Spurs, Real and Certainties of the Game

Posted on April 4, 2011


There are no certainties in football, the cliche goes. All there are are streaks – good, bad, hot, cold, occasionally nude. But 9 years and 150 matches; what an accomplishment. Just last week my summary of the  Champion’s League match tomorrow would simply have been “Mourinho doesn’t lose at home”. But football is a strange beast where 17 Premier League teams out of 20 are  fighting for either a top-4 finish or to avoid relegation. Where the man behind the FCUK campaign can pass judgement on offensive language. Where an undefeated streak, however long, is only ever one match from over.

But what will this mean for the Champions League match? Will the loss to Gijon trigger a loss of form that could give Tottenham the opening it could be argued that they need to progress to the semi finals? Or will it galvanize the team and lead to the kind of demolition shown at the start of the first match against Inter?

Quite a bit could depend on the striking efforts of both sides. Benzema ruled out, Higuain only just returning from injury and Ronaldo questionable; Real may turn to on-loan Adebayor, whose 3 goals in 13 appearances would be aspirational to Fernando Torres and absolutely nobody else. Although, given the lack of goals coming from the Spurs frontline, perhaps Harry’s regretting not bidding for Man City’s extraneous goalscorer.

The respective midfields will, conversely, be a treat to watch, with dependable quality in Ozil and Alonso coming up against pace and skill in Bale and Lennon. It’ll also be interesting to see how Van Der Vaart does against his former club, given that he was clearly deemed surplus to requirements at the start of the season. And Luka Modric remains great fun to watch and could be a difference maker.

With La Liga seemingly out of reach, I’m going for Real to come out guns blazing in the first leg. And it’s worth remembering that this team that’s taken quite a bit of criticism this year is on 73 points, significantly higher than their rivals in the rest of Europe. They just happen to be in the same league as the best team in the world. Madrid’s quality shouldn’t be underestimated by anyone, least of all Tottenham.

If Ronaldo plays, I think that Real should have enough to get the lead in the first leg. If not, were it any other manager than Mourinho, I’d call it 50-50. But it’s Jose. One loss in 151 matches is still better than anyone else out there. And he is not a man lacking in self-confidence.

Here’s the problem though. If they do beat Tottenham, they’ll play either Shaktar or Barcelona (read: they’ll play Barcelona). And if Madrid get turned over by Barca again this season, it could be the catalyst for managerial change. In this context, a fighting quarter-final exit may be better than a semi-final loss to the old enemy.

For Tottenham, they’ve had a great run and can be truly proud of getting to the last 8, especially when you look at some of the teams that haven’t made the cut. But nobody likes a one hit wonder, and now they need to start looking at bringing their A-game against the teams fighting relegation. Right now they’re looking like getting left behind in the fight for fourth, and that’s got to be where their priorities are if they want to be able to keep their top players in the summer.

So yeah, for all Tottenham’s attacking qualities, my money’s on a Real Madrid victory – in this match and over the two legs. But it could be a victory that Mourinho comes to regret by the end of the season.

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