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How Far Can Tottenham Go In the Champions League?


peter crouch How Far Can Tottenham Go In the Champions League?

Photo by additional Knowledge

Tottenham Hotspur supporters have a lot to be proud of based on their team’s performance Tuesday night against AC Milan after their crucial 1-0 victory at San Siro. But despite playing AC Milan off the park in the first half, and winning the psychological warfare in the second half as well as keeping Milan at bay, Tottenham’s qualification into the Champions League round of eight is far from certain.

Tottenham sits in the driving seat for the second leg of their match at White Hart Lane on March 9. While Spurs have the all-important away goal and may be bolstered by the return to fitness of Gareth Bale, AC Milan will be desperate to beat Tottenham in North London. The advantage that Milan has is experience. With veteran players such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Clarence Seedorf and Alessandro Nesta, they’ve been in similar situations before and they know the tie is still wide open.

For Tottenham and Harry Redknapp, this will be a huge test in the second leg. It’ll be a much different Milan side, I’m sure, in terms of how difficult they will be to beat. And having Gattuso banned from the match for an accumulation of yellow cards will probably help Milan more than it’ll hurt them. Gone will be the thug element and in will come a player who has more pace and composure.

Hats off to Redknapp, though, for playing Peter Crouch. At times Tuesday, it was like little and large on the San Siro pitch with Crouch towering over Gattuso. It was definitely a masterclass decision by Redknapp that made a tremendous difference in this game.

With the supporters at White Hart Lane behind them, and hopefully Bale back from injury, Tottenham’s best bet against Milan in the second leg will be to attack, attack and attack. With Bale on the left wing and Aaron Lennon on the right, their pace should open up the wings and cause havoc in the box when their crosses come in, which will open Milan up and definitely put the pressure on the Italian side.

But if Milan can get a goal against Spurs and manage to stop Tottenham from scoring, then the game will be wide open. No matter what happens, I for one am looking forward to the second leg.

What do you think? Is Tottenham’s qualification into the Champions League quarter-finals in the bag or not? And if they get that far, do you think they can get into the semi-finals or final based on how they’ve beaten tough opponents in the Champions League thus far? Share your opinion in the comments section below.

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About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
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37 Responses to How Far Can Tottenham Go In the Champions League?

  1. Liamyid says:

    Its definatly not in the bag, but we have showed we are a better team then they are. In the CL they have scored 7 goals to our 19, and they won’t have played at a ground like WHL for a long time. The european nights at the lane are something special, the atmosphere is second to none, not even anfield creates the noise that a packed WHL does on a european night, thats why were so good at home. Milan showed nothing to worry me, but we still need to play our skins out, and I think we will out work and out fight them, then we have as much chance of anyone to win it. The year does end in 1 you know….

  2. Joe says:

    You can call me a homer, but I think Spurs can win the whole thing. Time and time again they’ve fallen behind and been doubted this season, and they always seem to come up with an answer. I don’t think Milan will be intimidated by White Hart Lane, but I will be surprised if Spurs can’t get the result. And if Spurs get by Milan, who knows. Everyone says Barcelona is the team to beat, but I have yet to see a legitimate gut check for them (unless you want to count last weekend’s late draw). Spurs have proven they can win in tight situations, and that will help them as the tournament progresses.

  3. Roy Singh says:

    Spurs will treat each & every game on its merits. The return leg understanderbly, is not an easy task. AC also have aspirations in beating us at WHL. They will have their strategy drawn up to overcome our weakness & so will we. With the wide selection available from our squad , we can have another go at them. If successful, we will look to see who our next opponents are to formulate a strategy to play them.
    So also will our needs be worked out in the EPL

  4. luka van der bale says:

    Massive win for the lads.
    Are we thru of course not “its a funny old game” anything can happen in the return leg.
    Are we the better side? definitely.
    with Bale back and full 90 from Modric they will be sh**ting themselves.
    COYS!!
    1 nil at the san siro
    1 nil at the san siro
    i nil at the san siro
    ONE NIL AT THE SAN SIRO

