UEFA Champions League Group A Preview: Tottenham Take On Holders Internazionale
''Audere Est Facere'': Daring Is Doing.
Tottenham's Latin motto used to sit boldly underneath the cockerel on the team's badge. Even though it has since disappeared as part of a modern commercial revamp of the club's image, the meaning will not be lost on Harry Redknapp and his players tomorrow night at 18:45 GMT when they kick off their third Group A Champions League match in the famous San Siro holders against Internazionale.
Since Redknapp replaced Ramos as manager of the North London team, Tottenham's expensively assembled squad has shown derring-do and finally realised the dream of their long-suffering fans: football against the best teams in the world on the biggest stage in the world. And despite injuries depleting the Spurs squad ahead of the most prestigious game in the club's history, the fans and manager must believe that with a bit of luck and intelligent football a good result can be obtained.
Despite making a trip which would have previously intimidated a squad with so little experience of Champions League football, especially in the absence of a high profile player like Rafael Van der Vaart, a creditable away draw against Werder Bremen and an encouraging home victory against Dutch champions FC Twente must be taken into consideration.
Twente proved last month that taking the game to Internazionale and playing to your own team's strengths, in their case maximizing the physical attributes of their players from well-worked set pieces, can pay dividends. In the same way, Spurs must ensure that they impose their football and tempo on the game and not concern themselves with shackling the offensive threats posed by many of their world-class opponents.
How can Tottenham Hotspur win this match?
Firstly, Harry Redknapp must pick the right team. That means loading the squad with pace for the precious few moments when his team will break out of their half. It means selecting William Gallas and Vedran Corluka in defence and Peter Crouch in attack for their experience at an international level. It means choosing a midfield capable of standing toe-to-toe with world class players such as Wesley Sneijder and Esteban Cambiasso.
Secondly, it will be important for the players to find their touch quickly, retain possession and maintain a fast tempo. If they can shock Inter with a quick goal - as they did to Bremen in Germany - the players' confidence will grow immeasurably.
Thirdly, the players must realize that conserving energy is vital in such a high profile game. They will not be used to such a big pitch or such fervour within the stadium. Inevitably, the quality of passing and movement of the Inter players will mean that they will dominate possession. Therefore, Tottenham must show discipline in defence, intelligence in midfield and creativity and movement in attack.
Fourthly and finally, Tottenham must channel their nerve into positive energy and not fear their opponents. The Inter players and fans will know a weakness when they see one and punish it ruthlessly, as they did against Werder Bremen in the previous round when Samuel Eto'o grabbed a clinical hat-trick.
There will be several important man-to-man battles in different areas of the pitch. While none of them alone will decide the outcome of the match, each will have a bearing on how tactics and patterns of play will change throughout the 90 minutes.
Notably, Harry Redknapp will look to use recent signing William Gallas in an effort to stifle the goal threat of Samuel Eto'o. The talented forward has already scored 16 goals in 14 matches this season for club and country. At the other end of the pitch, Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon will provide relief in the form of width and will look to draw mistakes from full-backs Douglas Maicon and Christian Chivu, neither of whom are traditional full-backs. Their goal, inevitably, is to provide suitable balls forward and movement to assist Peter Crouch. In midfield, Tom Huddlestone, Jermaine Jenas and Luka Modric will have to work overtime to get hold of the ball and work it around their opponents.
While a Tottenham win is unlikely, there is nothing to lose from this match. All of the expectation and pressure will fall on the home players to deliver a victory, one that would see them have all but guaranteed a spot in the group stages. Tottenham must use this circumstance to their advantage, but are likely to come up short against super striker Eto'o and master tactician Benitez.
Injuries and Suspensions
Internazionale: Diego Milito
Tottenham Hotspur: Michael Dawson, Jermaine Defoe, Ledley King
Likely Starting XIs
Internazionale (4-2-3-1) Julio Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Cordoba, Chivu; Stankovic, Cambiasso; Biabany, Sneijder, Coutinho; Eto'o
Tottenham Hotspur (4-5-1) Gomes; Corluka, Bassong, Gallas, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Jenas, Huddlestone, Modric, Bale; Crouch
Prediction: Internazionale 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur
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