Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Match Preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs Real Madrid

Impossible is nothing. So Leo Messi, David Villa and Kaka’s pay masters and indeed Real Madrid’s shirt manufacturer keep telling us.

But if anything can be sure in life, surely a 4-0 lead for a Jose Mourinho side must be set in stone.

Real’s destruction of spurs eight days ago showed a marked but understandable difference between the two sides. Quite apart from the difference of quality on offer, the Spanish side’s greater experience of the big occasion - despite not reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the past six years – shone through.

A fast start, an early goal and then English self-destruction in the form of two Peter Crouch lunges saw the tie almost over within the first 15 minutes. By full-time it was, a further three goals leaving even Rafael Van der Vaart in no doubt as to who was going through.

So what can we look forward to this evening? Well, Mourinho appears to taking no chances with his starting line-up. Like Pep Guardiola (who fielded a full strength side away to Shakhtar Donetsk last night) Mourinho seems to be prioritising the Champions League over Saturday’s Classico even with a four-goal lead as all his big guns are expected to start.

More surprisingly given the upcoming clash with Barcelona in Europe’s premier competition, assuming Real don’t capitulate at White Hart Lane, is that Mourinho appears happy to run the risk of some major players being suspended for the first leg of that tie at the Bernabeu. Sergio Ramos, Ricardo Carvalho, Raul Albiol, Angel Di María and Cristiano Ronaldo are all just one yellow card away from a suspension.

For Spurs this should be a good opportunity to regain some pride on the big stage and at home they are more than capable of scoring multiple goals, they scored 10 in their three home games in the group stage and with the return of Aaron Lennon have the pace on both wings to expose one of Real’s weaknesses this season – the space in behind the full-backs. However, spurs’ need to attack and care free spirit should play into the visitors’ hands. Real have been at their best this season when counter-attacking and as spurs swarm forward there should be ample opportunity for Ronaldo, Ozil and Adebayor to expose the space in behind.

If spurs can get an early goal we could be in for a game but otherwise this should be as routine as the second-leg of a Champions League quarter-final gets.

Probable Line-ups:

Tottenham (4-4-1-1): Gomes; Assou-Ekotto, Dawson, Gallas, Corluka; Bale, Huddlestone, Modric, Lennon; Van der Vaart; Defoe

Real Madrid (4-2-3-1): Casillas, Marcelo, Carvalho, Albiol, Ramos; Alonso, Khedira; Ronaldo, Ozil, Di Maria; Adebayor

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