Champions League: Tottenham take on Juventus and Man City face Basel in last-16

  • tottenham-juventus

Champions League: Tottenham take on Juventus and Man City face Basel in last-16

Can Tottenham cruise past Juventus into the quarter-finals of the Champions League?

Can an outsider claim the greatest prize in club football, one that has been dominated by the traditional elite for so long?

The bookmakers believe in this soccer revolution. Manchester City and PSG are the clear competition favourites, which in itself is remarkable. Spurs and Shaktar Donetsk are also serious contenders.

The question is: Do these clubs believe themselves?

For the last decade, the Champions League has been virtually owned by three teams — Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. There has been no final without one of them since 2008 and they have captured the trophy seven times in nine seasons.

The only ‘new’ winner of the competition in 20 years has been Chelsea, with their penalty shoot-out victory against Bayern in 2012.

Across the continent this week the greatest focus will be on the battle between Real and PSG in their second round, first leg clash at the Bernabeu – the clash between Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar; the emperor’s palace being stormed by the dazzling young prince of football.

Equally important in the power struggle for European glory, though, is Tottenham’s visit to play Juventus, who have been losing finalists in the Champions League in two of the past three seasons.

Spurs were magnificent in the group stage, with stylish victories against Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund.

But now they face the real test at the knock-out stage — where they are novices.

In their only previous attempt they made the quarter-finals in 2012, while their one season in the old European Cup was a semi-final run in 1962 before losing to Benfica.

Juventus, and their current players like striker Gonzalo Higuain, defender Giorgio Chiellini and goalkeeper Gigi Buffon, are hugely experienced in these matches.

They will respect Spurs, and particularly goal-ace Harry Kane, but Juve expect to win.

“Kane is now one of the best strikers in Europe, there is no question about that,” says Buffon.

“As a player there are some things you can’t teach, like that natural goal-scoring instinct. It is a talent you are born with.

“I have seen it over the years with Ronaldo, Gabriel Batistuta and Cristiano Ronaldo, who have that natural instinct that can really make goalkeepers suffer. It’s clear Kane also has that.

“I have always wanted to test myself against the best — and now Harry Kane is one of the best. I have the attitude that I don’t fear the best – I respect them – and I always want to play against them.”

Higuain’s message is more blunt, saying: “Concentration, ruthlessness, and a sense of responsibility is key to our approach. At home we will try to score, not concede – and then play for it in London.”

That is the robust mentality which sustains the traditional giants like Juventus; they fear nobody.

Contrast this with what happened to PSG last year in the last-16 when they threw away a 4-0 home leg victory against Barcelona by capitulating 6-1 at the Nou Camp when the pressure was on.