Tottenham's pace takes on Juventus' pedigree
Spurs' speedsters face proper test against Juve's old men
Tottenham Hotspur are back.
They're going to beat Juventus. They're going to win the Champions League.
As ever, the English Premier League hype merchants have surpassed themselves with the kind of gushing tributes that embarrass and entertain in equal measure.
An excellent second-half spell against an abject Arsenal was more than enough to send the hyperbole into overdrive ahead of the trip to Turin tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
Yesterday's coverage in the British media forced a double-take of the EPL standings, just to check that the 20-point gap between Spurs and Manchester City still existed.
In the battle for the biggest superlatives, Tottenham were compared to Barcelona and criticised only for not scoring eight against the Gunners, such was their supposed superiority.
Perhaps Juventus should forfeit the last-16 tie now to spare the hapless Italians a night of humiliation.
In a quiet corner of Turin, Gianlugi Buffon must be struggling to stifle a giggle.
With a characteristic lack of fanfare, the goalkeeping great played his 500th league game for Juventus on Friday, a routine 2-0 win at Fiorentina.
Juve have now won 11 matches in a row across all competitions in 2018 and have conceded only one goal in 16 games - an all-time club record.
They promise the grittiest test yet for Mauricio Pochettino's rampant forwards, a contest between youthful pace and the pedigree of wise old men.
To suggest that Juve should be terrified of Harry Kane and company is rather like telling a gang of great white sharks that a school of nibbling fish are wriggling their way over.
Juventus know how to protect their territory. They've been repelling the invader for decades. Indeed, the Bianconeri are unbeaten in Uefa competition at the Allianz Stadium since April 2013 - a run that stretches to 26 games.
They are two-time Champions League finalists in the last three seasons. More importantly, they are not Arsenal.
The Gunners were so comically inept in the second half of the North London Derby, that Tottenham's performance was overinflated.
Arsene Wenger doesn't possess what Massimiliano Allegri already owns: a redoubtable back four and, in terms of experience, a defensive databank that's the size of Turin.
Tottenham's fine run of form against Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United deserves credit, an intoxicating blend of speed and decisive finishing, but they haven't faced a wall of resistance anything like the one waiting for them tomorrow.
Across those 16 Juve games, Inter Milan, Napoli, AS Roma and Fiorentina all failed to beat Buffon. The run also included European shutouts against Olympiakos and Barcelona.
Keepers of the Catenaccio faith, Juve's back four still champion limpet-like marking and crunchy tackling as if they were protecting the game's dying arts. And their commitment to the defensive cause will certainly be tested.
Son Heung Min already has three in Europe, but Kane found the net six times and has 32 goals in all competitions, an extraordinary achievement for a striker yet to reach his full potential.
But the trip to Turin feels like a genuinely pivotal moment, for both this season and the next. Kane will be dressed to impress and the shop window doesn't come any bigger than the Allianz Stadium.
The black-and-white enforcers have long taken perverse pleasure in throwing the cuffs on the latest striking superstar and putting a temporary stop to his penalty-box escapades.
Buffon, 40, Giorgio Chiellini, 33 and Andrea Barzagli, 36, have been doing this stuff since Kane was in diapers. And with the support of Medhi Benatia, Alex Sandro and the Swiss warhorse Stephan Lichtsteiner, still rampaging down the right at 34, Kane will not face a sterner challenge this season.
The Englishman needs to succeed where Barcelona failed and help Spurs navigate a way past Juve's old guard.
A goal or two in Turin would justify the sudden hysteria over Tottenham. It really would be time to believe the hype.