OPPONENTS Barcelona at Wembley 
COMPETITION Champions League   Group B
DATE Wednesday 3rd October 2018
PREVIEW Lionel Messi.  Luis Suarez,  Ousame Dembele.  Gerard Pique.  Phillipe Coutinho.  Sergio Busquets.  Ivan Rakatic.  Big money signings.  Big name players.  All coming to Wembley to play Spurs.

So, should Tottenham be worried by playing teams that a few years back they only dreamed about meeting in friendlies ? 

Well. perhaps they are still one of the best sides on the planet, but they are showing in their own league that they are by no means invincible.  Two points from their last three games keeps them top of La Liga, but losing to Leganes and drawing with Athletic Bilbao and Girona are not results that people have come to expect from the red and blues.  They showed their Champions League pedigree last time out with a 4-0 home demolition of PSV Eindhoven, with an emphasis on doing well in this competition having only won it once in the last seven years, while rivals Real have won three of the last four competitions.

When they click, Barcelona are a formidable machine.  Passing and moving, but working hard with it, they can ease through the gears to dismantle teams.  Messi is the big name, but he had a disappointing World Cup, as did Suarez and Coutinho, while the home grown players failed to help Spain get very far in Russia too.  Tottenham have been slammed for their players having a World Cup hangover and maybe the same thing is hitting Barca, although their players were not involved for as long. 

Mistakes have been made at the back of the Barcelona team, exposing them to attacks that have resulted in them losing points.  The fact that Spurs will be taking them on with half the first choice team on the sidelines does not make it simple, but they could have challenged the Spanish club.  They still might be able to, as the three attacking midfielder in Lamela, Son and Lucas could hit the opposition back line with their speed and trickery.  It might not be in the same class as Messi, but could be as damaging nonetheless.

We saw last season that the Spurs team were not over-awed by Real Madrid and took the game to them, so another performance like that could unsettle the likes of Jordi Alba, Pique and Semedo, but it will mean every Tottenham player will have to be on their mettle from the start and  battle, move and pass without ceding possession, as if it is handed to Barcelona, they will make us pay unlike Brighton and Huddersfield have been able to recently.

I think that if a performance like that is put in, then there is no reason why a point can't be gained and if luck is on our side, then possibly more.

PREDICTION Tottenham Hotspur    1         Barcelona    1
Christian Eriksen, Mousa Dembele, Jan Vertonghen, Serge Aurier, Dele Alli and Michel Vorm will all be unavailable for Tottenham's CHampions Legaue meeting with Barcelona.
The La Liga side will be without Samuel Umtiti and Sergi Roberto for their visit to Wembley.

BT Sport - (live coverage)  (Thursday  09.30 - highlights)

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Champions League  Group B Kick off 20:00
Tottenham Hotspur  2 (0)              Barcelona  4 (2)

Kane  51m 17s
Lamela  65m 09s

Coutinho  1m 32s
Rakatic  27m 40s
Messi  55m 20s
Messi  89m 10s
Alderweireld  (foul on Coutinho)  14
Wanyama (foul on Messi)  41 
Lamela  (foul on Busquets)  44
Kane  (foul on Pique)  74
Dier (foul on Suarez)  90+3


Arthur  (foul on Winks)  59
Busquets  (foul on Lamela)  71



Crowd :   82,137 Weather :  Mild
Referee :  Felix Zwayer (GER) Assistant Referees :  Thorsten Schiffner; Marco Achmüller (GER)
Fourth Official :  Guido Kleve (GER) Addititional Assistant Referees :  Tobias Stieler; Sascha Stegemann (GER)
UEFA Delegate:  Jānis Me˛eckis (LIT) UEFA Referee Observer :  Alain Hamer (LUX)
Spurs kicked off and played towards the East Stand end in the first half.
Game time : -  90 + 10 minutes.
Tottenham Hotspur : kit Barcelona : kit
  1  Hugo LLORIS (c)

  2  Kieran TRIPPIER
  6  Davinson SANCHEZ
33  Ben DAVIES

12  Victor WANYAMA       (15  Eric DIER  57     )
  8  Harry WINKS 

  7  Heung-Min SON  (17  Moussa SISSOKO  66)
11  Erik LAMELA         (18  Fernando LLORENTE  79)
  Lucas MOURA

10  Harry KANE      

Unused subs: 

  3  Danny ROSE
52  Oliver SKIPP


    1  Marc-Andre ter STEGEN

  2  Nelson SEMEDO
3  Gerard PIQUE
15  Clement LENGLET
18  Jordi ALBA

  8  ARTHUR       (22  Arturo VIDAL  87) 
  5  Sergi BUSQUETS       (24  Thomas VERMAELEN  90+1)
  4  Ivan RAKATIC 

10  Lionel MESSI   
  9  Luis SUAREZ
  7  Philippe COUTINHO    (12  RAFINHA  83)

Unused subs: 
13  Jasper CILLESSEN
  6  Denis SUAREZ
19  Munir El HADDADI
11  Ousmane DEMBELE


Manager :  Mauricio Pochettino Manager :  Ernesto Valverde
Sponsor :   AIA Shirt sponsor :  Rakuten
Kit Supplier :  Nike Kit Supplier :   Nike
Match report

The whole reason for qualifying for the Champions League is to pit your wits against the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid. While Barca have not been having the best of times in their own league, you cannot gift them a goal after 92 seconds and then another in the last minute of the game, other wise you will suffer. And that is what Tottenham did. The 4-2 result was probably a fair one in the end, as Barcelona (and Messi especially) squandered chances and we struggled in the first half to create very much at all.

