Juventus vs Tottenham: Hand-me-down combined X1
Tottenham travels to Turin for its Champions League Round 16 first-leg against Juventus. Both teams are in top form. Most especially Tottenham. Spurs defeated North London rival Arsenal on the weekend. While I was enjoying that match, IRAIW colleague Harsh Singhania was compiling a combined XI for this one. I disagreed with many of his picks. What is it they say? These teams have quality across the pitch? I decided to field a second combined XI from the left-overs, one that would boss Harsh's on the pitch.
Here it is.
Manager: Mauricio Pochettino
It isn't like I have much choice here. Harsh picked Max Allegri and there are just two bosses in the tie. Not that it matters. Poch has the tactical nous to turn any XI into a winning side. So what if he hasn't any trophies? They're coming. Just to pull Harsh's narrow side out to the flanks, he'll play a 3-4-3. What does Allegri think he's doing with a four-man back line, anyway?
Goal Keeper: Gianluigi Buffon
Hugo Lloris is in the conversation for best in the world. That's true. Buffon is FIFA's reigning keeper of the year. Old age isn't showing on Gigi the way it is for Petr Cech. Buffon still has it. His presence, reflexes, and ability to run out for crosses hasn't diminished. Wojcieck Szczesny is going to have to wait to don the Juve number one a while longer. The Italian has conceded just three in his last 10 games.
CB: Mehdi Benatia, Toby Alderweireld, Davinson Sanchez
Here is a blend of experience and strength. Benatia will provide the leadership. Alderweireld and Sanchez the oomph. Let's see Kane and Higuain find space between these three.
Benatia's usual partner will be at the far end of the pitch. Same for the Spurs centre-halves. Nonetheless, Benatia's ability to play from the back is similar to Vertonghen's, and Alderweireld is adventurous himself. Sanchez filled in ably for the Belgian while he was recently on the shelf. He'll put in a shift here too.
LWB: Danny Rose
Alex Sandro is on every Premier League club's shopping list if you read the tabloids, but Spurs are loaded at the position. Ben Davies is acquitting himself in yeoman fashion. This squad needs to stretch Harsh's XI, though. So, Danny Rose gets a start. He has to be itching to show what he can do. When he's on song Rose is a handful bombing down the left flank. There's nothing like an x-factor to tilt a match in your favour.
RWB: Serge Aurier
Like Danny Rose on the far side, the Ivorian has a point to prove. Spurs jumped through some serious hoops to convince British customs to let him in the country, then they sit him on the bench? He could have stayed in Paris, where the food is better, had he known that would be the case. With the Bison rampaging down the right touchline, Alex Sandro will have to think twice about coming forward himself. If he does, Aurier can handle him. Threat neutralised.
DM: Moussa Sissoko
Harsh snaking both Moussa Dembele and Sami Khedira was a bit unfair, but Poch and I will cope. The Malian-born French international will be a pillar fronting the back three. He and Dembele have split time this season under Spurs' Argentine boss. His strength will match his opposite numbers although Blaise Matuidi's quickness and ability to join the attack is also an option.
AM: Dele Alli
Again, Harsh claimed both traditional number tens for his squad but there's no reason to Pjanic. Christian Eriksen's quick and nimble teammate can pick apart defenses with both his dribbling and passing. We're good.
Right Forward: Son Heung-min
Juan Cuadrado's pace would have been preferred on the right flank but the Colombian isn't slated to return from injury until April. Needs must. Son is the most underrated striker in the Premier League which is unfair for a player of this exceptional ability. The 25-year-old has scored 11 goals. His lightning pace, skill, and direct play will give Harsh's defenders fits. He can slot in on either flank, too.
Left Forward: Douglas Costa
Like Son, Costa is a handful on either side. He can also overload the middle. He and Dele Alli working in tandem would be a sight. The 27-year-old Brazilian has three goals and six assists across all competition as part of Max Allegri's attacking rotation. He's been in splendid form in the New Year, as well.
Striker: Mario Mandzukic
I can't have Harry Kane? Or Gonzalo Higuain? I have to settle for Mandzukic? The Croatian who has backed up Juve's Argentine tandem of Higuain and the injured Paulo Dybala with seven goals and three assists. The fella whose bicycle kick goal in the Champions League Final let Real Madrid know they were in for a game? How is this a problem?
Bring it on, Harsh!