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Spurs face tough European test

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Phil McNulty | 18:14 UK time, Thursday, 26 August 2010

Peter Crouch was not even trying to be careful what he wished for as he basked in the glory of Tottenham's qualification for the serious business of the Champions League group stage.

"We want Real Madrid and Inter. You don't know how good you are until you play against the best," announced Spurs' hat-trick hero after Harry Redknapp's side eased fears they might squander a potential £30m jackpot by easing past Young Boys of Berne.

Now Crouch and Spurs will get the chance to find out as the draw in Monaco threw them up against holders Inter Milan, albeit in a different guise under the leadership of former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez as opposed to Jose Mourinho.

Werder Bremen and FC Twente complete a tough reintroduction to Europe's elite group for Spurs in a draw laced with cautious optimism for all of the Premier League's representatives.

mourinho_getty595.jpgReal Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has won the Champions League twice - photo: Getty

Mourinho, inevitably, will be at the heart of the most appetising of the Champions League groups, with his new Real Madrid charges up against AC Milan and Ajax - not to forget Auxerre.

Real, AC Milan and Ajax have written some of the greatest stories in the tournament's history, winning it on 20 occasions between them - this is the "Group Of Glamour" not the "Group Of Death".

With Wembley as the final destination for this season's Champions League, there may even be an extra incentive, if it were needed, for the English quartet to make up for the disappointment of last season, when there was no presence in the last four.

And while Spurs face a hazardous, but not insurmountable group, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal will feel confident about their hopes of making it into the knockout phase.

There will be a parochial interest of sorts in another - let's get the cliche out of the way - "Battle Of Britain" meeting between Manchester United and Rangers, reuniting those two great old friends Sir Alex Ferguson and Walter Smith.

But even under their experienced and shrewd manager, it is hard to see Rangers making a serious dent in the reputation of their English rivals.

As the club that broke the top four mould last season by removing Liverpool from what had become an established group since Everton's incursion in 2005, much interest centred on how Spurs would fare in the draw.

The simple verdict will be - could have been better, but could have been worse.

Inter, with Benitez keen to repair any lingering damage to his reputation in the tournament he treasures above all others after his departure from Liverpool, will be their sternest examination. Spurs, however, will not shrink from the challenge.

The Italian champions' pedigree was on display for all to see at the draw in Monaco as they made a clean sweep of the individual honours for last season's tournament. Julio Cesar was named goalkeeper of the year, Maicon defender of the year, Wesley Sneijder midfielder of the year and Diego Milito striker of the year.

milito_getty595.jpgInter striker Diego Milito scored twice in Inter's Champions League final win over Bayern Munich - photo: Getty

And what are the chances of Redknapp taking advantage of Mourinho's obvious and long-standing antipathy towards his successor Benitez by seeking out a few secrets that could unseat Inter?

Werder Bremen finished third in the Bundesliga last season and recently sold World Cup star and inspirational midfield man Mesut Ozil to Real Madrid, while FC Twente enter the group phase still armed with the confidence of their Eredivisie win last season, even though the architect of the triumph, former England coach Steve McClaren, has departed for Wolfsburg to be replaced by the Belgian Michel Preud'homme.

Spurs must guard against the sort of frailty that saw them dice with elimination against Young Boys, but Redknapp will hope that will have provided the stark warning of what is required at this level.

And there is a creative streak throughout this Spurs side that can trouble any opponents - so while this group fulfils Crouch's criteria of testing their pedigree to the full, it is still a section they can still have hopes of navigating their way through.

United, Chelsea and Arsenal will have reacted to their draw with a measure of pleasure and serious aspirations of qualification for the latter stages.

United will be wary of Valencia, but stripped of David Silva, now at Manchester City and with the brilliant David Villa at Barcelona, they will not present the formidable offensive force they have been in the past.

Rangers will raise their game against English opposition as ever, but with apologies to those north of the border United will surely have too much class for them. Turkish champions Bursaspor will present the sort of passionate and gifted challenge this country always provides, but this is a group that holds no terrors for Ferguson.

The question for United, as it was last season, is whether they have the ability to negotiate their way past the higher quality opponents they will face in the later stages. This was the problem last season - and I fear it will be again this time, especially in defence - but United are written off at your peril.

Rangers, even apart from United, have a tough fight on their hands, but manager Smith has been through these campaigns before in his long career and will relish the task facing him and his team.

smith_getty595.jpgRangers boss Walter Smith was briefly assistant manager at Man Utd in 2004 - photo: Getty

Chelsea are again in pursuit of the missing trophy in their collection, the honour that sometimes seems destined to always elude them. Whether it is a "ghost goal" against Liverpool, penalty woes against Manchester United, injustices of officialdom against Barcelona or being outmanouevred by their former coach Mourinho with Inter last season, Chelsea have not cracked the Champions League.

So this seasoned collection of players goes to the well once more - and with a group that should see them ease through this stage.

Didier Deschamps will return to Stamford Bridge with Marseille after taking the club to their first French Ligue 1 triumph in 18 years, while Chelsea's Didier Drogba also faces his former team.

A talented squad, a gifted manager and a passionate home support make them a test for anyone, but Chelsea will hope to make their experience and quality count, as it should, against Spartak Moscow - complete with new signing from Celtic Aiden McGeady - and Slovakian champions Zilina.

Is this the year Chelsea finally lay their hands on the biggest trophy in European club football? They will, in my opinion, reach the latter stages again but the same old foes, especially in the shape of Mourinho at Real and Barcelona, lie in wait and threaten disappointment again.

Arsenal must compete with the logistical problems of the lengthy trip to the Ukraine to play Shakhtar Donetsk and a reunion with former striker Eduardo. He will undoubtedly be afforded a warm reception on his return to the Emirates, having seen his burgeoning Arsenal career curtailed by the serious leg injury sustained in a tackle with Martin Taylor at Birmingham City.

Braga have given notice of their threat by disposing of Celtic as well as Sevilla in the Champions League qualifying rounds, but once more, a group that also contains Partizan Belgrade should provide Arsene Wenger's side with a route into the knockout games.

Arsenal and Wenger's philosophy on the beautiful game was put into sharp relief as they lost heavily in Barcelona last season. And who can forget Barca's opening 20 minutes at the Emirates - quite possibly the best passage of play I have witnessed in the flesh - in that quarter-final first-leg?

Wenger will hope Arsenal will learn from those harsh lessons, but they will be regarded as underdogs should they reach the latter stages.

VERDICT:

ARSENAL, CHELSEA, MANCHESTER UNITED - going through

SPURS - tough group but a chance of progress

RANGERS - outsiders but the wily Smith may spring a surprise

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Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Spurs showed last season that on their day they can be a match for and beat anyone, however unless Harry creates further depth to the squad then the desire to achieve in the Champions League may will cause them to struggle to finish in the top 4 again.
    With Manchester City looking strong, my fear as a Spurs fan is that this will be a flash in the pan Champions League appearance, but the year does end in 1 next year at Wembley?!?

