Spurs v Barcelona – Champions League Preview
The Champions League returns to Wembley as Spurs host Barcelona in their second group stage game of the season. Spurs will want to rectify their loss to Inter Milan whereas Barcelona beat PSV Eindhoven 4-0 in their last Champions League match but have struggled domestically.
Barcelona are currently top of La Liga with 14 points, level with Real Madrid, but have not won in their last 3 league games. The run started after they drew 2-2 at home to Girona but it was the result against Leganes which shocked many. The side bottom of La Liga beat the current champions 2-1 thanks to two quick fire second half goals. Although that win lifted Leganes out of the bottom three, they are now back at the foot of La Liga showing just how significant a loss it was for Barcelona.
Despite that shock loss Sergio Busquets and Lionel Messi were rested against Athletic Bilbao at the weekend in anticipation of the game against Spurs. The decision from manager Ernesto Valverde backfired as Barcelona could only draw 1-1 against the team 15th in the table. Should Barcelona lose against Spurs manager Valverde will be under real pressure as the Catalans desperately seek their first Champions League title since 2015 under his stewardship.
Contrastingly, Spurs have won all three of their domestic matches since their Champions League loss to Inter Milan. Since the victory over Brighton they have defeated Watford in the Carabao Cup and earned a comfortable win and a clean sheet against Huddersfield on Saturday.
Harry Kane is showing signs of being back to his best and Erik Lamela is in good goalscoring form. Both, along with the whole Spurs squad, will be hoping to capitalise on the recent bad form of Barcelona.
— Harry Kane (@HKane) October 2, 2018
Spurs Team News
Mauricio Pochettino has a lot of injuries to contend with ahead of the Barcelona tie.
Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen, Mousa Dembele and Serge Aurier are all ruled out for both of Spurs’ upcoming games. However Hugo Lloris was back in training on Tuesday and is likely to play at Wembley.
With all those injuries it will be interesting to see what formation Pochettino chooses to go with.
Full backs are a position Pochettino continually rotates but, because of Aurier’s injury, Kieran Trippier will continue at right back. We think that Ben Davies will come in for Danny Rose on the other side of the defence.
Harry Winks and Victor Wanyama have a real chance of starting next to Eric Dier should Pochettino choose to revert to four defenders. If not both of them could feature from the start in central midfield for Spurs.
After remaining an unused substitute against Huddersfield Erik Lamela should be in the starting lineup at Wembley replacing Heung-min Son or Lucas Moura. Because of the unavailability of players, all three could feature in the side behind Harry Kane
Barcelona Team News
Samuel Umtiti was sent off against PSV Eindhoven so is suspended for the Spurs encounter.
Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet are likely to be the centre back pairing for Barcelona. Lenglet was a summer signing from Sevilla for £32 million but has still yet to play for his national side and was sent off in the draw with Girona so Harry Kane may pinpoint him as a weakness. Barcelona’s defence as a whole has not been good enough as they have not kept a clean sheet in their past 5 La Liga matches.
Sergio Roberto is also out with injury so Nelson Semedo will continue at right back and summer signing Malcolm was not included in the matchday squad.
Valverde may experiment with his formation and there are rumours coming out of Spain that he will revert to a 4-4-2. If he does, Ousmane Dembele will drop out of the starting lineup in place for Arturo Vidal, allowing Messi to partner Suarez up front.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) October 1, 2018
One to Watch: Sergio Busquets
Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez are obviously the danger men but the quality of Sergio Busquets often gets overlooked. The holding midfielder has been a mainstay in the Barcelona and Spain squads for nearly ten years and when on form can completely run the game. He showed this in the recent Nations League match between Spain and England. Should Spurs allow him the time and space to dictate the game, it could be a very long evening for them.
- This is only the third ever competitive meeting between Spurs and Barcelona. The other two were in the 1982 Cup Winners’ Cup semi-final.
- Lionel Messi loves playing against teams from England. With 20 goals against English clubs, Messi has not scored more Champions League goals against teams from any other nation.
- When in charge of Espanyol, Mauricio Pochettino won just one out of nine games against Barcelona. That came in 2009 with a 2-1 victory at Camp Nou. Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique were both in the side that day are expected to be in the starting lineup at Wembley.
What Mauricio Pochettino Said
When you meet teams in a negative dynamic it’s good for them to play in a different competition. Barcelona and teams like them play their best in the Champions League.
The evolution of the team is there and everyone can appreciate that and see it. To be 100 per cent honest in my answer would be so difficult. We are working hard to keep the level and compete. The ambition of course is to win. However, the reality and the dream are perhaps not in balance today. We can only focus on Barcelona and then see at the end of the season. (football.london)
What the Players Said
“There is no anxiety. This is just the beginning of the season.We only feel anger for the last two results. We did a good first half in Leganes and we lost. We create situations to win. We are aware that we have to be stronger in defence and not concede goals in all matches.” (Evening Standard)
“We’re all bitterly disappointed from how the Milan game finished.We have to win. We’re fully aware of that. We’ve proved that we can do it. At the minute we’re winning ugly.” (BBC Sport)
Spurs v Barcelona Referee
German Felix Zwayer will be referee for Spurs v Barcelona. He has taken charge for one Champions League game this season, in the qualifying round against Spurs’ group opponents PSV Eindhoven.
Spurs v Barcelona Prediction
Even though Barcelona and Spurs are in contrasting form, when you have Philippe Coutinho, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi in your squad you will always be the favourites. In the last few season Barcelona have been unstoppable in the group stage of the Champions League and have only faltered once they have got to the knockout rounds of the competition.
Despite all that, their defence is undoubtedly a weakness so we are expecting goals.
Our prediction is Spurs 2-2 Barcelona
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