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It is fair to say that Tottenham’s season is hitting its stride at just the right time, as we move into the final quarter of the campaign, Mauricio Pochettino’s men are now fourth in the Premier League while their chances of delivering domestic silverware in the shape of the F.A. Cup have increased after they progressed to the Quarter-finals last week.
There will also look to move onto the last eight of another competition, that of course being the Champions League. Although standing in their way are Italian giants Juventus who make the trip to Wembley for the second leg of this Round of 16 tie. One that is neatly poised after the 2-2 draw that took place in Turin last month.
Arguably Tottenham go into this game as slight favourites, a tag that in Europe they will certainly not have been used to. Especially when paired against the likes of Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, the underdog status has suited them well, so it will be interesting to see how the North London outfit deal with the additional pressure that this expectation will bring.
Not that manager Mauricio Pochettino will allow his players to believe that they are favourites going into what is without doubt Tottenham’s most important game of the season. The last thing he will want is to allow complacency to set in when such a massive game is on the horizon.
Thankfully for the former Southampton boss, his players showed no such signs last Saturday when they made relatively light work of Huddersfield at Wembley. Harry Kane had a quiet afternoon by his own standards as he was out shone by South Korean international Hueng min-Son, whose brace made sure of all three points and more importantly stretched the gap between them and Chelsea to five as the race for fourth place intensifies.
A top four finish will of course secure a return to the Champions League next season. However you get the feeling that this group of players will not want to just settle for that. There is undoubtedly a belief that they can go all the way and lift the trophy for the first time in the club’s history when the final takes place in Kiev in a couple of months.
However, they are going to have to do it the hard way as from here on in there are no easy teams left in the competition. If they can dispose of Juventus, then the opposition only gets tougher on the road to Kiev. With that said they can ill afford to look past Massimo Allegri’s team as they know they are going to be in for a stern test at Wembley.
This is a Juventus side that has welcomed back Pablo Dybala as of late, the Argentine was absent in the first leg as the Turin outfit raced into an early two lead. The attacking talent on display that night was already an ominous sight so the return of the 24 year old to their ranks will no doubt cause Tottenham some headaches.
He showed just what a handful he can be on Saturday night when his 93rd minute winner at the Stadio Olimpico meant that Juventus snatched all three points against Lazio and in turn reduced the deficit at the top of Serie A to just one point, while also more importantly having a game in hand over their arch rivals and current league leaders Napoli.
There are no league points on offer when these two sides square off, but there is a lot more at stake with a place in the quarter-finals up for grabs. If Tottenham are to reach that stage for only the second time in the club’s history. then they will have to learn some lessons from their performance in Turin.
After a start that saw them almost out of the tie before the 2nd leg had already kicked off, they are due some credit for the fact that they then took the game by the scruff of the neck and managed to come away with a well-earned draw.
You could have even made the case that they should have gone on to win the game but there cannot be too many complaints with that score line, the key to their success now is too make sure that they start on the front foot and make life difficult for last season’s Champions League runners-up.
A 0-0 or 1-1 draw would see Tottenham go through at the expense of Juventus but setting out for a draw is a very risky strategy, one that often backfires. You would imagine that both teams will go for the win from the off and it should make for a very entertaining spectacle.