    • Beach_Bum says:

      I think that the advantages that Spurs havegoing into the home tie are considerable.Firstly,the player who most strikes fear into Italians,(Bale),should be back.Secondly Spurs have the the home advantage,haveing the home crowd with them and their familiarity with WHL .Thirdly,Milan have a side that has anaverage age that is 2 years older than Spurs.On the colder nights in North London this is probably going to affect their reaction time.Finally the confidence level after last night’s result must favor Tottenham/

  5. Vegar, Norway says:

    Im getting sick of beeing up here in the north only able to watch the games on tv. Been at 3 PL games at WHL and would die to get a ticket for the Milan game. Great to see how diciplined the whole team was and how good they coped with the Milan players attempts to heat it up. None of them were even close to loose their heads, but probably the main reason why Rafa was taken off as he sometimes seem to forget its a team game.
    Cant see us lose up now, attack is the best way to defend, and attack seems to be the Tottenham way, especially at the Lane. Couldnt miss the relieved grin in Woodgates face after the whistle went, hes probably the happiest spurs player the last 50 years after beeing that far down and suddenly involved i CL.
    Great performance, great night, great supporters and disgusted behaviour from the so-called world class Milan players. Fair play only an issue if youre on top – disgusted!!

  6. Brian says:

    As a neutral observer watching yesterday’s game, I definitely had the feeling that Tottenham can go deep into CL…with their depth at midfield and the genius that is Van der Vaart. Also, a quick and timely elimination of AC Milan with snarl-dog Gattuso, the equally unlikeable Falmini would be quite welcomed.

  7. Patrick in Austin says:

    First off, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a brain-fart like “Ibrahim Zlatanovic” in print. It’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, no?

    Anyway, I think if we have Bale and Modric both back and in form, we should rightly expect to get at least a draw at WHL and move on. Yes they have “Zlatanovic” and Robinho, who together have scored all but three of their goals this season, but we know how Robinho plays in an English atmosphere, and the Big Swede has never beaten an English club in 12 tries in CL. Furthermore, all those experienced (see: old/Italian) Milan players have been put out in the Round of 16 by English clubs the last two seasons.

    It’s true that if Gomes hadn’t saved both headers (both off set-pieces?), we might have seen the game completely differently. But as it stood, Milan was only good for 30 minutes of anything resembling attack or possession, and had nothing on the counter-attack (the longtime staple of the cynical Italian style of play Milan mastered). I don’t see how offsetting the return of Gareth Bale with the likes of Pirlo(‘s corpse) on the return leg will produce a better result for Milan.

    Whether Spurs are “punching above their weight” historically is up for debate. But games don’t happen in history books, or pub arguments between supporters. It’s time for pundits to recognize that no matter the club’s historical position, this side, this year is capable of getting a result against anyone on any given day.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Patrick, sorry about that. I meant Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and the story has been fixed. That’s what I get for writing the piece at midnight!

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

    • Carmello says:

      Hahahahaaha “Pirlo(‘s corpse)”. That made me laugh out loud in the classroom I work in hahahahaa. NOT GOOD. But thanks for the chuckle.

      • Trevor says:

        Yeah, I’m pretty sure Pirlo died in 2005 and then again in 2007.

        Spurs finally have belief. A few years ago we would have curled up and died at the thought of playing at the San Siro, but players like Modric and VDV have brought belief to the club. Although getting to the quarterfinals is not in the bag just yet, I believe we are in a very good position. I feel that on our day we can beat any team in the world, especially if we get some players healthy.

  8. MennoDaddy says:

    You know, I’ve been a Spurs fan for long enough to know that we never take victories for granted. It wouldn’t be Spurs if they didn’t on occasion f#$& up the winnable games and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. I think, deep down, that’s part of the appeal of Spurs — the sensation of balancing on the precipice between agony and ecstasy.

