Spurs to fall short
It’s crunch time for Spurs. Level on points on with Inter Milan going into the final matchday, they need to equal or better the result of the Italians to any stand of progressing to the knockout rounds. Not the ideal scenario when you have to take on Barcelona at the Camp Nou.
Messi relishes the English occasion
Having already qualified from Group B as group winners and taken up their customary position as leaders of La Liga, you could say things are ticking along nicely for Valverde’s Barca.
Saturday’s thrashing of local rivals Espanyol, in which Lionel Messi made a mockery of the decision to list him as the word’s fifth best player in this year’s Ballon d’Or by scoring two sensational free kicks, was Barca’s fourth win in a row in three separate competitions.
There are murmurings the 31-year-old may be afforded a rest by the hosts who are already guaranteed a last 16 berth of course. Whether he starts or comes off the bench though, you sense he will have an impact on proceedings, just as he did in the first game at Wembley at the start of October.
Barca will be intent on keeping their winning run going
That night the Argentinian put in a magical display that will go down in history as one of those “I was there” moments for the fans lucky to witness his two goals and all-round scintillating display. He was that good.
Yet, we shouldn’t have been surprised. Messi certainly enjoys the occasion when up against English opposition as his 22 goals and 6 assists in 28 games proves, this the biggest tally versus teams from any other country.
Be it a starting role or not for their captain, Barca will be intent on keeping their winning run going in order to preserve momentum. There’s the opportunity to head into the winter break on the back of a succession of wins, particularly with Levante and Celta Vigo to follow.
Spurs in need of minor miracle
To have made it to the last game with a chance of still qualifying is an achievement in itself for Tottenham given their poor start to their European campaign. After taking just a solitary point from their opening three games, two dramatic victories over PSV and Inter Milan has given them hope of the most unlikely of Houdini acts.
But, in truth, a minor miracle is needed if they’re to qualify for the last 16 for a second successive season. It’s likely Mauricio Pochettino will have to pull off one of one of his best managerial results to date by beating Barca on their own patch.
There’s a clear lack of quality and belief when the level of opposition is upped
Inter Milan – tied with Spurs on seven points from five games – take on PSV at the San Siro with the visitors having lost all but one of their matches thus far. Stranger things have happened but you’d expect the Italians to get the job done. Even a point could end up being enough for Luciano’s Spalletti’s side who have to be in pole position to finish as group runners-up.
Most factors point towards this happening but not least Spurs’ record in the ‘big’ games. They’ve suffered defeats to Liverpool, Manchester City and most recently, Arsenal, as well as the aforementioned Barcelona match and last gasp defeat to Inter Milan.
Pochettino’s side seem to have no problem dispatching of the sides of lesser standing than them, yet there’s a clear lack of quality and belief when the level of opposition is upped. It’s likely they’ll be found wanting following this match, too.
Just as they did in the first fixture, I expect Barca to prove too much for Spurs, regardless of how much time Messi spends on the field.
Spurs have given themselves too much to do and will be responsible for one of the greatest turnarounds in the history of the competition, should they get the result they need. I expect them to fall short though.
Nick’s tip: Barcelona to win at 11/10 (2.12) with Unibet