After delightedly devouring the German ‘appetiser’ and the Cypriot ‘main course’ in September, Spurs fans will be keen to tuck into the double ‘dessert’ on offer during October and November in the Champions League. For those with a sweet tooth, a Spanish serving of Los Merengues (The Meringues) in the shape of Real Madrid will surely have every mouth positively watering with anticipation. Add a sprinkling of Bale and Modric to spice things up with two familiar ingredients, the table is set for the finest of dining indeed!
Group H couldn’t be more finely balanced between Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur. Equals in every respect heading into the game, the two sides will be tuck into both games the with ravenous hunger of securing their passage to the next phase of the competition. Wins, points, goals; there’s absolutely nothing to separate the pair leading the chase for qualification, other than the most basic alphabetical order.
Playing the Numbers Game
Making accurate football predictions is no easy task. Ahead of Stoke City against Southampton recently, expert betting tipsters checking the numbers and previewing the odds leaned towards the high possibility of a 0-0 draw between the two sides, noting that current Saints boss Mauricio Pellegrino had achieved a plethora of goalless draws with Alaves in LaLiga last season. As the same experts dissect the statistics between teams from different leagues clashing on the continental stage, they will certainly be calculating every angle in finite detail ahead of the upcoming Champions League encounters between Tottenham and Real Madrid.
Just to complicate those predictions further, Before the mid-October game at the Santiago Bernabéu in the Spanish capital, even the respective results for Spurs and Los Blancos against other opponents in Group H is exactly the same. 3-1 against Borussia Dortmund, check! 3-0 against APOEL, check!
Current form, results, positions in their respective domestic leagues; the difference is genuinely as slender as a toothpick. Fans of statistics will also be splitting hairs, poring over all the data and encountering miniscule differences. By the end of September when looking at the Premier League numbers for Tottenham, compared to those of Real Madrid in LaLiga during the season so far, there’s barely anything between the two from a statistical point of view.
When taking a look at the statistics at whoscored.com for Tottenham, then doing exactly the same to look at the numbers for Real Madrid, the parity between the two teams until the end of September was remarkably even. Just 0.1 difference in goals per game; 0.1% difference in average possession; less than 4% difference in passing average; even dribbles per game numbers are staggeringly close.
The two encounters have the real prospect of being decided by the slightest of details, but as we all know, there’s a great deal more to a game of football than just the statistics. On the day and when the referee blows his whistle for the action to begin, so many factors can come into play and make the ultimate difference.
13 – Harry Kane now has 13 goals for club & country in September 2017; his best ever goal tally in a single month of his career. Unstoppable pic.twitter.com/Bt0mrkDJjP
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 30, 2017
Should Old Acquaintances be forgot…
Don’t worry, we’re not going to break into a rendition of Auld Lang Syne by famous Scots poet, Robert Burns, but there are certainly old acquaintances within the ranks of Real Madrid that can never be forgotten by Spurs fans: Luca Modric and Gareth Bale.
Should either or both feature in the two encounters, nobody will blame sentimental Spurs fans from pondering what might have been, had two such fantastic players remained at the club. Such thoughts will always pass through the minds of Tottenham supporters, especially over the last couple of years with the team riding higher in the Premier League, edging ever closer to the prospect of winning the title.
Whether dwelling in the sweet memories of watching Modric and Bale strut their stuff at White Hart Lane, or still bitter about their inevitable departure once the Madrid giants came knocking at the door, their inclusion will certainly add extra flavour and passion to these Champions League duals.
Many fans questioned the apparent lack of loyalty from Modric when Chelsea kept on pushing for his signature, as the Croatian claimed he had a verbal agreement in place with chairman, Daniel Levy. Tottenham managed to resist their persistence, but ultimately could do little once Real Madrid entered the fray.
Since then his creativity and vision has been an integral part of their success both domestic and European. Now 32 and although his playing time is shared a little more as Zidane rotates his squad, the impact he can make with a single precision pass to change a game, can never be understated.
It was during his time at Tottenham that Bale genuinely became a world-class player. Always keen to learn and improve, adapting well positionally, developing and honing his talents as a powerful marauder down the left flank. No surprise that Real Madrid were ready to splash out on a world record transfer fee for the Welsh international, at the time.
Facing a Spanish press inquisition throughout a first season plagued by injuries, Bale has gone on to provide an exceptional response to the critics with the quality of his contribution, especially forming a pivotal part of the ‘BBC’ (Bale, Benzema, Cristiano) attacking trident. Last season the injury niggles returned, but he still played a major part in helping Real Madrid secure yet more silverware.
When you strike the ball on the volley perfectly.
— Real Madrid C.F.🇬🇧 (@realmadriden) September 26, 2017
Can Spurs Beat Real Madrid?
There’s absolutely no doubting that over the last couple of seasons, Real Madrid have proven they are the most powerful Spain, Europe, and the world. Amidst a marked change in transfer policy by club president, Florentino Perez, rather than focus on the most expensive ready-made stars in the transfer market, their ranks have been strengthened by hugely talented younger prospects.
Such a conscientious change in policy would suggest that Real Madrid are building a lasting legacy, and one that could easily dominate for years to come. However, even with no signs of any weakness in their Champions League encounters thus far, on the home front in LaLiga, results have been far from impressive.
Injury problems and suspensions haven’t helped their cause, but given the strength and depth available in their squad, fans are entirely unforgiving of any result in LaLiga that doesn’t come with three points attached; especially with arch-rivals Barcelona winning all seven of their opening games of the season, and with the added baggage of a much-criticised summer in the transfer market.
Wastefulness in front of goal and defensive lapses have seen Real Madrid drop important points at home, early in the battle for LaLiga and in games they were expected to win. They dominated against Valencia, but drew 2-2. That was followed by a frustrating draw against newly promoted Levante, which finished in a 1-1 draw. Real Betis then snatched three points at the Bernabeu with an injury time winner, as Los Blancos did everything but put the ball in the back of the net.
Recently, the Bernabeu hasn’t felt like the impregnable fortress it has seemed for the last few seasons, meaning that if Tottenham can stay solid defensively, there’s every chance that they too could nick a positive result in the Spanish capital. But make no mistake, Pochettino’s men will have to be at their absolute best, defending and attacking as a tightly cohesive unit.
The worst case scenario is that even if Spurs were to lose both games against Real Madrid, they could still qualify relatively comfortably from Group H, providing they repeat their performances against APOEL and Borussia Dortmund. However, there has arguably never been a better time to face the Spanish giants in front of their infamously demanding fans, given their questionable home form so far.
A positive result away would make for a sensational atmosphere at Wembley in the second encounter, and Pochettino’s team would be filled with even more confidence. If Harry Kane can continue his scoring form against such an opponent, even better!
If you want to be considered amongst the best, you have to beat the best. That’s never truer than when faced with the prospect of taking on Real Madrid. But with enough confidence, determination, and a little luck, of course, there’s every chance that Tottenham can serve up two unforgettable and magical nights, on the biggest stage of the European game. The taste of such a sweet dish would be delightful!