In case anyone hasn’t noticed, on Saturday evening Spurs play one of the most important games in our history. Liverpool await in Madrid, in the Wanda Metropolitano, in the final of the UEFA Champions League, the world’s premier club competition.
Our progress to this stage has been nothing short of Hollywood-esque in its drama. One point from the first three group games, last gasp winners and equalisers in our last three group games (Inter Milan, this should have been you), trouncing the Bundesliga leaders, beating in traumatic style all conquering Man City, losing Kane, Sissoko and Winks in the process and then, now without Son as well, overcoming 70’s throwbacks and media favourites Ajax in a two-legged tie during which we were ahead for less than two minutes in total. Wednesday Night Lights. Clear eyes, Full Hearts …
All that though is old news.
The long wait has undoubtedly put us in a better position than were this game to have taken place the weekend after we left the Johann Cruyff Arena waterlogged with salty tears. In fact, we’re in a such an improved place that there’s a reasonable chance that the hat-trick hero from the semi-final, Lucas Moura, may not get a starting spot. This will be to accommodate Kane, returning icon, hero and the public face of Tottenham for the last five years.
As well as Kane, there appears a good chance that Winks will be available. His last game was in an epic performance against Manchester City in the home leg of the quarter-final. His battles with injuries during the second half of this season mean that it will be difficult for him to reproduce that display but against Milner, Henderson, Fabinho or whoever turns out in the centre of Liverpool’s midfield, it’s what we’ll need if we’ve any chance of winning.
The return of even a half-fit Kane doesn’t guarantee us goals, it does though mean that we’ve a much better chance of holding the ball up and relieving the pressure that will inevitably be placed on our defence by their hard-running pressing style and indeed how we cope with the harrying of Mané, Salah and Firmino is going to be key to the outcome. The attacking threat of these three plus the form and the way they use their full-backs is what has made them odds-on favourites with the bookies.
Alexander-Arnold made his debut against us in the league cup a few years ago and should’ve been sent off very early in that game. Fortune has favoured him ever since. We should hope that it’s time for some Yang to counter his Yin.
On the other side of the pitch Andy Robertson has impressed as an attacker, as he always did for Hull. Early on in the season Serge Aurier was Pochettino’s right back of choice, he appears though to have to have lost the manager’s trust. He was injured for a while but hasn’t made it back in to the Poch’s good books thus it will be Kieran Trippier who has to deal with the dual threats of Robertson and Mané down his side. Moussa Sissoko is likely to be a busy man.
Our defensive form has been largely rubbish of late, it’s likely we’ll concede at some point. To win tomorrow we are going to have to score at least a couple of times but in Kane, Son, Dele, Eriksen and Moura, we have the players to do that. The question is, are we going to have enough of the ball, up the field, to give them the opportunities they’ll need?
In the second half in Amsterdam we countered Ajax’s press by ‘passing’ over the top of it and I personally am not bothered if we adopt the same tactics here. Kane and Dele are more than capable of occupying their centre-backs and forcing mistakes from them. With Son and possibly Moura picking up flicks and loose balls… well, we’ll see.
History and expectation do not weigh as heavily on our shoulders as they do on theirs. Our players have already over-achieved, they have the chance though to reach up and grasp even more. Their hearts must be bursting with desire to make the most of the opportunity. All our players will have to stand up and show what they’re made of.
With Pochettino in charge, we know we will always have a chance.
Here we go. Let’s do ‘em.
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