3rd October, 2018
F.C. Barcelona is in town in London and the whole place is already boozing with a lot of excitement as the Spanish giants prepare to take on hosts, Tottenham Hotspurs in a Champions League tie scheduled to take place at the Wembley Stadium.
In their first match played against Inter Milan, Spurs were unfortunate to have lost 1-2 with the hosts scoring two quick goals at the very last minutes of the match. That makes this match a sort of must win game for the Londoners.
Getting such a result against a team like Barcelona is a tall order. It is however not an impossible task for the hosts as the visitors’ recent form has not been solid in any way. Barca have not won a single match since they defeated PSV 4-0 in their first match in this group. They have drawn two games and lost one since then.
And so, it might just be the right time for Tottenham to be facing the La Liga giants. However, the Londoners must find a way to ensure that Lionel Messi is not given room to perform his usual magic if they are to have the chance in this match.
When asked about this particular challenge, Eric Lamela who plays with Messi in the Argentinian National Team had this to say:
“Everyone knows what he is — he’s the best player in the world. We need to be focused on the whole Barcelona team but, of course, with Messi we need to take double care. Two times more [effort] because he’s so dangerous.”
It is not only Lamela that thinks in this direction. His team manager, Mauricio Pochettino is equally concerned about the abilities of the Barca talisman. As far as he is concerned, “What we need is to have two players helping each other. We are going to demand sacrifice and be focused on him. They will expend a lot of energy because they have to be focused for the whole 90 minutes.”
The manager went on to urge his players to enjoy facing one of the greatest footballers of all time, but the underlying message was very clear: it will take an incredible effort to stop Messi, who has scored 103 Champions League goals, including 20 in 28 games against English clubs.
Even though Spurs seem to have gotten their acts back together as they have won six of their nine matches, including the three since the 2-1 defeat to Inter Milan, they are yet to play anywhere close to their best.
It is not going to be easy for Spurs to get the desired result against Barcelona tonight but it is hoped that this game at Wembley should evoke memories of their wins over Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund in last season’s group stage, which were among the many scintillating wins that have signposted Pochettino’s tenure. The team showed the signs that it was ready to establish itself as a force in Europe and tonight is another opportunity to rediscover their flow.
However even with Barca’s indifferent performance in their last three games, Pochettino will know that there is no good time to play against them, at least not while Messi remains in his element, but this may not be a bad one.
Let’s not forget that Messi has said they will “do everything possible” to win it (the Champions League) this year and it is a measure of their seriousness, and Valverde’s respect for Spurs, that the 31-year-old was rested from the start for Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Atheltic Bilbao. Messi came off the bench to rescue a point and clearly the Catalans are too reliant on the superstar and are defensively fragile.
To make matters worse in that department for the visitors, defenders Sergi Roberto and Samuel Umtiti are unavailable for tonight’s game.
However, they are not alone in that respect as Tottenham are also without Jan Vertonghen, Mousa Dembele, Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Serge Aurier for the match.
Champions League nights at Wembley have always felt like genuine home games for Tottenham Spurs and the visit of F.C. Barcelona could prove to be a much-needed tonic for the club.