Barcelona v Spurs – Champions League Preview
Spurs face their biggest and toughest Champions League match of the season on Tuesday night as they travel to Camp Nou to face Group B winners Barcelona. If they match or beat Inter Milan’s result against PSV Eindhoven, then Spurs will secure their place in the knockout phase of the Champions League. Mauricio Pochettino’s side have done well to give themselves a chance of qualifying after a disastrous first three group games, but will know it will take one of the finest performances in Spurs’ history to overcome one of the favourites for the competition in their own backyard.
The stats do not make good reading for Spurs as Barcelona have not lost a Champions League home game since September 2013 and have not been beaten at home in the group stages in their past 27 encounters. As well as that, Tottenham Hotspur have only won four of their past seventeen away matches in Europe.
Barcelona made a difficult group look easy, winning four and drawing one of their games to secure qualification early. The Lillywhites will hope that the fact Ernesto Valverde’s team have already qualified causes them to take their foot off the gas, but Mauricio Pochettino has acknowledged that it will be unlikely.
The Spanish champions are on a four match winning run, the most recent of which was a 4-0 victory over Pochettino’s former club Espanyol, where Lionel Messi scored two incredible free kicks.
Barcelona v Spurs Team News
“His quality is unbelievable. To play here at a place like the Nou Camp will make him stronger. We don’t have a doubt that he can perform." #COYS
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) December 11, 2018
Spurs will be without their first and second choice right backs Kieran Trippier and Serge Aurier as both are injured. That means that Kyle Walker-Peters is in contention to start at right back for the first time in the Champions League. That is the most likely scenario but Pochettino could choose to go with Eric Dier at right back or even pick a three man defence.
Dier will be the only defensive cover though, as Juan Foyth will miss out after not being registered for Spurs in the Champions League. The good news for the Lilywhites is that Erik Lamela returns to the squad and is fit enough to play some part in the match.
Ernesto Valverde confirmed in his press conference that there would be changes from his team that won 4-0 at the weekend and Luis Suarez is a player that will definitely miss out. The Uruguayan sustained a knee injury and will not be risked in a match that is of little importance to Barcelona.
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) December 10, 2018
The Barcelona coach however remained cryptic on whether Lionel Messi will play a part and we will have to wait until the teams are announced to see if the little Argentine will be included.
There is also uncertainty as to whether Ousmane Dembele will be involved as, despite scoring at the weekend, the young French winger was disciplined by the club for arriving late to training on Sunday.
Elsewhere Arthur Melo, who played so well at Wembley as part of a midfield three, could return to the team but fellow Brazilians Rafinha and Malcolm are sidelined as are Samuel Umtiti and Sergi Roberto.
Barcelona v Spurs Predicted Team
As mentioned, Kyle Walker-Peters will make his first Champions League start in one of Spurs’ most important matches in a number of years. He will be the only inexperienced member of the back line though, with Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld marshalling the defence and World Cup winning captain Hugo Lloris in goal.
The left back position is up for grabs and we think that Danny Rose may get the nod ahead of Ben Davies, as the Welshman played the full ninety minutes versus Leicester. Rose however is short on match time and Davies has been performing well lately, so Pochettino does have a difficult decision to make.
In midfield we expect Eric Dier to maintain his place in the side as the anchor of the team and it is a question of whether Moussa Sissoko or Harry Winks will start alongside him. We believe Sissoko may be the player Pochettino chooses to go with as his strength and energy may be needed in the middle of the park against the technically gifted Barcelona midfield. Despite performing well against the same opponents at Wembley, Winks may be utilised from the bench by Pochettino.
After being rested against Leicester, Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane will come back into the team whereas Dele Alli will keep his place in the starting lineup. We also expect that Heung-min Son will start at Camp Nou, despite the return or Erik Lamela, as his performances of late have left his manager little choice but to start him.
What the Managers Said
Spurs Manager Mauricio Pochettino:
“I am always an optimistic person and I always believe that we are going to arrive in our best. We need to think like this, that we will do something important tomorrow. You must give your best and you need to prepare not only physically and tactically but mentally it’s important. It’s how we’re going to approach the game tomorrow and it’s so important to think about the job you are going to do and not what Barcelona are going to do.”
“Barcelona have an unbelievable squad and all the players that are in Barcelona are here because they deserve to be. Of course it’s difficult to fight for a place in the starting XI with players like Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi but players who maybe don’t play too much and tomorrow have the possibility to play they are going to try to show that they deserve to play. That is why the most important thing for us is to try to do our job and never think what Barcelona are going to do.” (football.london)
Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde:
“We’re expecting a tough game against a very strong side, who have qualification for the next stage at stake. We’ll be going for the win. There are sure to be rotations tomorrow; we just had a big game on Saturday. Every game is an opportunity to show what you’re capable of doing.” (FC Barcelona)
Barcelona v Spurs Match Stats
- Barcelona have conceded 19 goals in 15 La Liga games – only seven teams in the division have let in more.
- Tottenham striker Harry Kane has scored seven goals in seven Champions League away games.
- Matchday six is the only matchday in the Champions League group stages Tottenham have never lost on.
Tottenham visit Barcelona knowing they're through if Inter don't pick up more points than they do.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) December 11, 2018
Barcelona One to Watch
Obviously there are a number of players to watch for and Spurs will be hoping that Ernesto Valverde rests most of them.
Our player to look out for is Ivan Rakitic, based on his performance against Spurs at Wembley in the first encounter between the two sides. The Croatian controlled the midfield along with Sergio Busquets and capped off a dominant display by scoring a wonder goal to double Barcelona’s lead. Spurs will need to stifle Rakitic, and the whole of Barcelona’s midfield, if they wish to get a positive result from the game.
Barcelona v Spurs Referee
Serbian Milorad Mažić will be in charge at Camp Nou. He was the official for the final last season and has taken charge of two Champions League games this season, between PSV Eindhoven and Inter Milan as well as Manchester United’s victory over Juventus in Turin.
Barcelona v Spurs Predicted Score
Spurs need to go for it and on a large Camp Nou pitch that could play right into Barcelona’s hands. Having said that, Spurs have a number of quality players in their team whereas the Catalans are expected to rest a number of their key players. We are predicting an open game and are hoping that PSV Eindhoven do Spurs a favour by beating Inter Milan!
Our prediction is Barcelona 2-2 Spurs.
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