Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon says he has not even given a moment’s thought to Wednesday night’s Champions League fixture with Tottenham potentially being his last in the competition, as he prepares for more top European nights this season.
Buffon, 40, has made no secret of his desire to win the Champions League and play on another season, in order to have a shot at winning the FIFA Club World Cup.
He can take a step closer to that objective by keeping a clean sheet in London — with his Juventus team level at 2-2 with Spurs after the first leg in Turin — and the current FIFA Best Goalkeeper intends to ensure it will not be his last on European football’s biggest stage.
“If something happens which is not quite perfect or is only half a mistake, then in my next game, I am always determined to provide the answer I feel is due,” he said at a news conference at Wembley. “I feel I am still a goalkeeper who can perform at this level and I can still make a difference.
“I’ve got to be honest in that I’ve never thought about it [being my last Champions League game], maybe because I’m naturally optimistic. I hope that, at least for this year, it won’t be the last for me and it won’t be the last for Juve. I hope there will be many more important ones to come.”
Defeating Spurs will nevertheless take one of Juve’s best performances this season with Buffon paying tribute to the Premier League club’s strengths, but saying they also have weaknesses.
“I think that Tottenham are a side with characteristics and a way of playing which have bedded in and they will play the game they are capable of playing, which is an open, attacking, physically and technically strong football which will certainly cause us problems,” he said.
“But they play a kind of football which also, now and again, allows their opponents favourable chances to score, so I think it will be a very attractive, very even game, in which the side who prove to be more cynical will win it and go through.”
Juve will therefore be reliant on Buffon and their defence, which has yet to concede in nine league and Coppa Italia games in 2018 so far — with the exception of the first leg against Tottenham — to see them through.
“Our compactness and defence is and will remain one of the best around, I’m convinced about this,” Buffon said. “I said this also at the start of the season, when a lot of us were being attacked for the goals we were conceding. But let’s not forget your opponents and their characteristics.
“Tottenham are very attack-minded and their forwards are their strongest weapon — Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen — it can happen that a goal gets through, but maybe two was a bit too much.”
Kane in particular is a man Juve must keep an eye on, with Buffon admitting the England forward is in “extraordinary form” and that comparisons between him and Gabriel Batistuta are not far off the mark.
“It’s true, I have to say that the comparison is very pertinent in terms of physical strength and presence, athleticism and also finishing — there are plenty of similarities between Kane and Batistuta,” he said.
A clean sheet would not be enough if Juve do not score a goal, though. The Bianconeri need to win or score three or more in a draw — which is why having Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala both fit again, despite being without the injured Mario Mandzukic, is an advantage.
“Both can play,” said Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri. “Higuain has trained individually and has been back in the squad for the past few days and he’s available and can play, as can Dybala. Tomorrow is such an important, beautiful game to be involved in that even if you aren’t at your peak physically, you still find the strength to perform.
“It’s a knockout game; a final. We got a lot wrong technically in the first leg, but still created plenty of chances and didn’t let them have many. But we’re going to have to play better tomorrow and know that when we have to defend, we have to defend like we always have — not like in the first leg.”
Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.