  • Comment number 2.

    I predict a final between Arsenal & r.madrid ! & I think spurs will go till the Ro16

  • Comment number 3.

    Great for spurs to pit themselves against the mighty inter.

    I think its going to be spurs and bremen fighting it out for second spot and with their star player ozil moving to real they must have good chance. I think twente will struggle, loosing McLaren who has been their most succesful coach ever and their main striker to Ajax I think the will struggle compared to last season.

    Even if spurs dont qualify it will be great just to see them playing amongst europes elite, and u never know we might see a surprise against inter at home. Im sure harry can coax a few hints out of Jose who would be more than happy to see rafa with a red face.

  • Comment number 4.

    Only 5 teams should harbour any realistic hopes of winning this season's Champions League- Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Chelsea and Manchester United.

  • Comment number 5.

    Another round of boring qualifying matches. Can we please straight away have the last 16 knockout stage.

    The only match worth a watch in the group stage is - AC MILAN vs Real Madrid. Same as last year. Hope it has the excitement of last year's fixture.

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    Congratulations to Spurs, you've done a great job; well deserved. Amazing match on Wednesday. I think you'll do well in the Champions League.

    From a United fan.

  • Comment number 8.

    Amazing to be in the competition, I can't wait for our opening match against Werder Bremen, could be the key game as well in the group for us! Win that one away, and dominate our home games and we could progress. COME ON SPURS!!

  • Comment number 9.

    Good article as per usual - though I would question how much notice Braga served of their abilities by beating Celtic! Given that Braga didn't hit double figures against this current Celtic side, I think the scoreline shows their limitations rather than strengths!

  • Comment number 10.

    Phil why does your pieces always seem to be overdecorated with links? come on...we arent elephants but at the same time we arent empty heads u know..not everything needs a link..or do u get paid for these links?? mmm..i wonder...


    gotta agree with Jayhova: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester United start as faves with inter and arsenal somewhere below them...very wary about benitez at inter..some are almost giving him the title over there in italy already but he's still to convince me....

    but as a gooner i hope the knockout stages has something like barca v chelsea and madrid v man utd. should make it safer for arsene n his boys...at the moment only chelsea and madrid (provided mourinho works his magic) seem like the teams who can take it to barca but the key phrase there is at the moment..the season is young..

    champs lge can be a bit funny...some teams can find an extra something while some can make mistakes u dont expect them to (ask man u)...
    that said it would be nice to see spurs go a good distance just so that they will know wat they gonna miss out on next season when they dont make the top 4!

  • Comment number 11.

    I expect Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea to go through to Last 16. But I predict Spurs and Rangers will be knocked out the group stage. Spurs got the toughest group of the five British clubs. Out of the three England clubs left, I expect Manchester United to go furthest in the Champions League. Despite the Final being at Wembley this season, I expect the London clubs to struggle to win it, Manchester United have that extra experience.

    I expect Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United or Inter Milan to win the Champions League this season!

  • Comment number 12.

    To anandmann...I've heard your complaints about the so-called "boring" group phase before from other posters, and to an extent history supports your theory, but remember last year when Liverpool failed to make it through. Maybe the gap is closing, and the Premier League had no representatives in the last four.

    Let's wait and see. I live in hope for some unpredictable results.

  • Comment number 13.

    c'mon, spurs got turned over by Young boys, now you think you can beat inter & Bremen? & If you think that McLaren was the reason Twente were so good then how did they get to the CL before he was there? Tottenham will be lucky to avoid last place.

  • Comment number 14.

    Phil, to be honest and apart from the Group G Real Madrid v AC Milan clash, I don't think there is anything much for the CL 'regulars' to get too excited about in any of these group stage fixtures. Most of the 'usual suspects' will be there, or thereabouts come the knock-out stages.
    Obviously for newcomers to CL like Spurs, the Inter tie will get the blood pounding for those around White Hart Lane. Still it is Champions League football and its where everyone wants to be -bring it on!

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 16.

    EPL might be the richest and the most watched league in the world but the best players in the world ply their trade in La Liga. With that said, Barcelona all the way!!!

  • Comment number 17.

    when people talk about favourites i think a lot of people write off the likes of bayern, arsenal and lyon. teams that are always their till the last couple of hurdles. i think one of the 3 mentioned will win this year unless the matching of real madrid & jose are as good as they sound on paper. we'll have to see, really looking foward to this term though.

  • Comment number 18.

    to M1gg1ns: Spurs didnt get "turned over" by Young Boys, they got a great start on a plastic pitch and then we beat them 6-0 over the final 2 hours of the tie.

    I was actually hoping to land in the same group as Barcelona. Not only is the second seed very beatable but that would have been a glorious night at WHL. As it is, I am quite happy to be up against the European champions and two other teams that have just lost their best players and/or coaches. Spurs can get through this group if we get the rub of the green, and Harry is nothing if not a lucky manager.

    To Anandmann: I assume your team isnt in the draw then. I personally plan to enjoy the next few months as long as Spurs are still alive in the competitition, because with Manchester Cities spending and the usual suspects we may not be back for a while.

  • Comment number 19.

    Spurs will get absolutely ruined in this group, and I mean ruined. No class, no experience, over-expectant fans and a tactically weak manager. Inter will teach them a lesson in football, home and away, Bremen are Spurs class but with experience, and Twente are a very good team, albeit without the big names. Nice little money earner it may be, but the Champions League for Spurs will expose them for what they truly are, an average club.

    And I like Spurs, I really do, they play football the right way.

  • Comment number 20.

    I disagree with post 11 that Spurs got the hardest group of the British teams. Surely that's Rangers, taking into account the fact that they're weaker than any of the English sides.

    Spurs were always going to get a hard draw really seeing as all the teams in pot 1 are probably better than them, plus the pot 2 teams are of similar quality.

    Assuming that Inter will win the group (which might not be clear cut with a change of manager), it looks likely that it will be a battle between Spurs and Werder Bremen for 2nd place. Twente can't be discounted, but with McLaren and a few of their key players leaving, they might struggle.

    Whatever happens, it will be a great experience for Spurs and it should help them grow as a team.

  • Comment number 21.

    There are one or two interesting groups (Spurs and Real Madrid), but in general the only way that the group stages can be really exciting is when we remove seeding, and allow the draw to pair teams from the same country.

    Yes, it might make for some weak groups, and has the potential to eliminate the TV interest for one of the big leagues, but until that happens, the group stage will remain a largely boring formality.

  • Comment number 22.

