Juventus host Tottenham Hotspur tomorrow in the first leg of the two teams’ Champions League Round of 16 tie, and manager Massimiliano Allegri is under no illusions of the challenge posed by the London side.
“Obviously I’d be glad not to concede, to end up with a clean sheet. It’s a very balanced match tomorrow, 50-50 so we’ll have to be very focused tomorrow and very careful.
“We have to play so as not to exalt their qualities and characteristics. We have to use our heads and our technique because they’re a physical team.
“So we’ll have to be very careful in possession, and if we want to go through of course we’ll have to play very well in London too in the second leg.”
He spoke of Juve’s development in Europe in the last few years.
“The club has grown a lot and the team have grown a lot, in terms of confidence in Europe in particular, getting very important results and achievements.
“We reached two finals in three years and that’s something very important. I always say that Real Madrid have been the only team in recent years who have done better than Juventus in recent years in the Champions League.
“Making these type of comparisons, comparing ourselves to Barcelona, Bayern Munich and the great European teams is something that’s really fundamental for Juventus.
“This is not a process that will end this year in Europe, as I’ve always pointed out Juventus’ objective is to keep going reaching this stage, because you have Real Madrid vs Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus vs Tottenham and in each tie one of the two will be eliminated.
“So it’s very important to play these rounds and then maybe the Quarter-Finals, the Semi-Finals or even the Final, but certainly our self-esteem has grown a lot.”
On what he’ll be expecting from tomorrow’s game.
“Tomorrow we’ll have to play an excellent match for a tactical point of view, because otherwise if we just focus on the physical aspect we could suffer a lot.
“We have to work hard from a tactical point of view and play on the things they struggle with. We’ll try of course to play a match according the players and specific skills and features they have.
“We know we have 180 minutes to play, we know the weaknesses Tottenham have and also their qualities.
“We’ll have to use our heads and play with great personality, being aware there will be some difficulties because the four players they have up-front have great quality and they exploit crosses very well, so that’s something we have to take into account.”
Allegri provided an injury update, and Juve will be missing Blaise Matuidi whose dynamic performances in the middle will be sorely missed.
“Of course someone will replace him because we have to play 11, but it’ll be someone with different characteristics.
“Claudio Marchisio convinced me and Rodrigo Bentancur also very much convinced me. There’s also Stefano Sturaro who can play in Matuidi’s role, and he’s probably the one most similar to Matuidi.
“If not we’ll have to change formation or at least fill the roles with players with different characteristics, a lot depends on the players.
“We’ll have to see how I feel when I wake up tomorrow, so basically it depends on my alarm clock. Don’t think that I won’t be sleeping, because I can assure you I will be sleeping tonight.”
With both teams featuring a star striker, the manager was asked which of Harry Kane and Gonzalo Higuain was better, and Allegri laughed the question away.
“What a question! Higuain, of course!
“Kane is really a top player though, very strong, very good indeed.”
Meanwhile, opposing manager Mauricio Pocchetino spoke highly of Juve in his press conference -
“I think Juventus is a massive club, a massive club. We cannot compare with Juventus, Juventus have won everything in their history and in the last three seasons Juventus arrived to play in two Champions League finals.
“Tottenham hare a young team and we’re building a nice project, but I think it’s impossible to compare the history of Juventus with Tottenham. Of course our dream is to reach the level of Juventus.”