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Tottenham - Juventus: post-match reaction

There is a quote from the Dutch legendary footballer Johann Cruyff that nicely epitomizes the Champions League game between Tottenham and Juventus: “Italians can’t win the game against you, but you can lose the game against the Italians”. At Wembley, Tottenham were arguably the better team for at least 85 minutes, but it took only 5 minutes to Juventus to score two goals and take a fundamental win that allowed them to go through to the next round of the major European competition for football clubs.

Allegri’s initial tactical plan consisted in a sort of hybrid formation: 3 at the back when they were in possession of the ball, and 4 at the back when they had to defend. Veteran defender Andrea Barzagli’s position was very important to the tactical idea that coach Allegri had in mind: when the Spurs attacked Barzagli had to play as right back and contain the quick Korean left-winger Son, while he had to play as third centre-back and cover a more central position when Juve was in possession of the ball. But Italian coach’s plan didn’t work as well as he hoped in the first half. Tottenham in fact controlled the game, created many clear scoring chances and their constant pressing put Juventus defence and midfield under the cosh in several occasions, especially with Son, who scored the goal that put the English side ahead at the end of the first half.

The turning point of the game for Juventus were Allegri’s substitutions that completely changed the game. Juventus coach brought in Asamoah and Lichtsteiner for Matuidi and Benatia, shaping the team in their usual 4-2-3-1 with lively Douglas Costa on the right and Alex Sandro on the left upfront. Pochettino’s team didn’t even have the time to adjust to Bianconeri’s new tactics that the Argentinian duo Higuain and Dybala had already capitalized on the first two proper scoring chances since the start of the game. After the second goal, Juventus dropped deeper as Tottenham tried desperately to carve a hole in their defensive wall, but it was all in vain. Playing with a positional defence, which the experienced Bianconeri defenders are more accustomed to, allowed Allegri’s side to defend their lead, while Tottenham’s hopes to play in the Champions League quarterfinal clashed against the post in the dying minutes of the game. The player who stood out for Juventus during Tottenham’s assault to Buffon’s fort was definitely Giorgio Chiellini. Such difficult situations are Italian international’s bread and butter, as in the second half he emerged as an unsurmountable wall with many decisive tackles and a heroic last-ditch block to deny Kane an easy tap-in that would have extended the game to extra-times.

In the end, Juve once again proved to be a lethal side, one that you can not lose focus against, not even for five minutes. Moreover, what said in the match preview was proven to be right, as Juventus showed more maturity and experience in facing make-or-break game like this. On the other hand, Tottenham can be proud of the displays over the two legs, although that was not enough to reach qualification.

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