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Champions League Preview: Tottenham Hotspur (Real Madrid, Group H)

Gerry Johnston continues our Champions League analysis as he speaks with Tottenham Hotspur fan @NathanAClark about their chances and the prospect of facing Real Madrid.

As a Spurs fan what are your initial thoughts on the draw? 

It’s exciting. Playing the best teams in the world is what the Champion’s League is all about, Dortmund are of course up there but Real Madrid are the very best team in the world. This particular squad should be considered one of the all time great teams, forcing uncomfortable comparisons with rivals Barcelona during their tenure under Guardiola.

Now that makes our chance of getting out of the group pretty slim. But personally, I just don’t see the appeal of filling up the fixture list with trips away to Azerbaijan safe in the comfort of knockout-round qualification only to later arrive at the feet of the giants anyway. Get it out the way now and take joy from it.

There’s quite a bit of history between Tottenham and Real Madrid with Luka Modric and Gareth Bale having played for both clubs. What are you expecting from them in the two games? 

It’s bizarre considering the form he left on but there’s a reasonable chance that Bale won’t pick up any minutes during our two games this season as he’s far from a lock in the first XI. Modric however is not only a key player for Real but his specific ability to break the press and dominate the centre makes him a very difficult player for Spurs to play.

When Real Madrid come to Wembley Stadium what sort of atmosphere can they expect? 

Unfortunately not the impressive one we’d have been sure to treat them to at the now non-existant White Hart Lane. Wembley, when used as a home ground, sucks the atmosphere out of a fan base. Noise doesn’t travel well across it’s different sections meaning songs get broken up and our form so far has dampened the mood a little.

Have Spurs done much business this summer? 

Not at the time of writing, with Davinson Sanchez the only signing likely to have an impact on the first XI. But by the end of the window this month it seems 3 or 4 new faces will be added to bolster a hugely talented but somewhat thin squad.

How is Mauricio Pochettino likely to set the team up tactically and if everyone is fit who will be the first eleven?

The stage is set for Pochettino to finally add a more defensive, more direct mode to his sides repertoire this season. The increased number and power of aggressive counter-pressing teams in the Premier League, the giants drawn in our Champion’s League group and the large open spaces of the Wembley pitch. These all come together to give Pochettino the right moment to stop being quite so stubborn about always trying to play the game his way and instead look to occasionally sit-back, absorb pressure and hit them on the break. Will he? Couldn’t tell you.

First XI: Lloris, Sanchez, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Aurier, Wanyama, Dembele, Rose, Eriksen, Kane, Dele

Who is the main player that Spurs need to target if they are going to get a result against Real Madrid?

Real boast no less than 3 elite playmakers and every outfielder is a strong goal threat. If there is  a way to slow them down, and I’m not convinced there is, then it’s by instead targeting their weakest player: Casemiro. The Brazilian though, is no slouch.

What are Tottenham’s expectations in the Champions League this season? 

After last season’s CL disappointment there was a growing demand to make something of this year’s opportunity and get out of the group. With the groups now drawn that expectation may have to be curved. Instead, what I’d like, is a fighting chance; 6 points from APOEL and a night to remember against Dortmund or Madrid.

Tell us where you think the four sides will finish in the group?

Madrid top and APOEL last are surely locks. The fight comes between Dortmund and Spurs for 2nd. My hope is on Tottenham, my money on BVB.

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