The Champions League Trophy
The draw for the Champions League quarterfinals has been made and has certainly thrown up a set of intriguing ties.
All eight sides will feel as though they have a decent chance of reaching the last four, yet will it be all too predictable come April 13 when all fixtures will be concluded and we come to know our final four contenders?
Let us start with perhaps the most mouth watering tie of the lot—Real Madrid versus Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs will have to travel to the Bernabéu in the first leg where they face the daunting prospect of facing a manager in José Mourinho who, up until recently, had not lost a home game for nine years during spells with Porto, Chelsea, Internazionale and Los Merengues.
Tottenham, with their swashbuckling European style, will at least be hoping for an away goal and will need a full-strength side if they are to prevail. However, this may prove to be a step too far. Madrid, in recent times, have been vulnerable in Europe, but this is a Madrid with the discipline of José, a manager who has never lost to Harry Redknapp.
Sandro, the energetic young Brazilian midfielder will need to perform as he did against Milan, as Tom Huddlestone and Wilson Palacios are likely to be out. Younes Kaboul, who could cover in that position, faces a race to prove his fitness and so Spurs will be hoping for no fresh injury worries ahead of one of the biggest games in their history.
There is a disparity in quality between the two squads, and to beat Mourinho in Europe, at the very least, both sides need to start on an even keel with an equal smattering of talent throughout.
One hope for Tottenham is that Cristiano Ronaldo does not recover in time from his hamstring strain to face the North Londoners.
Despite their stoic display to hold Milan at home, Tottenham do have a soft underbelly and unfortunately will not be able to repeat that performance as the curtain draws in on their great adventure.
A rejuvenated Karim Benzema, once criticised for being cold and uncommitted, has been reborn. Perhaps not due to his inclusion in the current Madrid side, but perhaps due to his newfound status as spearhead of an ever-improving France national team.
Benzema, along with the likes of Mesut Ozil—who has adapted brilliantly well in his first season in Spain—and the deep-lying Xabi Alonso, could combine to form a devastating triumvirate of attacking potency against this aforementioned weak Tottenham underbelly.
It does not seem as though Spurs will have enough to cope with this, and if Madrid take a first leg lead to White Hart Lane, then we all know what “The Special One” is capable of.
It is the calculated mathematician versus the romantic—two possible England managers of the future, and whatever the outcome, Tottenham must be applauded for their endeavours to this point.
Prediction: 3-2, Madrid on aggregate.