 matches in all competitions. In their last eight home games, they have kept eight clean sheets.
Having spent years with the “BBC” backline of Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini, they are now very very much settled with a back four. Mehdi Benatia has stepped up to partner Chiellini and he has been pivotal to their superb defensive record after a career that had somewhat derailed following his move to Bayern Munich in 2014. Indeed, the 30-year-old Moroccan has played more league minutes this season (1,215) than any of the three previous seasons.
Juventus have conceded in just two of the 13 matches he has started – and dropped just four points points from a possible 33. He was the standout player when Juventus held Barcelona to a goalless draw in Turin in November and he will need to be on top form again to deal with Harry Kane. The Premier League top scorer has a phenomenal away record this season, with 17 goals in 16 away matches in all competitions. Although, if any side can stop him, it will be Juventus.
Tottenham’s away form is a cause for concern. They have won just three of their last 12 matches on the road, scoring just 15 goals in those games and losing to Manchester United, Arsenal, Leicester City and Manchester City. Spurs will need to put in a regimented performance in Turin to give themselves a good chance of taking advantage of their home leg in a fortnight.
Gonzalo Higuaín has found form after a barren run by his standards, scoring in four consecutive appearances, but his ability to perform on the biggest stage is still questionable. His record in the Champions League knockout stages is abject, with just three goals in 27 appearances. The pressure on Higuaín is bigger than usual given Paulo Dybala’s absence. Dybala has returned to training after a leg injury but Allegri said on Monday that he “cannot take risks” on the player’s fitness. “He’s an important player but we cannot accelerate his recovery and then lose him all the season.”
If Jan Vertonghen, who is in the form of his life, can handle Higuaín, Tottenham will fancy their chances of nullifying Juventus, who scored the fewest goals in the group stage (seven) of the 16 teams left in the competition. Despite all of the attacking talent on show, the in-form defenders on both sides will be pivotal to deciding which side progresses from what may be the most evenly matched last-16 tie.Premier League team of the week Championship team of the week La Liga team of the week Bundesliga team of the week Serie A team of the week Ligue 1 team of the week
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