    I think Benetez will be shown up for what he is. Spurs will qualify. Beware of Marseille they are no pushovers at all. United and the other English teams to qualify, seeing Celtic in action tonight really drives home how far Scottish football has fallen in the last 5 to 8 years.

  • Comment number 23.

    Good evaluation Phil. With the current squad, I am sure that Spurs wont qualify and will have to be content with Europa League action (to be honest they deserve that only). As for the other 3, it should be an easy passage through...

  • Comment number 24.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 25.

    I agree with a lot of the comments above. Too many groups. Will probably do well for the smaller teams but there is potential for reduction of interest.

  • Comment number 26.

    Man Utd will win the group but Rangers v Valencia will be the big game, though i would be happy with 3rd!!

  • Comment number 27.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 28.

    Are we still going on about that bloomin 'ghost goal'?

  • Comment number 29.

    All these people writing off Spurs doesn't bother me one bit. We beat Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool at home last year, as well as City home and away. On our day we can mix it with the best and as an unknown in the competition I quite fancy our chances of progressing. We have some excellent players who would get into most teams in the Premiership. As I said before, bring on Werder Bremen, as that game will be key to our progression in the group.

  • Comment number 30.

    Post 9 - Space Invader says only beating Celtic by 3 Goals shows their Limitations?? What a stupid remark.

    So what does scoring 4 goals at Seville say about their Limitions a Top 3 team in the best League in the World Eh!!

  • Comment number 31.

    It's great that the final is going to be at Wembley, and a chance to repair the damage that the FA has inflicted on the reputation of English gardeners. I'm excited already.

    But just in case...
    ...I calculate that the area of the pitch is about 77,744 square-feet.
    So if 90,000 spectators all bring a square-foot of turf each, then they will have enough to make a spare pitch. The FA (and John Terry?) should then be able to sleep easily at night.

  • Comment number 32.

    As a Liverpool fan I can honestly say that I can't wait to see Inter perform. Rafa will always have a place in the Liverpool hall of fame but can his style transform Inter from great to superb, only time will tell. On a side note I for one fancy spurs to upset a few critics, Harry has got himself a good squad at the lane.

  • Comment number 33.

    Champions League Winner = Barcelona
    Finalist = Chelsea
    Semi Finalist = Arsenal and Real Madrid
    Quarters for Manu and group stage for Spurs.

  • Comment number 34.

    CousinKev

    So harry hasnt taken a club from bottom to champs league 2 years?

    Nor has he beat man u in an FA cup final with an infancied team.

    Please explain what success is outside the monopoly of top european clubs?

    And perhaps you keep your head in the sand but Mourinho has already taken a couple of swipes at benitez since taking over real.

    Mourinho is the modern day manager mercenary, he has no love for inter, he wasnt going to stay there even if the madrid job come up. He did not like it in Italy and publicly critisced the league when he was at Inter.

    He wont stay at madrid for too long either, he just wants to stick one at Barca as there is no love between those two before hopping back to the prem league.

  • Comment number 35.

    Jayhova

    Chuck Bayern into the mix as well. They reached last years final and with a maturing number of quality germans to add to their foreign contingent its likely they will do well again.

    The champs league is much more competitive than any big european league.

    Spain have only two teams that will win la liga, the rest will be miles behind.

    Inter are far ahead of AC, Juve and Roma. unless rafa gets control outside of just coaching matters they are nailed on.

    Bayern are again certs for the bundesliga.

    In the prem only chelsea and man u are realistic to win the league.

    In the champs league you have a number of teams outside of that elite group who could still spring a surprise, might not win it but could knock a big team out and reach a semi final.

    Same cant be said for the domestic leagues, you wont see teams like sampdoria coming runners up in seria a. Or valencia in la liga or even spurs in the prem league

  • Comment number 36.

    United, Arsenal and Chelsea should make it through the stages with no real problems I reckon.

    Tottenham will need WHL to be a fortress, three wins there (or 2 wins and a draw against Inter) should see them only needing a couple of points in the 3 away games. Good home form is the only reason why Celtic were able to get into the knockout stages a few years ago.

    Rangers will struggle, the quality of scottish football is going through a real slump atm and they'll face a struggle to make the Europa League spot I reckon.

  • Comment number 37.

    i think spurs have a great chance of qualifying. inter are good yes, but they will drop points, (rarely does anyone win ALL 6 group games) and the other 3 teams, well they must all fancy their chances against each other. bremen and spurs are of similar quality, and although i must admit to not knowing much about fc twente, they are dutch champions and here on merit, and must feel they can steal points from the others. as for the other english clubs, they should all win their groups, with chelsea having perhaps the hardest group of the remaining 3 english sides.

    well done phil for not being as silly as sky by saying 'real madrid, ac milan, ajax, and auxerre is the group of death'. it really isnt. real and ac will progress

  • Comment number 38.

    21. At 10:30pm on 26 Aug 2010, RidRed wrote:

    There are one or two interesting groups (Spurs and Real Madrid), but in general the only way that the group stages can be really exciting is when we remove seeding, and allow the draw to pair teams from the same country.

    Yes, it might make for some weak groups, and has the potential to eliminate the TV interest for one of the big leagues, but until that happens, the group stage will remain a largely boring formality.


    You've totally missed the whole point of the Champions League namely ensuring that the big teams in Europe get the largest slice of appearance and TV money that they can.

    If you want to make it a proper competition let's go back to the days when it was the European Cup when it was for the domestic league winners only.

  • Comment number 39.

    VERDICT:

    ARSENAL, CHELSEA, MANCHESTER UNITED - going through

    SPURS - tough group but a chance of progress

    RANGERS - outsiders but the wily Smith may spring a surprise


    Hmmm, that is quite an insight there. Maybe journos should be sacked if they get it wrong, like they recently do just to jump on the other side of the argument.

    I uesed to like this blog but it is a now just a lip service to the top english clubs. Instead of telling us what you think and getting it wrong how about doing a piece of real journalism and give us something new.

  • Comment number 40.

    4. At 9:47pm on 26 Aug 2010, Jayhova wrote:
    Only 5 teams should harbour any realistic hopes of winning this season's Champions League- Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Chelsea and Manchester United.

    So you don't think it's feasible that Bayern Munich, Real Madrid or Rangers can win it?

  • Comment number 41.

    Braga did put out Sevilla Spaced Invader, Sellic may be rubbish but Sevilla are not. Best Rangers can hope for is Uefa football but they will have to improve their home form to get it. Hopefully man utd will be home and dry by the time they come to ibrox and give us a point. On paper Buraspor are one of the weakest teams in the competition but goin to turkey s never a skoosh. Valencia still have some class players and should be able to give man u a run for it never mind fearing Rangers. i think third should be achievable which is pretty much all we could hope for.

    P.S Spurs will have to get something in bremen to go through cos that is a horrible group for you first crack at champs league.

