After Thursday’s Champions League draw in Monaco, people were very quick to evaluate whether each of the five English sides had been lucky or unlucky with their groups. The consensus was that both of the Manchester clubs should be pretty pleased with their placings. Chelsea and Liverpool perhaps will have slightly tougher routes to the last sixteen, but again neither side will be particularly crestfallen. Chelsea know that facing both Roma, and Atletico Madrid will be a real test but one that they should be able to pass.The one English team who will be cursing their luck is Tottenham.
Not only have they draw the holders Real Madrid, who are aiming for their third straight title but also German side Borussia Dortmund who reached the quarter finals last season. The final side in their group, Apoel Nicosia, should be unlikely to pose a too big threat but have thrown up surprises in the past; in the 2011/12 Champions League they won their group and reached the Quarter Finals.
Spurs then could be in for a rough ride. However, I think there are three important reasons that they can emerge from Group H and make it into the last 16.
Home sweet Home:
Tottenham struggled last season when playing their European games at Wembley. Spurs looked confused, uncomfortable and even a little overawed at playing at England’s national stadium and often played more like an away side. Home advantage, particularly in Europe, is significant and performances at home can be the difference between exiting the competition and making it out of the group.
This season, Spurs will play their league, as well as European, games at Wembley. It won’t be the same kind of halfway house that it was last season where it was sort of their home ground but also not somewhere they played regularly. This should help to give them back the all-important home advantage. This should make a big difference for Tottenham this season.
Tottenham have some absolutely superb players who have proven, for the last two Premier League seasons, that they are genuine stars. Harry Kane, Dele, Christian Eriksen, Toby Alderweireld and Moussa Dembele, in particular, have done brilliantly in helping Spurs to two consecutive top three finishes.
However, both Spurs as a team and those players do not have a great deal of top level European experience with last season being Kane and Dele Alli’s first time playing at the highest level of club football.
Last season’s Champions League campaign, while tough for Spurs, will have given their players the chance to expand their experience and to learn and develop as top-level footballers which can only help them.
Unfortunately for Tottenham, Dele Alli will miss the first three games through suspension, but their other stars will be available for their first match against Dortmund. Hopefully, their experiences from last season can help them to an important win.
Finally, many people have questioned Spurs’ lack of transfer market dealings. However, the lack of major changes to their squad should give them a degree of continuity that will stand them in great stead and allow them to play with a fluency and chemistry that should help them. Real Madrid should also benefit from this having kept their star players and added young stars like Theo Hernandez and Dani Ceballos.
However, Dortmund have had a slightly more tumultuous summer, their manager left at the end of the season and was replaced by Peter Bosz the man who took Ajax to a Europa League final.
Bosz is a promising manager but has very little top-level experience, and Dortmund have just lost one of their best players, Ousmane Dembele to Barcelona. Tottenham might struggle to overhaul European champions Real Madrid but Dortmund look vulnerable, and I feel Spurs have a better chance than some are giving them.