Tottenham Centre-Backs Will Be Key Against Barcelona
Tottenham need to match Inter Milan’s result against PSV in their final match against Barcelona. It is as straight-forward as that, on paper. However, on the pitch, it is going to be a huge occasion, with Spurs playing one of the best teams in the world. Barcelona will host at Camp Nou on Wednesday at 8pm. In their last encounter, the Spanish giants won 4-2.
Injuries and Rotation
Tottenham are bearing the main brunt in terms of selections. Mauricio Pochettino will need to decide who to field in the right-back berth, with both Serge Aurier and Kieran Trippier carrying injuries. Kyle Walker-Peters is the most obvious, natural replacement. It is puzzling as to why Pochettino has left him out since his debut against Newcastle in 2017. Here, he may get a chance to prove himself once more.
Meanwhile, Erik Lamela has made a return to training and is available for selection. He has made another step up in form this season. In many ways he is almost a new signing, helping to score and create goals. His expertise, but moreover, his tenacity will be vital in helping to break down a tough Barcelona team.
Ernesto Valverde is going to rotate his team against Spurs since they are already through to the next stage. He already rules out Luis Suarez from the squad due to a knee problem. Meanwhile, he has cast doubt over whether Lionel Messi will play two matches within a week.
It is a momentous match. Spurs have to be at their best to have a chance at progressing in the Champions League. Nevertheless, they need to stay calm. Inter Milan could still trip up against PSV. Even if they don’t, the team has the quality to win against a weakened Barcelona side. There is a great deal of pressure to get the result in this match, but thinking about that is only bound to result in errors. And, this reveals a key issue in some of Spurs’ matches this season. Sometimes there has been complacency in games where the team have led, like when they conceded late on against Southampton. Equally, they made errors in their shameful defeat to Arsenal.
Building on this, the key players for Spurs will be their centre-backs. Most likely, Pochettino will field Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld. They started in the last Premier League match and kept a clean sheet against Leicester City. The Belgians have great experience as individuals but also playing together. Indeed, this pair will be the foundation on which the team can build their momentum to attack. As fantastic defenders, they will have to deal with threats from some of the greatest players in the world. However, their experience should allow them to operate in a calm and collected manner. This coolness can permeate through the team, as they play out from the back and make their runs from deep.
Barcelona centre-back Clément Lenglet took to the press to emphasise the importance of the upcoming tie. “This game is still an important one for us because it is a Champions League game and you don’t play many of them in a year,” he said to Marca. He goes on to talk about his team’s recent form. “We aren’t happy about conceding goals, though, and that’s a very important issue for us because we want to win things.” He adds. “In recent games, we have suffered a little, but it is difficult to complete a full 90 minutes without having tough moments.”
Clearly, Barcelona are not untouchable, and they have their flaws. Spurs just need to find their way through these chinks in their armour, to grab the result they need to progress.