    P.P.S Personally i think Group B is by far the most interesting its wide wide open

  • Comment number 42.

    A great article and a fair insight into each CL group. Also, some interesting comments from knowledgeable fans. As well as the usual mix of childish dribble from fans who either don't have any team in the CL groups, or those who purely and simply have a narrow tunnel vision in everything they do in their lives. These are the 'poor' fans who don't have respect or love for football, unless their team is involved.

    I think in my view, to say that the CL is only about a handful of clubs (i.e. Man Utd, Chelsea, Barca, Real Madrid and the Milan clubs) is a very dim and extremely stupid point of view. What makes the CL interesting is the element of surprise and the odd unexpected successes that flourish the CL every season. Who can forget that great side of O Lyon which scored freely and gave us some great matches to watch and enjoy.

    How about FC Porto? how many of these fans of think CL is only about five teams can remember that great side of FC Porto (winners in 87,2004)??

    What about Monaco in 2004 runners up and what a team??

    Therefore I can see a lot of surprises this year, not least from the sides that qualified from the qualifying stages (e.g. Tottenham, Ajax) as well sides in the German league.

  • Comment number 43.

    I will take great joy in Harry's Spurs doing well. They have players with the quality and brains to get in to the last 8.
    But can they maintaining a top 4 league spot with Man City coming on strong and Arsenal growing up.

  • Comment number 44.

    Even though Arsenal take all the easy games with arrogance, I see them going through easily. There will be a lot of focus on Eduardo, but, he always fails when needed. That is why Arsenal sold him in the first place. Arsenal will reach the quarters, where their further progress depends on who they face.

  • Comment number 45.

    "Real, AC Milan and Ajax have written some of the greatest stories in the tournament's history, winning it on 20 occasions between them - this is the "Group Of Glamour" not the "Group Of Death"."

    Sadly Ajax are not a shadow of their former selves they have a good manager in Jol a decent keeper in Steelelenberg, a few good defenders and Suarez up front. But the rest of the squad is not good enough for CL standards and I fear they will struggle to make an impact in this group.

    Arsenal, IOU and Chelsk should negotiate the group stages easily and barring a major upset should progress without too much bother.

    Spurs are gonna have to be at their very best to beat WB, German teams are well organised and the Bundesliga is probably the most underrated league in Europe. (especially in the UK, the media seem to have very little knowledge of how strong it is) On the other hand, Spurs should beat Twenthe, they're not a very strong team.

  • Comment number 46.

    my Predictions

    Arsenal: Last 8

    Chelsea: Last 4

    Man Utd: Last 16

    Spurs: Europa League

  • Comment number 47.

    Spurs can take heart from Rafa's apparent tinkering with the Inter formation. He is adamant on a high defensive line, something Mourinho tried in the group stages last year that wasn't particularly effective. Lucio and Samuel are superb in every area except pace. Defoe and Lennon will be keen to exploit that.

  • Comment number 48.

    @ Sizzler, '......Arsenal growing up'....haha. They still have a way to go as shown by them winning 6 nil at the weekend. Still they got an easy run to the last 16, but that is as far as they will go. As for Man Utd am a fan so will always expect the best for them. I would love a final with Barca!

  • Comment number 49.

    The group stage of the Champions League is a complete waste of time. Me and my dog can predict all the results. Surely, the CL is way too big. Give us back the league for the champoins - only the champions. Who wants to see the runners up of Italy or Russia, the third placed team of Spain, or even the fourth placed team in England in a 'Champions' league competition??
    This format of the 'champions' league is even hindering the progress of some teams. Take Arsenal for example, getting to the QF or SF of the CL has become their only goal! They look forward to becomming fourth in their league so they can qualify for the CL. Had the CL only be open to Champions, Arsenal could have probably been more ambitious in their domestic football.

  • Comment number 50.

    Good news for Spurs !! At least we can play the champs and could/should quilify for the next round . More importantly its nice Harrys got faith in the squad and isn't spending millions on players . I think it will set us up for the future . who no's we've got class threw out the squad and now with Gallas and Sandro we have a defence 2nd to none ,so we could have a chance .. COME ON THE SPURS ..28/1 Spurs to win that can't be the best around , can it?

  • Comment number 51.

    Phil, I think you come n for some unfair criticism on a lot of your articles as I enjoy reading them, but in this article and your pre-Premiership article, you have hardly stuck your neck on the line with your verdict/predictions. In both of them, you have stated the obvious, that anyone who knows anything about football could predict.

    Man Utd, Arsenal & Chelsea to qualify. Spurs with a fighting chance and Rangers an outside bet. It's almost factual, not predicting. The same goes with when you said who would be fighting for the title, Champions League play offs, and relegation. I feel you should say who you think will win, get the play off spots, be relegated etc, it would lead to a far most interesting article.

    Other than that, keep up the good work.

  • Comment number 52.

    32. At 11:01pm on 26 Aug 2010, bigredfan100 wrote:
    As a Liverpool fan I can honestly say that I can't wait to see Inter perform. Rafa will always have a place in the Liverpool hall of fame but can his style transform Inter from great to superb, only time will tell. On a side note I for one fancy spurs to upset a few critics, Harry has got himself a good squad at the lane
    -------------------------------------------------------------------
    hahaha I can't believe it. You mean like he made Liverpool superb? Inter will have one really good season under Rafa, then in a about 2.5 years they will have to fire him. The bloke is tactically inept, stubborn to a fault and lacks class. Mind you I won't be surprised if there is a revolt by the players before the end of the year

  • Comment number 53.

    " Arsenal and Wenger's philosophy on the beautiful game was put into sharp relief as they lost heavily in Barcelona last season. "

    I'd like a pound for every time I've read the above ... and, yes, it's true. But what the writers all fail to mention is that with their horrendous injury problems last season Arsenal played both legs of the fixture without five, maybe six, of their first choice first XI ... including Fabregas, Arshavin, and van Persie.

    I'd like to see how Barca would shape up without Messi, Xavi and Iniesta (plus two or three others). No better than Arsenal I suggest.

    Given a break with injuries (not literally!) Arsenal will give a far better account of themselves this time round ... and those judging them on last year's Barca misfortune could well be dining out on humble pie.

  • Comment number 54.

    No disrespect to Phil but H2Holland has sort of summed it up pretty well.

  • Comment number 55.

    As much as I hate to say it, being a Liverpool fan, I think Chelsea are amongst the three strongest sides in the world now with Barca and Real. Drogba is easily as good as Ronaldo or Messi, yet for some reason doesn't quite get the same plaudits, then there are Lampard, Malouda, Anelka and plenty of others who can score goals from all over the pitch. If they sign maybe one more defender and can keep Essien and Cole fit (which in my opinion was all that made the difference vs Inter) then they have an extremely strong chance of winning it. Other teams are well in there of course but I think this is possibly the strongest Chelsea side we've seen going forward at least.

