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UCL: How Juventus would exploit Tottenham weakness - FCNaija

Features By: Ikponmwosa Umweni | 07/03/2018

Fino Alla Fine is a slogan that represents Juventus and its fans, embodies a winning mentality of never giving up regardless of the circumstances because Bianconerri always finds the way to win, which is the only thing that matters. Paulo Dybala’s goal in the 93rd minute at Lazio just was further confirmation of Juve’s endless desire to win.

Three weeks after the disappointing home result against Tottenham Spurs in the first leg of the round of 16 in the Champions League, Juve have a second chance to seal their qualification to the next round at the historical Stadium that is Wembley.

And the hype ahead of kick-off proved to be wholly warranted following the full-time whistle, with the two sides having played out an absolutely thrilling affair in Turin.

Max Allegri men take two goals lead in the space of eight minutes after successfully exploiting Tottenham’s weaknesses, Mauricio Pochettino’s side slowly got back into the game up to a point where it was utter domination from the visitors.

Spurs overcame a disaster start in Turin three weeks ago to earn a 2-2 first-leg draw, putting them as favourites to qualify at the expense of a side who have reached two of the previous three finals.

A brace from Gonzalo Higuain within the first 10 minutes of the matchup saw Tottenham shell-shocked, but Mauricio Pochettino’s men, who showcased their ability to perform on the grand stage during the competition’s group stage versus both Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, proved once again that they belong with the elite of European football en route to a 2-goal comeback.

They pinned Juventus back, pushing them deeper at every attack and constantly looking like a threat whilst stopping every attempt to build-up play after having regained possession through a coordinated and well-drilled gegenpressing a tactical concept that sees the opposition immediately press the player in possession and/or all passing options after having lost possession, in order to recover the ball once more and transition from advanced positions.

Thus, Juventus were forced to defend in a 4-5-1 deep block that would become a 5-4-1 whenever Mandzukic dropped into the last line, creating a back five.

Tottenham defends in a ball-oriented fashion which means that they aren’t afraid to expose their ball-far side by overloading the ball-side. Allegri built his offensive strategy strictly upon this weakness, asking his players to constantly switch play after having isolated the ball-far winger against the full-back.

This pattern was key in winning the first penalty that was converted by Higuain; in the build-up, to Davies’ foul you can see how Juve switch plays twice, first from Bernardeschi to Alex Sandro and then from Mandzukic to Bernardeschi. However, due to the rare possession segments, the home side wasn’t able to exploit this flaw more often.

Being at home, Spurs will likely start the game with a high-press, looking to recover possession as high up the pitch as possible and transition quickly.

Allegri could counter this approach by employing a back three, in a similar manner to the game against Lazio, where he set up his team with three centre-backs to cope with transitions better, having more central cover and an extra centre-back that could follow runs into depth; moreover, they were instructed to step out aggressively on the biancocelesti’s forwards receiving between the lines. This would allow one of Juve’s defenders to step out to follow Kane’s dropping movements as well.

Another possible strategy, and perhaps the likeliest given Mandzukic's possible absence due to injury, Allegri could choose the same lineup that defeated Napoli at the San Paolo. A hybrid between a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-4-2 (with Matuidi at left-winger) that would become a 4-5-1 out of possession. This way Juve would be able to defend the half-spaces well and shift horizontally effectively – defending Tottenham’s strong right side more effectively – thanks to Matuidi’s ability to cover horizontal ground dynamically.

Dybala, Higuain and Mandzukic will pose a big threat up front with Juventus need to win the battle in middle and to capitalize any mistake from Spurs wingbacks. 

The choices regarding the eleven very much depend on the approach Allegri is planning to adopt: will he decide to field the best players from the start or keep some game-changers on the bench to go all out in the last 30 minutes after having cancelled out Spurs for most of the match.