Do Spurs have a chance against Real Madrid after Champions League draw?
IT COULD have been better, but it could have been a lot worse. As Tottenham’s players said last week, anyone but Barcelona.
The key was to avoid the poisoned chalice of drawing the Catalan giants, and escape a 90-minute siege at the Nou Camp that would almost certainly have spelled the end of Tottenham’s Champions League adventure.
A draw against the overly-familiar foes of Manchester United or Chelsea would have been as disappointing as it would have been challenging, and the same could be said for Inter Milan, Spurs’ rivals in the group stages.
Ideally, the Lilywhites would have been tied with Schalke or Shakhtar Donetsk, but few can complain about the pairing with Real Madrid.
This tie has everything – the glamour, the prestige, the trip to an iconic, world-famous stadium, the world-class opposition with its household names - and there is also a glimmer of hope for Tottenham, which is the most important thing of all.
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“It’s a fantastic draw, what a draw to look forward to, one of the greatest names in club football,” said Harry Redknapp.
“If we can get a good result in the first leg we have a chance. We feel we can play against anybody. It’s going to be a difficult game, they are a great side, but these are great days in your life and great days in Tottenham Hotspur’s history. I said the two Spanish teams were the favourites.”
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If all goes according to plan, Spurs could end up playing both of them, because Barcelona will almost certainly lie in wait for the winners of this quarter-final tie in the semi-finals – but that is looking too far ahead.
Today’s draw is very reminiscent of Spurs’ pairing with AC Milan. The Lilywhites will be underdogs again, and rightly so, given that they are facing ‘the most successful club of the 20th century’ – as voted by Fifa.
Real have won a record 31 La Liga titles and, more relevantly, a record nine Champions League trophies.
The club’s constant change of management and incessant search for the world’s biggest ‘Galacticos’ reflects their impatient desire to add to that number, and make it into double figures.
The Spaniards’ squad is full of world-class individuals, the likes of Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Kaka, Karim Benzema, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria and Mesut Ozil.
That does not include a plethora of former Premier League stars – Cristiano Ronaldo, Ricardo Carvalho, Xabi Alonso, Lassana Diarra, Emmanuel Adebayor, former Liverpool full-back Alvaro Arbeloa and back-up goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek.
The brightest star among these Galacticos is unquestionably Ronaldo, the �80million man who dominated England’s top flight at Manchester United before his move to the Bernabeu.
The Portuguese winger has scored a staggering 34 goals in 37 games this season, justifying Redknapp’s verdict that he and Lionel Messi are currently the two best players in the world.
Meanwhile, French international Benzema – who scored in the 2-1 win over England at Wembley in November - has netted 11 goals in his last 10 games.
There is so much to admire, and so much to fear. The fact that these exorbitantly talented individuals are operating under the master tactician Jose Mourinho only adds to the trepidation, and the anticipation.
The Special One’s bid to win the Champions League with a third different club, following success at FC Porto and Inter Milan, is an obsessive personal quest – and thus far he is right on track.
Madrid topped a difficult group which included AC Milan, Ajax and Auxerre, and won five of their six matches - scoring 15 goals and conceding just two – before beating Lyon 4-1 on aggregate in the last 16.
Now, having taken Real into the quarter-finals for the first time in seven years, Mourinho has Redknapp’s Tottenham are in his sights.
Madrid have always had devastating offensive players, but they have also tended to be vulnerable at the back. Not this season.
Real, who are second in La Liga behind Barca, have shipped just six league goals in 14 home league games – all of which they have won – and have the second-best defensive record on the road.
So, we mentioned some hope? Yes, because we have been here before with AC Milan.
The Rosseneri have won the Champions League seven times, are top of Serie A and boast the likes of Robinho, Seedorf, Ibrahimovic, Pato and Nesta - but Spurs beat them, just like they beat Inter Milan, who have also made the quarter-finals.
As Heurelho Gomes said at the start of the season, ‘we win nothing with names’.
Again, Spurs are at home in the second leg, meaning that there will be all to play for at White Hart Lane if the Lilywhites can keep the tie alive after 90 minutes at the Bernabeu.
That will be difficult but few expected Tottenham to win 1-0 at the San Siro in the last 16. Again, recent history defies the theory that Spurs are suddenly now out of their depth.
Peter Crouch’s aerial threat will be an important weapon. And, in the likes of Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon and ex-Real star Rafael van der Vaart, Spurs have the players to take advantage if Madrid over-commit at any stage over the two legs.
Whatever happens, it promises to be quite a ride.