  • Comment number 56.

    Interesting how nobody is talking of Bayern as a danger team, considering how strong they were last year as well as the improvement of players such as Muller...

  • Comment number 57.

    Arsenal, Man Utd and Chelsea have a fairly easy route to the last sixteen, as for Spurs people on this forum predicting this and that with such certainty are either just WUM's or idiots.

    If Spurs play their best they can easily get through their group, they may even get points off Inter, who aren't as god as Chelsea, Madrid or Barcelona even though they're the champions. On the other hand if Spurs don't perform near their best they could come bottom. The inexperienced angle is also ridiculous, Spurs have a team of internationals most of whom have played in Europe before, it's still football when they go to Germany it's not a different game they play.

    Pressure is there for every team, remember at the end of the season no one gave Spurs much chance of getting fourth because they had to play Arsenal, Chelsea and Man City but they won them all.

    The bottom line is Spurs, almost certainly aren't going to win the CL but remember the Marseilles Porto final anything can happen. If they play well they can get out of the group. The first game is away to Bremen, the pressure will be on them to win, if they don't beat us then in one foul swoop Spurs will become clear second favourites to qualify.

  • Comment number 58.

    As both a Spurs and a Bremen fan (I live in Bremen now and you cant help but love Werder if you live here!) im going to be seriously split when they play each other (although i think Spurs will get the love in the end)...

    And to be honest Bremen have not been impressive so far this year, they are too weak defensively and only just got through to the group stages thanks to an excellent solo effort in the 93rd minute (Rosenberg) to get to extra time and then another superb solo effort in extra time (Pizarro). Thats the thing with Bremen that Spurs need to watch for, they have excellent individuals and a great attack, but they are as leaky as a sieve in the back, so Spurs should have the goods in the end. Also the loss of Özil has not been a serious hinderance (in fact the €18million they got for him should be very handy), he was never consistent enough for Bremen to really make that big a difference to there chances.

    Bremen will be a tough fight but i think Spurs will have the edge...

    Oh and Phil, "injustices of officialdom against Barcelona" for Chelsea? You have to be kidding! I'd love to know what you called the sending off of Eric Abidal's when i believe it was Essien tripped over his own feet on the break with absolutely no contact from Abidal. Barca played the rest of that game (some 65minutes if my memory serves) a man down and still got through... Selective memory indeed...

  • Comment number 59.

    As both a Spurs and a Bremen fan (I live in Bremen now and you cant help but love Werder if you live here!) im going to be seriously split when they play each other (although i think Spurs will get the love in the end)...

    And to be honest Bremen have not been impressive so far this year, they are too weak defensively and only just got through to the group stages thanks to an excellent solo effort in the 93rd minute (Rosenberg) to get to extra time and then another superb solo effort in extra time (Pizarro). Thats the thing with Bremen that Spurs need to watch for, they have excellent individuals and a great attack, but they are as leaky as a sieve in the back, so Spurs should have the goods in the end. Also the loss of Özil has not been a serious hinderance (in fact the €18million they got for him should be very handy), he was never consistent enough for Bremen to really make that big a difference to there chances.

    Bremen will be a tough fight but i think Spurs will have the edge...

    Oh and Phil, "injustices of officialdom against Barcelona" for Chelsea? You have to be kidding! I'd love to know what you called the sending off of Eric Abidal's when i believe it was Essien tripped over his own feet on the break with absolutely no contact from Abidal. Barca played the rest of that game (some 65minutes if my memory serves) a man down and still got through... Selective memory indeed...

  • Comment number 60.

    Spurs fan here, being in pot 3 we were always going to get a fairly tough group but I'm not too disappointed by it. We got a decent draw for the qualifier so I wasn't expecting us to get so lucky with the group phase. But it's not terrible and at least we don't have any long away trips to Russia or Ukraine. In fact distance wise we couldn't have got it much better. All you have to do is look at Group G and see how much worse it could have been.

    I think we're at about the same level as Bremen with both of us just ahead of Twente so although we're not certainties to go through we have a good chance. It just depends whether we can take that chance. And lets not forget although it would have been good to get a slightly easier group the other teams in our group won't be looking forward to playing us and they'll be annoyed they drew one of the better teams from pot 3.

  • Comment number 61.

    This is new, it is happening and surely I am going to enjoy.I am no confident about the CL and the teams spurs are about to face but it surely is going to be interesting to watch harry's team go out there. Personally I think there is no such team as Barcelona in the world , the way they play. It is surely going to be tough but suprises comes all the way;its football...and here we go spurs its CL....they've made it.

  • Comment number 62.

    I actually see Spurs doing really well in this competition if they can show some of the steel and ability away from home that they have in the premier league more recently.

    At home I don't see them being phased by anyone and yes that includes Inter who will have their hardest away trip at WHL.

    They remind me of my club (Leeds) and our glorious year in the Champions league...good base of English players, pace, power and the ability to counter attack away from home with a fast paced home game that the european teams don't like playing against.

    Inter are obvious favourites for the group, but it wouldn't surprise me at all if Spurs run them close or even pinch top spot...

    As for the comment from someone that Spurs will get ruined....Leeds lost 4-0 away to Barca in the opening game with a weakened team and went on to knock them out of the group stages...its an unpredictable competition at times and anything can happen, but they will be competitive if nothing else so think you are off the mark with the ruined comment.

  • Comment number 63.

    All United need this year is to keep some defenders and Wayne Rooney fit and we'll better last season. I fancy us and Chelsea to win our groups and Arsenal and Spurs to qualify in second place from theirs. Sorry, but Rangers will get smashed by everyone in the group away and may get away with parking the bus at home for a couple of draws.

  • Comment number 64.

    #40 Jimmy Jazz I mentioned Real Madrid as one of the possible winners. Bayern Munich should get to the latter stages but in my opinion they were very lucky to make it to the final last year. They struggled in the group stages (needing to beat a poor Juve side in Turin to qualify on the last day) and even with robben and ribery could very easily have been thumped by Man Utd in the quarters. I don't see them beating any of the 5 teams I mentioned earlier. As for Rangers, you're having a laugh right? They won't even make it out of the groups.

  • Comment number 65.

    No pressure on Spurs at all. Everyone had virtually written us off even before we had the draw yesterday. We have been told we weren't good enough to progress through the group stage so we have nothing to prove to anyone. Look at Arsenal and Chelsea with the "easy" groups, they have the most pressure on their shoulders as they are "expected" to progress through the group stages with apparant ease.

    All I know is that I will be behind my club every step of the way. If we make it through the group stages then happy days we have surpassed media expectations,

  • Comment number 66.

    Surprised to see many people writing off United's chances above.

