European glamour is back. Two in-form sides lock horns on Tuesday night as Tottenham head to Turin with their chests puffed out having seen off Manchester United and Arsenal, while Juventus have not lost in all competitions since November 19.
Below we sift through the key storylines – and why a revitalised Gonzalo Higuain is one to watch.
SPURS BRING THEIR A-GAME AGAINST THE BEST
Mauricio Pochettino is an astute tactician and innovative football manager but even the best can be undone by an underdog that strives to stifle rather than outplay. That’s why Spurs have faltered against lesser opposition this season, leaving them well off the pace in a Premier League title race now dominated by Manchester City.
A 4-1 battering against the champions elect aside, Tottenham have traditionally excelled in big games. In their last three league outings they have beaten Manchester United and Arsenal and drawn against Liverpool. They also managed a 4-1 win over the Anfield outfit earlier in the season, beat Borussia Dortmund twice in Europe while drawing against and defeating reigning Champions League winners Real Madrid.
Pochettino has a knack for setting his side up perfectly for a big game and for whatever reason, his players up the ante when challenged by the best. An overwhelming desire to prove they belong among the elite despite the absence of silverware, perhaps?
STAGE SET FOR HIGUAIN TO COME GOOD
Speaking of a desire to belong, Harry Kane is quickly proving that he does indeed deserve to be spoken in the same breath as the finest strikers in Europe. His incredible goal-scoring record has seen his name uttered alongside Robert Lewandowski and Luis Suarez.
One star that appears to have dropped out of such discussions is Gonzalo Higuain. The Argentine seemed to realise his full potential at Napoli following his spell at Real Madrid.
After scoring 32 times in 55 appearance during his maiden campaign for Juventus last season, he has suffered a drastic dip in form, with his fitness regularly being called into question. However, he’s started to show signs of life over the past couple of weeks, scoring five goals in three Serie A games, including a hat-trick against Sassuolo.
His current run of form ended a seven-game drought though and how he will cope against a formidable Spurs side remains to be seen. With Paulo Dybala being a bit hit and miss this season and a doubt for this fixture as well, the onus will be on Higuain to deliver the goods.
What makes this tie ever so intriguing is the form both sides have shown going into it.
We’ve already touched upon Spurs’ recent form, gaining vital results against three of the top six over the span of an 11 day period. They’re also currently enjoying a 12-match unbeaten run.
Juventus though perhaps come into this fixture in even better form, winning 11 matches on the bounce in all competitions, scoring 16 goals and conceding just once.
An even more daunting stat as far as Spurs are concerned is that Juventus are unbeaten in 26 European home matches since April 2013.
As if facing the team that’s chasing their seventh successive Serie A title and third Champions League final in four years wasn’t enough.
The first leg takes place at the Bernabeu with the Whites bidding to take a huge step in defending their two back-to-back crowns and the Parisians still chasing their first title.
“I’m anxious to play against Real Madrid, I want that day to come,” Neymar said following PSG’s 3-0 victory over Lille this weekend.
The Brazilian scored a free-kick during that game and will look to carry his form into the Champions League and keep PSG’s hopes flying high.
Apparently, the 25-year old was also rumoured for a move away from from Parc des Princes to Real Madrid, soon after his record transfer. from Barcelona.
— PSG English (@PSG_English) February 3, 2018
Giroud was a helpless spectator as Chelsea crashed to a 3-0 defeat to Bournemouth on Wednesday to harm their chances of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
However, they remain eight points better off than Arsenal in the battle to finish in the top four, and also host Barcelona in the first leg of a blockbuster Champions League last 16 tie on February 20.
“The Champions League is massive for a football player. There is nothing above it when you’re playing for a club,” said the French international, who made six of his 10 starts for Arsenal this season in the Europa League.
“There will be two nice games against Barcelona. We know their qualities and I think everybody will need to be 100 per cent to go through.”
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) February 1, 2018
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s arrival at Arsenal paved the way for Giroud to leave after five-and-a-half years at the Emirates as he sought more minutes on the field to further his case for inclusion in France’s World Cup squad.
And his physical presence is just what Chelsea manager Antonio Conte sought during a frustrating January for the Italian with first-choice striker Alvaro Morata sidelined by a back injury.
“The most important thing was talking with the coach. I felt like he really wanted me and he really wanted to work with me,” Giroud added.
“I wanted to sign for Chelsea and nowhere else. I really wanted to play more. I wanted to stay in the Premier League, and Chelsea for me is perfect because I can even stay in London.
“But the first reason is the sporting challenge. That has always been my first priority. Everything is here for me to be happy.”
Provided by AFP Sport