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Juventus 2 Tottenham 2: Eriksen completes comeback to give Spurs the edge

Tottenham came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Juventus in Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 first-leg clash in Turin.

An early double from Gonzalo Higuain appeared to have set the Serie A champions up for a comfortable victory, before Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen gave Spurs a slight advantage to take back to Wembley with two away goals.

Juve, unbeaten at home in the competition since losing to Bayern Munich in April 2013, took the lead inside the first two minutes through a fine volley from Higuain, although he was perhaps lucky not to be penalised for offside.

The Argentina striker made it 2-0 in the ninth minute from the penalty spot, but Spurs – buoyed by their weekend win over fierce rivals Arsenal – began to take control from then on and Kane’s 33rd goal of the season, the first conceded by Gianluigi Buffon in 694 minutes for club and country, gave Spurs a lifeline.

Higuain missed a second penalty before the break during an uncharacteristically nervous performance from Massimiliano Allegri’s side, and Spurs secured a fine result 19 minutes from time, when Eriksen wrong-footed Buffon with a free-kick.

The result ends Juve’s 11-game winning run in all competitions and leaves them facing a sizeable task if they are to keep their quest alive for a third final appearance in four years.

Juve’s lightning start saw them take the lead with their fastest goal in a Champions League match since Alessandro Del Piero scored against Manchester United in 1997 inside 30 seconds.

Miralem Pjanic won a free-kick against Mousa Dembele and clipped the ball cleverly into the path of Higuain, who watched the ball drop over his shoulder before volleying across Hugo Lloris’ goal and into the bottom-left corner.

Matters got worse for Spurs just six minutes later. Ben Davies felled Federico Bernardeschi inside the penalty area and Higuain swept low past Lloris from the spot, despite the France keeper again getting a glove to the ball.

Kane felt aggrieved not to win a spot-kick of his own after going down under pressure from Medhi Benatia, and the England striker wasted a glorious chance to get a goal back 26 minutes in, heading straight at Buffon from point-blank range.

But Kane gave the visitors hope with 35 minutes played, racing onto Dele Alli’s pass before beating the onrushing Buffon and firing home.

Spurs were in the ascendancy, but Juve spurned the chance to make it 3-1 seconds before half-time, when Higuain blasted his second penalty of the game off the crossbar after Serge Aurier had brought down Douglas Costa.

The second half was a much more balanced and less open affair, with Juve coming closest to the critical fourth goal in the tie when Bernardeschi’s drive was tipped past the post by Lloris.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side were still the more composed of the two teams, though, and they got the second goal their performance deserved with 71 minutes played, as Eriksen fizzed a free-kick into the bottom-left corner past the uncertain Buffon, setting up a tantalising second leg on March 7.

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‘I’d pick Higuain over Kane!’ – Allegri thinks Juventus star is the better striker

Massimiliano Allegri says he would always choose Gonzalo Higuain over Harry Kane as Juventus prepare to face Tottenham in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Juve host Tuesday’s first leg at Allianz Stadium against a Spurs team that confounded many expectations by winning Group H ahead of Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund.

Kane comes into the meeting in red-hot form, with eight goals in his last seven appearances, while Higuain is enjoying a similarly prolific sequence, boasting six strikes from four matches.

Much has been made of the two strikers going head-to-head in this tie, but Allegri was unequivocal in his response over whom he felt was the better player.

“What a question! Higuain, of course!” he said with a smile at Monday’s media conference.

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“Given the choice between Higuain and Kane, I would still pick Pipita as my number nine, even if Kane is a top-class striker.”

Higuain will shoulder an extra burden after it was confirmed Paulo Dybala (hamstring) would miss out, while Blaise Matuidi (thigh) is also unavailable for the opening leg, and Allegri was giving little away as to who would come in for the Frenchman.

“Of course someone will replace him because we have to play 11, but it’ll be someone with different characteristics,” Allegri said.

“We’ll try of course to play a match according to 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.

“[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.

“Tomorrow we’ll have to play an excellent match from a tactical point of view, because otherwise if we just focus on the physical aspect we could suffer a lot.”

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Higuain hailed as a ‘role model’ after rediscovering his spark at Juventus

Paulo Dybala’s return from a hamstring injury will have to wait as Massimiliano Allegri has ruled the Argentinian out of Juventus’ trip to Fiorentina, but the coach will still be able to depend on “role model” Gonzalo Higuain.

The Serie A title race looks increasingly like a two-way battle, as both holders Juve and pacesetters Napoli – who are a point clear at the top – have surged clear of the chasing pack.

Juve will be desperate not to slip any further behind their rivals, but they face a tricky fixture on Friday away to Fiorentina.

Dybala will be unable to influence proceedings as he remains approximately two weeks from full fitness after suffering with a hamstring problem since early January.

But in Higuain, Juve have a striker back in form after scoring five goals in his last three games across all competitions, including a hat-trick in the 7-0 demolition of Sassuolo last time out.

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“I’m very happy with Gonzalo’s performances and that he’s back among the goals again,” Allegri told reporters at his pre-match news conference.

“Even when he wasn’t scoring, he was still putting in great displays. He is a role model for the other players.”

Like Dybala, Blaise Matuidi, Juan Cuadrado and Benedikt Howedes will also be missing, but Allegri confirmed that Federico Bernardeschi will start against his former team.