    I have to say at first glance I was worried for Spurs, especially as they have drawn (I think) the highest ranked team from pot 4. However I am looking forward to Rafa being shown for what he is, I wouldn't bet against Spurs winning all of their home games. The key would be how they will fair away from home. Also at first glance I was worried about United's group, but Valencia shouldn't be too much of a threat without their two big guns and Rangers really aren't as good as they used to be. Chelski and Arsenal both have nice looking groups.

    Overall I'm confident of the usual 3 making the knock out stages and hopefully Spurs will make that 4, then it will get interesting.

  • Comment number 67.

    Not the boldest verdicts Mr McNulty. The three big guns to go through and an outside chance for the other two British teams. Neville Chamberlain would approve of these predictions.

    Personally I think Spurs are most likely to disappear, they may be good going forward but they are in a hard group, and their defence has looked pretty poor so far this year; even against Young Boys in the 4-0 we saw some suicidal passing (notably from Palacios) and it's naive to think they won't get punished against the likes of Inter. As they struggle to break down better quality opposition I can see the long ball to Crouch and Bale trying to run through brick walls as games progress. Much in their group does depend on how the players react to Benitez - his knack of destroying harmony may make this one interesting.

    I think Rangers are also really going to struggle. Even against a weakened Valencia it may be tough, home form will be key for them. I fancy them to go as well.

    I think the big three will go through, but not the other two.

  • Comment number 68.

    'Look at Arsenal and Chelsea with the "easy" groups, they have the most pressure on their shoulders as they are "expected" to progress through the group stages with apparant ease.'

    They're expected to do so because they usually do get through the group stages.

  • Comment number 69.

    I fancy Harry's teams as cup teams. If Spurs manage to go through to the next stage, they could by sheer cup fever get to the semis.

  • Comment number 70.

    People are seriously over estimating the quality of the Spurs group and underestimating Spurs. If you look at the teams, THFC have had the most stable off season.

    Inter are clear favourites, but how will they adapt to life under Benetiz especially as its clear he wants to bring in his own players.

    With Twente, it could be the same story as AZ who faltered after Van Gaal left.

    As for Werder, they've lost Ozul having lost Diego the previous season, and got spanked at Hoffenheim on opening day.

    Once you're in the last 16 anything can happen. Don't forget not a single Premiership team made the semi-finals last year. And don't under-estimate Bayern as a contender.

  • Comment number 71.

    I'm not sure if it's the dip in temperature or the dark evenings encroaching again but something has turned this blog into a collection of mad ramblings. Anyone thinking that the old format of European Cup will return is daft. It has become a much bigger and better competition for its current format.

    Who would really turn up and tune in to watch Werder Bremen V Bursaspor final in the old format? Which could happen easily from a random draw.

    The real issue is when are we finally going to get a fully charged European League?

    As pointed out by a few comments here, there is now a pattern to all European top leagues non worse than Barca and Real Madrids joke of a league competition each year now. The top teams in European competition are the same ones from before the current format, so that rules out the idea that continual passage into group stages and CL prize money fuels a monopoly by top european clubs - they always had this monopoly.

    Predictions on all comments here are bordering ludicrous too. Spurs have a great chance in this competition this year and comments suggesting that they are too weak for it must be from a combination of bitter liverpool and man city fans !

    Last year at a similar time we had numerous equally inaccurate predictions as this blog has received. Any of you experts that have posted here predict Bayern doing as well as they did? How many of you also predicted that Barcelona would walk away with it?

    I love this competition and am continuously waiting for UEFA to push the European league onto us quicker than they are because it is inevitable regardless of anyones protests to how it could be a bad idea for football. Money is here to rule our game for ever now so anyone uncomfortable with that may become a fan of archery or table tennis or some other minority sport!

  • Comment number 72.

    seeing the defence at Fulham the other day, and how Hernandez was off the pace, and Roo is not on form, I wouldn't be surprised if United go out early either.

  • Comment number 73.

    To Gavelaa...you seem pretty certain Spurs will be "ruined" in this group. What makes you so certain? I'm not. Spurs will have to tighten up at the back sure, but they have got real attacking potency and I am sure there will be some great nights at White Hart Lane.

    On a wider note, I am very optimistic at least three (maybe four if Spurs can back up what I've just said) will go through to the knockout stage - but I am uncertain whether an English team will win it this year.

    I fear Arsenal will be found out by opposition of greater quality, as they were against Barcelona last year and Manchester United the year before, and I worry about Manchester United at the back. I just feel they are missing something right at that top level in Europe these days.

    As for Chelsea, that strong squad is still in place - could this be their year?

    If I was placing a bet today, I would go with Barcelona, although Mr Mourinho's reshaped Real Madrid might be worth considering.

    Am I right to be cautiously optimistic about Spurs reaching the knockout phase? Am I wrong to exercise a measure of pessimism about whether a Premier League club will win the Champions League this year?

    Let me know your thoughts as ever - the Champions League debate can be held here.

  • Comment number 74.

    Watch out for Marseille, they will be the suprise package of the CL this year.

    A solid goalkepper in Mandana. Taiwo is en energetic left back for this side. Heinze, M'Bia and Lucho will offer a competetive element to their game, whereas players such as Loic Remy, Gingac and Valbuena are very capable going forward.

    Best of all they have the old Hedgehog Deschamps at the helm who somehow got Monaco to a CL final

  • Comment number 75.

    I'm really surprised, and quite glad, that most people are writing Spurs off already. We're the only team in our group that has managed to keep both their manager and star player during the summer. And it's the same team spirit that gained the fourth spot by playing Man City off the pitch at the end of last season, that managed to beat both Arsenal and Chelsea around the same time, that managed to win 6-0 in the last two hours of the Young Boys game (and Young Boys only scored those initial three goals through a combination of the plastic pitch, luck and the occasion getting to Spurs).

    I don't rate Rafa and I think the Italians could mess this up this season. Bremen have sold Ozil. Twente have lost McClaren..... why is everyone on such a downer with Spurs when we've still got the same thing that got us to this position..... TEAM SPIRIT!!!!!

    No one gave us a chance of 4th spot last summer. Harry had just save us from relegation, Liverpool were looking strong on paper, Villa were on the up, Man City spending fortunes; but we did it. But, as I said, I'm quite glad people are writing us off as it will hopefully take a lot of the pressure off the team.

    Spurs for knockout stages and a Top Four spot come May. And I've put my money where my mouth is.

  • Comment number 76.

    Spurs have a tough draw. Good on them as they can play without a care. They have the wherewithal to progress if they play their game. If one went by Benetez's predilections, he is keener on European forays; but will Inter respond to him the same as they did to JM.

    Man U have an easier group.

  • Comment number 77.

    If Arsenal avoid injuries then I think they have as good a chance as anybody in the CL this year. Having said that, it's Blacburn away tomorrow so no doubt there'll be a fifth leg break in as many years.

