Blaise Matuidi, Juventus, Leagues, Story, Tottenham Hotspur, UEFA Champions League

The FC crew agree that while Juventus will be favourites against Tottenham, the margin between them is slimmer than it may appear.
Steve Nicol and Mark Donaldson talk the issues surrounding Juventus’ Paulo Dybala off the football pitch.

Juventus midfielder Blaise Matuidi says the Serie A club’s experience will be important when they face Tottenham Hotspur in the round of 16 of the Champions League next year.

Juve, who have reached two finals in the past three seasons, host Spurs on Feb. 13 before travelling to Wembley on March 7 and Matuidi is convinced the Bianconeri will have the edge.

“Tottenham are a strong team, both from a technical and physical point of view,” he told Juventus TV. “They play fast and box-to-box as we see in the Premier League, but Juventus have great experience in the Champions League and we’ll be looking to impose our own game and do well.”

Matuidi featured in all six of Juve’s Champions League group games and has been a regular since arriving from Paris Saint-Germain in the summer, and he feels he is settling in well in Turin.

“I want to keep improving, giving more for this team every day, and perhaps score a goal, even if the most important thing is that Juventus wins,” he said. “I’m settling in very well. My teammates and staff welcomed me in the best possible way and I think I’ve integrated myself into the squad in the best way too. I’m really happy to be at Juventus!

“Our backline are doing an extraordinary job and the whole team is strong when it comes to defending as a unit. One of the most basic rules in football is to defend well and then exploit your chances down the other end.”

Blaise Matuidi during his Juventus debut against Cagliari.
Blaise Matuidi joined Juventus from Paris Saint-Germain in the summer.

In terms of their attack, key striker Paulo Dybala has struggled recently, resulting in him being dropped for the goalless draw with Inter Milan last Friday.

Juve’s vice-president Pavel Nedved said that the 24-year-old needs to sort out his private life and focus on his football if he is not to see his talent go to waste, and former Ballon d’Or winner Paolo Rossi says he could not agree more.

“Always put your desire into it and go and do what you know best, starting with the simple things, and then the rest will follow,” the 1982 Ballon d’Or winner told La Gazzetta dello Sport when asked what he would advise Dybala to do. “I have so much admiration for him: he’s a technically-gifted, exciting, imaginative and young player and he can do everything.

“At the moment, when things are not working well for him, he needs to have the strength to prioritise the right things, and that includes [listening to] criticism. He needs to find the right moral strength and be a bit defiant, not so much that you get big-headed, but rather ensure you give things the right attention.

“I played quite a few years for the Bianconeri and when somebody at Juve says something, it’s never just off the cuff. They have always been very attentive about what happens off the field, keeping an eye on things. That is happening now too. It’s inevitable because [Dybala] is a huge resource, as a person and a player.

“That means that his girlfriend and anything else that concerns his life away from the field can influence the way he plays, and you can’t just ignore it. As for what Nedved said, well it was a warning; a message. But I’m convinced Paulo will emerge even stronger and get back to making a difference, as he always has done.”

Dybala scored 10 goals in his first six Serie A games of the season, but he has found the back of the net only twice since. He has yet to open his account in the Champions League this season, despite starting all six of Juve’s group games, and the Serie A club will be keen for that to change when they face Spurs in 2018.

Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.

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