“There is a possibility of seeing [Claudio] Marchisio, but we saw him on Sunday as well,” Allegri said. “He played from about 20 minutes in the place of Matuidi.

“I will have to observe in training today [Thursday] about whether or not I will make any changes. But there are no emergencies, as more or less everyone is available.

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“Cuadrado is out, but we all knew that’d be the situation. Dybala, Howedes and Matuidi are out, then all the others are back.

“Douglas Costa is fine, though I do not think he will start because Bernardeschi is fine and it is only right that he plays in an important match like tomorrow [Friday].

“Federico’s decision to join us from Fiorentina was a completely professional one. He might not get the friendliest of receptions as he now plays for us, but he is calm ahead of the match.”

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FIFA 18 Ultimate Team of the Week: Mkhitaryan & Salah lead the way in TOTW 21

Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mohamed Salah both feature in the latest FIFA 18 Ultimate Team of the Week.

The Arsenal winger marked his home debut with three assists in the 5-1 win over Everton, while Salah was at his brilliant best to score both goals in Liverpool’s 2-2 draw with Tottenham.

Mkhitaryan’s Gunners team-mate Aaron Ramsey is also involved following his hat-trick at Emirates Stadium, and there’s further Premier League representation in the squad in the form of Nathan Ake and Theo Walcott.

Gonzalo Higuain was another player to score a hat-trick as Juventus smashed Sassuolo 7-0 so he’s in, while Michy Batshuayi, who starred with two goals and an assist on his Dortmund debut, is also included. 

Bayern centre-back Mats Hummels, meanwhile, is the second highest-rated player in the team, with his stats boosted to 90 following two Bayern victories over Mainz and Paderborn.

The Team of the Week is available from 1800 GMT on Wednesday, February 7.


STARTING XI


FIFA 18 Team of the Week 21

GK – Lafont – Toulouse FC – 77>81
CB – Hummels – Bayern München – 88>90
LB – Alex Telles – FC Porto – 80>85
CB – Aké – Bournemouth – 75>84
CM – Ramsey – Arsenal – 82>84
RM – Thauvin – Olympique de Marseille – 82>86
CM – Illarramendi – Real Sociedad – 81>84
LM – Mkhitaryan – Arsenal – 85>86
ST – Higuaín – Juventus – 90>92
RW – Salah – Liverpool – 83>89
ST – Batshuayi – Borussia Dortmund – 80>85


BENCH


GK – Da Costa – FC Lugano – 66>75
CB – Jardel – SL Benfica – 80>83
RM – Orellana – SD Eibar – 80>83
LM – Rony Lopes – AS Monaco – 77>81
RM – Walcott – Everton – 80>83
ST – de Jong – PSV – 76>81
LW – Chiesa – Fiorentina – 75>81


RESERVES


RB – Dummigan – Oldham Athletic – 62>72
CAM – Rizzi – Preußen Münster – 67>76
ST – Martínez – Racing Club de Avellaneda – 72>79
ST – Caputo – Empoli – 71>79
ST – Martín – Club Tijuana – 69>77

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Atalanta 0 Juventus 1: Higuain cuts through the fog to hand Juve advantage

Juventus will take a slender advantage into their Coppa Italia semi-final second leg against Atalanta after securing a 1-0 win at a fog-laden Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia.

Massimiliano Allegri’s side did not quite show the form that had seen them win their previous eight games – a run that has seen them concede just one goal –  but comfortably held their hosts at arm’s length for much of the match.

Gonzalo Higuain – clearly buoyed after ending his six-game goal drought against Chievo on Saturday – got them off to a blistering start with a fine goal after just three minutes.

The hosts rarely threatened their more illustrious opponents, but Alejandro Gomez wasted a golden opportunity to pull them level in the 24th minute when his penalty was thwarted by Gianluigi Buffon.

Chances were at a premium in a desparately poor second half, with Juventus seemingly content to take a narrow lead into the second leg at the Allianz Stadium on February 28. 

Buffon was making his first appearance his first appearance since the 1-0 win over Napoli on December 1 and would have scarcely seen Higuain’s superb early opener, given the thickness of the fog in Bergamo.

And given the dense fog in Bergamo, it is unlikely that the legendary stopper would have seen much of Higuain’s superb early opener.

The 30-year-old collected Miralem Pjanic’s pass just outside the penalty area, shimmied past two defenders and stroked a composed finish into the bottom left corner of Etrit Berisha’s net for his 11th goal of the campaign.

A clearly shell-shocked Atalanta struggled to find their footing in the game after that early blow but were handed the chance to level midway through the first half.

After reviewing video footage, referee Paolo Valeri deemed Medhi Benatia to have deliberately handled the ball inside the area. From the resulting spot-kick, Gomez could only conspire to deliver a belated present to Buffon, giving him ample time to get down and repel his tame effort.

Gomez’s wastefulness should have twice been punished before the interval, but Higuain and Blaise Matuidi both thrashed shots over the crossbar from promising positions.

Any thoughts of Juventus running away with the tie were soon dispelled by a tepid start to the second half, with Atalanta refusing to throw bodies forward in search of an equaliser.

When gaps did start to appear in the hosts’ backline, Mario Mandzukic bundled a header wide and Higuain dragged a low effort past the post.

Atalanta almost found an unlikely leveller with two minutes remaining as the under-worked Buffon raced off his line to block Hans Hateboer’s shot and preserve Juve’s lead ahead of an intriguing second leg.

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