  • Comment number 78.

    32. At 11:01pm on 26 Aug 2010, bigredfan100 wrote:

    As a Liverpool fan I can honestly say that I can't wait to see Inter perform. Rafa will always have a place in the Liverpool hall of fame but can his style transform Inter from great to superb, only time will tell. On a side note I for one fancy spurs to upset a few critics, Harry has got himself a good squad at the lane.
    ________________________________________

    'Style'.... 'Great to Superb'.... Ahahahahah :-D

  • Comment number 79.

    As ever, the same people who are nostalgic for the days of European football for champions and different winners on a consistent basis write off Rangers as a joke team. Ok- we are not a great squad anymore, and will probably be lucky to drop to the Europa League. But for goodness sake give us the respect you are giving Spurs by granting us more than one or two lines. We have history in European football, and our football may no longer be great, but our Club certainly is. If any of you are Leeds/Forrest fans try and remember what it was like in the glory days- wouldn't you love too have that chance in Europe again? And just how angry would you be if, despite a massive drop in quality, money, and international respect you STILL consistently qualified for Europe, and were then passed off as nothing but Walter Smiths last hurrah.

  • Comment number 80.

    @ # 20 - Joe Strummer

    I agree - Rangers today are a severely depleted outfit, and therefore they have the hardest task of any of British clubs. It's such a pity that the Man Utd/Rangers encounters wont be the spectacle they perhaps would have been, say, 10yrs ago - undoubtedly Rangers will be a proud outfit as always, but pride only goes so far. Rangers v Valencia will be a big tie though - Valencia are not the team of old either, but I still fancy them for 2nd ( although Bursaspor will be a serious proposition.. toss of a coin.)

    And whilst it may be slightly off-topic, I am completely unconvinced by some claims elsewhere that the 'Battle of Britain' (ahem...) will present any particular security issues - the last time both clubs met, the atmosphere was fantastic, and will be again despite a more evident gulf between the sides.

  • Comment number 81.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 82.

    It’s a strange set of draws. A clear ‘Glamour’ group, Barca’s group is frankly a joke, Arsenal got lucky again (but once again strapped with a massive away trek opponent) and Spurs draw is challenging but entirely possible.

    I agree that Arsenal could be found out – but I genuinely feel more confident this year than the last few having played some big teams and got a beating, there really isn’t much to fear anymore. We were exposed against Chelsea (and their clinical goals/attempts ratio), self destructed at OT and Emirates against United and against Barca we showed several excellent glimpses of what we can do and were missing a good number of important players in spite of that– not that their presence would have meant we had equal odds of getting through as Barca – but it did make a difference! My optimism will be significantly short-lived if we do not secure another ‘keeper however… Although I think getting a new set of CBs and removing the unpredictability of Gallas will help us more than many realise…

    Spurs could well go through. Ajax vs. Spurs is very evenly balanced, Inter will likely have too much for them but you never know with Rafa, but I can see Spurs getting fourth place – but I do wish some of their fans would ease up a little on the almost-in-your-face-daily joy of making the CL! Can’t blame them mind…

    United will get through – but I can see a 1-1 here or there and a late 2-1 or something victory ‘scraping’ them through in a few games but not having a tiny margin in terms of points.

    Chelsea will walk it – although away trips to Russia are never fun and especially at the time of year these games are played – I would not be surprised to see them lose that game (much like Arsenal going to Shakhtar).

  • Comment number 83.

    Phil, your usual mix of nonesence and pro manu propoganda. Good luck to you and SAF if you think you have a couple of easy games against Rangers. We are a diferent team from the last few years when there was no money and no new players, even if there is no real competition on a weekly basis in the SPL. As if Rangers needed any incentive, the "battle of britain" senario will give a serious test to a manu team who rely on two old men in Scoles and Giggs, good as they may be they hardly fill the void left behind by the loss of Ronaldo.

    Arsenal and Chelsea are the only EPL teams who are good enough to contest the later stages of the CL this year, but can they compete with the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid ? Spurs should not even be there and will sink back to the Europa league competion where they belong, only to be eclipsed by Liverpool.

    Come on the Gers, Wembly is waiting !!!!!!

  • Comment number 84.

    Chelsea and Man U to qualify easily..Braga to continue to surprise..Real and the special one will win the competition in the end.
    Spurs could be first or last in their group..

  • Comment number 85.

    Not a Spurs fan but Spurs will walk this group. Inter, Bremen and Twente are all on a downward slope. Spurs are improving all the time and have real depth in their squad. Really looking forward to them giving all 3 teams the runaround at WHL. Predict Spurs 4 Inter 0 at WHL, with probably a reverse at their place but they will drop points cautios Rafa style against Bremen and Twente. Great to see a fresh faces in the Champions League.

  • Comment number 86.

    ...I meant Spurs to get SECOND place in their group (not fourth! lol). ;)

  • Comment number 87.

    First of all, are Uefa allowed to call it a "Champions League" and yet allow non champions to enter ? Trades Description ?

    Second, Liverpool got knocked out because they were garbage Phil, they started the season in a mess but for once were not saved because two other teams who were vying to go through, Lyon and Fiorentina (Debrecen were the makeweights)were both reasonable teams but nowt to write home about but they were not the usual substandard dross that allows the bigger teams to sleepwalk through the group stages. It was Liverpool in serious decline, they plateaud in May when finishing second in the PL, at that point the elastic snapped, since when its been freefall.

    Sept - Dec in the Champions League is about generating more money, this group stage is a farce, makes the group stages in the WC seem exciting.

    A team can lose 3 games and still qualify, teams can win 1 or 2 games and still qualify ? and yet its a cup competition !!!!!!!!!!!!!! another misnoma but its all ok, cos money rules.



  • Comment number 88.

    Excited as a Tottenham fan but also realistic. While this is great for Spurs i can't help but think back to the days when Man U were new to this level of football and while they dominated all the PL clubs, used to go and get absolutely tonked in Barcelona etc. That said, that was years ago and these days in order to finish fourth Tottenham have had hang tough with some of the best in Europe in the PL last season.

    Also, let's hope it doesn't have too big a negative impact on the league performance.

    Cautious, but optimistic. I just hope Tottenham make a good showing in the CL

  • Comment number 89.

    Interesting tactical view here from agapong who wrote:
    "Spurs can take heart from Rafa's apparent tinkering with the Inter formation. He is adamant on a high defensive line, something Mourinho tried in the group stages last year that wasn't particularly effective. Lucio and Samuel are superb in every area except pace. Defoe and Lennon will be keen to exploit that."

    Any more thoughts on this...and to fans of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United - what gives you hope that this year's Champions League campaign will be different from last year's disappointing outcome?

  • Comment number 90.

