Allegri has Juve right where he wants them after comeback at Spurs
The Old Lady has regularly visited London in her lifetime. Truth be told, though, it has never been somewhere she's been eager to race back to. When it came to Wembley, she never knew what all the fuss was about. Other Italians had enjoyed special nights under the two towers: Milan in 1963, Parma in 1993, Fiorentina in 1999, but not her. She'd tried other parts of town: Fulham, Highbury and Islington, Chelsea even. At the end of the night, though, all she felt was sorry for herself, and the flight home couldn't come quick enough.
The same could be said for Blighty as a whole. The last such occasion La Signora enjoyed a spring break here was 34 years ago. Paolo Rossi took her to Manchester and got her a point at Old Trafford in the Cup Winners' Cup. That was the last time Juventus knocked an English side out of a UEFA competition in a two-legged tie. On Wednesday, though, she finally had a night to remember in London, and she wasn't the only one delighted by it. Gonzalo Higuain's girlfriend was too.
"I'd like to thank her for putting up with me over the last few weeks," he said. "I've been in an awful mood."
The Argentine sunk to his knees and punched the air after playing Paulo Dybala through to score Juventus' winner against Tottenham. Two minutes and 49 seconds earlier, he'd got his team back into the game, hooking Sami Khedira's header home to give a Juve team that looked down and out genuine hope of reaching the Champions League quarterfinals. "From black and white to HD," as Il Corriere della Sera put it -- the Milan paper playing rather nicely on the acronym for high definition and the initials of Higuain and Dybala, whose sudden appearance on screen was all a blur to Spurs' defence. As were Douglas Costa's dribbles.
For circumstance and location, this felt huge for Juve. It wasn't just that history was against them in England. Anyone else remember that Clint Dempsey lob in arguably the most famous night ever at Craven Cottage? It was how one-sided this tie felt and how long it felt that way. For context, Juventus have conceded only four goals since the middle of November. Spurs scored three of them without reply from minute 35 of the first leg to minute 64 of the second.
"We were awful for the first 50 minutes," Andrea Barzagli admitted in the mixed zone. It was the same story for all but 20 seconds against Lazio on Saturday evening. But for the second time in four days, Juventus did what Juventus do: they found a way.
What made it as enjoyable as any of the fare served by Pep Guardiola's Manchester City or Lionel Messi's Barcelona was the emotional intensity with which the Bianconeri played. This could have been Gianluigi Buffon's last ever Champions League game. Juve, and particularly Giorgio Chiellini, were determined for it not to be. The sight of them staring each other down in defiant acknowledgement of each other's role in denying Spurs another goalscoring opportunity spoke to the sense of brotherhood within this Juventus team. It will go down as one of the defining images of the Champions League in 2018.
Much has been made of the bearing Juventus' experience had on this game. Opta informs us it was the oldest starting XI the Bianconeri have fielded in Europe this season.
"We watched PSG-Real Madrid the night before and all of us thought the same thing," Chiellini said. "History won. It's no coincidence Real don't get it wrong in these games ... We used all our experience and know-how to win [Wednesday] ... Spurs just need that little something to start winning games like this -- a trophy, a spark."
For Juventus, that was winning in Dortmund three years ago. They haven't looked back since.
Massimiliano Allegri's part in it was underscored once again down Wembley way. Talking about Juventus' chances of booking their place in the last eight during a news conference before Milan's Europa League tie against Arsenal, Gennaro Gattuso said of his old boss: "Max will never die of stress." He exudes a Carlo Ancelotti-like calm on nights like this. It's not the first time Gattuso has made an interesting observation about Allegri. A couple of years ago, he summed the Juventus coach up like this: "Max is a great poker player." He knows how to play his cards right.
Without Federico Bernardeschi, Mario Mandzukic and Juan Cuadrado, his options to change things looked limited in the second half. And yet, Allegri still managed to change the game from the bench. "He pulled a rabbit out of the hat," Gigi Garanzini wrote in La Stampa. The Kwadwo Asamoah and Stephan Lichtsteiner substitutions turned the match. Watching the Swiss' involvement in the equalising goal so soon after coming on, you couldn't help but marvel at Allegri's instincts, his reading of the game.
The 50-year-old now has Old Lady right where he wants her. Juve have been on the road in eight of their past 12 games, a series of fixtures that includes trips to Fiorentina, Lazio, the Turin derby and Atalanta. We're talking a serious test of her mettle. That she is still on course for all her objectives should not be taken for granted, not with the season Napoli are having nor how well Spurs performed for much of this tie.
The past week in particular has been momentous. The manner in which Juventus have swung the title race back in their favour and qualified for the next stage of the Champions League is sure to have imbued this team with ulterior belief that the club's winning cycle can continue.
Allegri, for one, couldn't understand the depression surrounding the team after the first leg three weeks ago. He recommended fans and media go see a doctor. In reality, the only prescription they needed was more Juventus.
James covers the Italian Serie A and European football for ESPN FC Follow him on Twitter @JamesHorncastle.