    So no, it’s absolutely NOT in the bag. However, thus far they have confounded every critic in this competition by first qualifying, then beating Werder Bremen, then beating Inter, now beating Milan AT THE SAN SIRO. If Inter and Milan, why not Real? Why not Barcelona? Why not (dare I speak it) a final vs. the Scum at Wembley? They’ve already gone past what even the most die-hard Spurs fan would’ve expected before the season.

    Why not?

  9. Carmello says:

    I agree that having Bale back in the side for the return leg will boost our confidence sky high… but what about Modric?

    Little Modders was absolutely captivating last night when he came on. I was watching the Foxsoccer.tv feed and I think it was Ray Wilkins who said that if you ever wanted someone on your team to play keep-away with the ball, Modric would be the first choice. His movement and style are incredible.

    Let’s not forget that it was his pass to Lennon that got the goal started, even if it did take a deflection on its way. I am more excited about seeing him on the pitch for the full ninety in two weeks.

    And how bout Spurs subs? How encouraging is it to see substitutions like this:
    Pienaar off / Kranjcar on
    VDV off / Modric on
    Corluka off / WOODGATE ON

    Hearing the whoop from the Spurs away fans when Woody came on must have warmed his heart. Great to have him back.

    COME ON YOU SPURS!

    • MennoDaddy says:

      The injury to Corluka worries me, though. Hutton will do all right, but please tell me there’s a release clause in the loan deal for Kyle Walker…

      • Carmello says:

        I think we’ll be ok. We’ve made it this far with various defenders playing out of position, so I feel much more confident now than when we were without Daws and nobody was really comfortable with Gallas.

        I’m always amazed at the space that Corluka is provided when he lollygags down the right wing. He seems to be moving so slowly and almost comes to a stand still. Then all of a sudden he’s slipping through some defenses or zipping a pass to Lennon. Incredible.

      • Patrick in Austin says:

        @MennoDaddy I’ve thought the same thing about Walker. From what I’ve read, Villa does not have an option to buy at the end of the loan, so we should see Kyle back at Spurs this summer. Any confirmation on that, Gaffer?

        • The Gaffer says:

          Patrick, from what I understand, Walker’s loan deal with Villa contains no clause for an option to buy, so Spurs can take him back at the end of the loan deal, which I’m sure they will given his display of talent in recent weeks.

          Cheers,
          The Gaffer

  10. brn442 says:

    The tie is far from over but Spurs has historically been a good cup team, and let’s face it, the Champion’s League is nothing more than a glorified cup competition. If an ordinary 2005 Liverpool side can lift the Cup; then there is hope for everyone past the group stage.

  11. Phenoum says:

    In the drivers seat? Really? bit of a stretch no? a single solitary goal?…

    • The Gaffer says:

      Phenoum, your Arsenal colors are coming through! ;)

      Going to White Hart Lane with a victory at San Siro and playing in front of a passionate home ground definitely puts Tottenham in the driving seat. Anything can happen, but Spurs has the advantage, no doubt.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  12. Andy Kay says:

    It’s not a foregone conclusion, but I certainly fancy Tottenham’s chances of getting into the next round of the CL a lot more than I do for Arsenal getting by Barcelona and into the next round.

    “A single solitary goal”? Yes, but remember it is an away goal and one more goal than AC Milan scored in their own ground – and this time yesterday how many people would have predicted last nights result? Even the most die-hard Spurs fans were only hoping for a draw at best.

    • spurs4life says:

      I kept on saying throughout the game, 0-0 will be fine. I’d even have taken a 1-0 loss!! AC are a class team who could have walked all over us and won 4-0 if they had wanted!!!

      But 1-0 win is like christmas!

      • Joe says:

        I agree. I was happily resigned to a 0-0 draw at about minute 75, and was stunned to see Lennon suddenly break free five minutes later. It’s definitely not over, but a 1-0 win was more than I was anticipating at any point before the goal happened.

  13. Howard McLaren says:

    Could they go all the way? Well based upon the form they have showed so far yes they could. Spurs have matured amazingly fast when you consider their first couple of games. Except for a couple of occasions last night they controlled AC Milan. No mean feat, which illustrates a huge level of confidence to come into the San Siro and not be overawed.