    The problem with the Champions League is that the Europa League seed pots 3 and 4 are actually stronger than the Champions League Pots

    Champions League Pot 3 -

    Tottenham
    Rangers
    Ajax
    Schalke
    Basel
    Braga
    Copenhagen
    Spartak Moscow

    Champions League Pot 4

    Hapoel Tel-Aviv
    Twente
    Rubin Kazan
    Auzerre
    Cluj
    Partizan
    Zilina
    Bursaspor

    now look at the Europa League 3 and 4 seeds

    Pot 3

    Sparta Prague
    AEK Athens
    Metalist Kharkiv
    Levski Sofia
    Rosenborg
    Red Bull Salzburg
    CSKA Sofia
    Odense
    Napoli
    Borussia Dortmund
    Dinamo Zagreb
    BATE

    Pot 4

    Aris
    Rapid Vienna
    PAOK
    Lech
    Kaparty
    Young Boys
    Utrecht
    Gent
    Lausanne
    Sheriff
    Debrecen
    Hajduk Split

    This is why the group stage in the CL will be, as ever, dull.

  • Comment number 91.

    Tottenham have come up trumps - Inter minus Mourinho, Twente minus McLaren and Bremen minus Ozil. Big name opposition mean Spurs will be focused and up for all of them.

    Arsenal on the other hand have very tricky away games against unfamiliar opponents in Eastern Europe where they never seem to do well as well as two tricky ties against an under-rated Braga. Home wins will be vital as I see a few draws at least on the road. Experience in the comp should see them okay though.

    Chelsea's group is interesting with Drogba's Marseille connection aswell as Anelka and Malouda returning to France but the Blues should prove much too strong. Abramovich's connections with CSKA will mean he'll want to beat Spartak, but it's a return to the 'unlucky' Luzhniki for J.T. Unknown Zilna away might be tricky.

    United should be too strong for fellow 'debt-strugglers' Rangers and Valencia. Wonder if Bursaspor will be wearing 'Celtic' colours v Rangers?

    All English teams to progress - Chelsea v Mourinho's Madrid final at Wembley.

  • Comment number 92.

    Phil,

    Off topic, but I have been waiting with baited breath for your post on the hypocracy of the British press since Jermain Defoe's deliberate handball on Wednesday night.
    Eduardo (Johnny Foreigner) was villified last year with people calling for his head on a plate for a much less obvious, but in all other respects similar incident, yet Defoe (English) gets a sniggering acquiesence that he knew he'd cheated to score his goal.
    Look forward to reading the post - if you ever get round to it!

  • Comment number 93.

    Would not surprise me to see spurs get Huntelaar in , also remember there is also Sandro who is yet to make his appearence.
    with Gallas waiting in the wings as well, I can see no reason why this season could be really special for all Tottenham fans.

    Expect Spurs to make an assult on three fronts CHAMPIONS LEAGUE (sorry was that in capitals ;) F.A cup and the Premier League . Ill finish with a quote from Mr Hanson ( Strength in depth )

  • Comment number 94.

    As an Arsenal fan I feel things will be different because we frankly have better CBs now than we had last year. I cannot argue that we have seen a full judgemental showing of Koscielny and of course neither Squillaci - but I've seen enough glimpses of the former and enough of the latter to feel we are well placed to deal with the defensive side of things in terms of personnel now. More a case of not playing such a high defensive line, particularly against the likes of Barca - which we did - and it cost us early on. Same can be said when we played Chelsea too - if we dropped back and defended slightly deeper *centrally* then we'd find ourselves less exposed to over-the-top balls or through balls to pacey strikers....

    I just think the GK thing needs to be resolved. All Arsenal fans agree Szcezny is the future for us - but at 20-21 he's too young. Almunia is a genuinely quality shot stopper, he throws fairly well, can kick under pressure. But makes silly mistakes like not guarding his near post (and beyond the age of 25 or so you most certainly should not be doing that), doesnt command the CBs at any times other than to organise a free-kick wall and he doesn't understand the concept of punching clear if you need to come for a ball but are surrounded by opponents - he's been let off for fouls a lot in that respect. It spreads concern at set-pieces more than anything, and I think this is the real reason why they have caused a problem for so long...

    The potential emergence of Walcott and his fitness will hopefully allow us to impose ourself on other teams and force them to fall their defensive lines backwards - just like his presence did for Barca. When their defence is able to push up so high it's almost like they have an 8 man midfield, they murder you - and they did for several stages of our ties with them last year for this reason. With Walcott's penetrative pace and growing confidence, only a fool would play such a high line with passers in the team to supply him, the likes of RvP, Fabregas, Nasri or Arshavin...

  • Comment number 95.

    Those verdicts are a little bit out there aren't they?

  • Comment number 96.

    Saying last 8,4 or beaten finalists for any team is a bit silly.....what if they meet the team that knock them out a round early?From this draw only predictions of who will make the knockout stages,Uefa Cup spot and the actual winners make any sense at all.

  • Comment number 97.

    philmcnultybbcsport wrote:
    Any more thoughts on this...and to fans of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United - what gives you hope that this year's Champions League campaign will be different from last year's disappointing outcome?

    As an Arsenal fan I'm given hope by the fact we have a stronger looking defensive unit (Campbell and Silvestre just weren't up to it and I'm not sure that Gallas was particularly good for team morale) and also (fingers crossed) injuries won't play such a big part in this campaign. The loss of Robin Van Persie was huge - we can't hope to really compete with Bendtner up front and Eduardo never really recovered from that Taylor tackle. We have a strong looking spine now (Vermaelen, Fabregas and RVP) and that's fundamental to success. I'm actualyl very optimistic so long as we don't get too many serious injuries a la Eduardo, Diaby, Djourou, Fabregas, RVP and Ramsey.

  • Comment number 98.

    Spurs were written off last season - before beating Arsenal and Chelsea back to back - and the amount of glee displayed to all us true believers when we went down by three on the plastic pitch was a bit nauseating. I think we will get through the group stage. This is an excellent Spurs team and impressive squad. There is also a fighting quality to the outfit these days - shown by the fightback in Berne. I adore Inter Milan (having lived there) and I was a bit saddened when they signed up Benitez, but this draw has lifted that cloud. Can't wait.

  • Comment number 99.

    it hasnt been 2 full days yet and im already sick of hearing the phrase 'on their day, spurs can beat anyone' they cant. and someone actually put 'spurs 4 inter 0 at WHL'-Barca could only beat them 1-0 at the camp nou....no logic, just hopefull delusion!!! Do you really think the 'bang it up to Crouch' philosophy will work against Lucio???

  • Comment number 100.

    Chelsea or Barcelona to win, hopefully with both in the final.

    Man Utd - Outside chance IF Rooney finds some form.

    Real Madrid - Season too soon.

    The rest - Thanks for taking part.

 

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