    Perhaps their style is suited to frustrating Italian teams? I don’t know, but the big test will be against the Spanish clubs. However, its refreshing to see someone new coming through to challenge the status quo.

  14. Patrick in Austin says:

    I’m sure this question will expose my Spurs fandom as newly formed, but I’m wondering if anybody knows a way that I can get postgame commentary/reaction here in the Texas? I have an iphone, U-verse, and obviously the internet. I don’t even think Sky Sports is available on U-verse, and it’s starting to bother me having to wait 24-48 hours to get by on snippets from ESPN Soccernet Presspass, Spurs Show, or (ahem) other fine podcasts for post-match reaction.

    I grew up going to Texas Rangers baseball games with my dad. Their 40+ year streak w/o appearing in the World Series helps explain my identification with the “long-suffering” Tottenham club and their supporters. For me, the Rangers’ World Series run last fall was enhanced exponentially by the fact that despite the distance (200 miles between Austin and Dallas) I was able to listen to the postgame show from the local radio station on the WunderRadio iphone app. Does anybody know a way, either online or through an iphone app, that I can get a feed of either Sky Sports’ postgame, or maybe even a radio postgame show from London?

  15. Andrei says:

    Personally, I would be surprised if Spurs didn’t progress to the next rounds. How far can they go? It depends on the draw. It is a knockout stage so it is mostly about how you match up against the opposition. Games against Inter and Milan showed that Spurs match up well against Italian teams. I’m not sure how they would do against likes of Bayern. And do not forget they can get MU in the next round. They are pretty much done if this case – MU is probably the toughest match up for Spurs. They don’t have the tools to beat Barca either but Barca needs to get past Arsenal first :)

    • spurs4life says:

      Dont think Spurs can play MU in quarters, I think you can only play someone from your association in the semis

      • Patrico says:

        I thought the draw was entirely random beginning with the quarterfinals.

        Last year, I remember when Lyon drew another French team (Bordeaux?), thinking, “Wow, those might be the two weakest teams and they drew each other.” Meanwhile Arsenal was stuck with Barcelona.

  16. Terry says:

    Spurs should make it into the next round. I cannot see them losing at White Hart Lane to a Milan side that is so slow.

    How far they can go in the tournament will depend on their next opponent. I only see sides like Barcelona and possibly Bayern(if Ribery and Robben are fit) beating Spurs, although where the second leg is played will also matter. I think they can beat the likes of Manchester United or Real Madrid. Won’t be easy but I can see Spurs beating them over two legs. Spurs have enough depth to cope even if they have one or two injuries to star players.

    As someone earlier wrote, if Liverpool can win the CL with the side they had then, I see no reason why a team like Spurs couldn’t do it this year.

  17. SoccerLimey says:

    I’m beginning to think that Arsenal and Tottenham might go further in this competition than Man United or Chelsea, especially following Arsenal’s win over Barcelona tonight.

    If they can get Bale back fit, he will give European defenses fits.

  18. Thomas says:

    Milan rely far too heavily on Zlatan and Robinho.

    They looked a better side once they moved Robinho into the trequartista role, as Seedorf was absolutely useless in the opening 45 minutes.

    But the problem for them going into the match was the narrow nature of their tactical approach. All width comes from Antonini and Abate.

    As we saw in the game at the San Siro, Lennon continually kept Antonini pinned back, and when he went forward, Flamini had to slide wide, which opened up even more space for Van Der Vaart in the middle.

    Pienarr was great defensively, especially at tracking the dangerous Abate.

    With Bale in the line up the Milan fullbacks are going to both have their hands full.

    A good game from Sandro and Palacios will mean curtains for the Milanese.

  19. Jake says:

    To be honest i think spurs can go all the way and as a bolton fan i would rather see spurs win it than any other english team left., would be good to see a spurs,arsenal final and for spurs to see it through, they have deffinatly got the squad to do it, and im backing them to win this competition.

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