It looked like Hugo Lloris was still under the influence as he came flying out of goal. The ball had been worked to Messi in the centre circle and he picked out a peach of a pass to Jordi Alba on the left, just far enough of Trippier so the Spurs full back couldn’t touch it. Alba pulled a square ball across to Coutinho just outside the box and he rifled it past Sanchez, who had slipped over and Alderweireld a yard out from goal. Meanwhile, Hugo had come racing off his line to Alba, with no hope of getting there first and allowing a simple pass to create the goal. In a way, it was lucky Hugo was late to get to Alba, as if he had taken him out, he could have been red-carded and losing a player in the second minute would have been disastrous.

Losing a goal that early didn’t dent our plans, unless the included trying to keep it tight for 15 minutes, as we had barely held the ball even though we kicked off. Barca were quick to close Tottenham players on the ball and when our defenders had the ball, there was little or no movement in front of them to find a white shirt  with their passes.

When Messi picked out another great pass to find Suarez by the penalty spot, the ball was chested off to his left, where Coutinho tried a spectacular waist high volley. But only succeeded in slicing the ball straight up into the air. He reacted to knock the ball back towards the edge of the penalty area and Rakatic performed the shot that Coutinho wished he had by having his two feet off the floor and getting his foot over the volley that rattled Lloris’ right hand post on its way into the net. It was fantastic technique to keep the ball down and to generate the amount of power in his shot to beat Hugo’s dive.

2-0 down with an hour left and things were not looking good. The second goal had come after Spurs looked as though they were getting a foothold in the game.  Harry Kane had let go a 25-yarder that kicked off the turf viciously but ter Stegen was there to save on the dive.  But after Rakatic's goal, Suarez broke down the right, out-pacing Trips and he tried to score from a tight angle when a ball inside to a team-mate might have been the better option.  As it was his shot went off a long way past goal on the other side of the pitch.  It was half an hour after kick off that Lloris made his first save with Coutinho's shot being straight at him.  The game was moving quickly from end to end and Son and Lamela worked well together on the left wing and the latter's ball across goal was deflected by Semedo and the keeper threw an arm up to stop it going past him and grabbed it at the second attempt.  Messi hit Hugo with a shot, then the keeper had to be alert as the same player shot at goal and Wanyama's block took the ball spinning high into the air.  Lloris got behind it as it looked like it might fall under his bar and had to pat it down and then take it quickly, before Suarez got at him. 

The ref booked Victor and Erik for niggly fouls, meaning they both had to watch themselves for the remainder of the game, but Davinson did well to be quick enough to spot a quickly taken free-kick going to Messi, setting up Coutinho.  As the ex-Liverpool man shot, the Colombian got across and blocked it for a corner. 

As Spurs fans tried to recover form the shock of conceding the early goal, half time talk was about how they might be able to pull this back.  There was a touching interview with Chas Hodges' wife and Ossie Ardiles, whose accent is as impenetrable now as it was back in 1978 when he joined.

It didn't take long after Barcelona kicked off the second half for Messi to get into the action.  We lost the bal in midfield and he was soon running at the Tottenham defence, hitting an early shot from the edge of the area, but we were relieved to see it coming back out of the danger zone after it has struck the base of Hugo's right hand post.  Within five minutes, it was game on again.  He was at it again in the 51st minute, with a shot from just outside the box after another blind side run that saw the same spot hit with unerring accuracy.  It looked like the hype about this feller was a little overblown !!  In the very next minute, Lucas and Lamela won the ball and took it forward respectively, allowing Kane to receive the ball inside the left of the penalty box.  He shaped to go outside, pulled the ball back inside and then curled a delightful shot around defenders in front of him and ter Stegen could only get a it of a hand to it, as the ball was on  its way to the   back of the net.    The  ground went berserk as "One of Our Own" scored to bring Spurs back into the game.                                                                                                                                                                                                         

The lead was extended again four minutes after Kane's strike, when a Barcelona move was swept out to the left and Alba's low cross was stepped over by both Coutinho and Suarez, leaving Messi the inevitable goal by side-footing home from eight yards out.

Tottenham weren't finished and Pique was happy to hold Kane around the waist from a couple of free-kicks and corners, then pulled Toby's shirt quite obviously, but not obviously enough for the referee.  Maybe next season when there is VAR ?  They did get another goal back, when Kane, Winks and Son engineered a pass to Lamela outside the box and he drove a shot at goal that came off Lengelet to take the ball out of ter Stegen's reach and make it 2-3.

Some messing about at the back between Sanchez and Lloris almost handed another goal to Messi, but he was denied by a toe in to take the ball off him, but then Dier's pass wide to Trippier saw him get in  a good cross that Semedo cleared, but only by slicing it off his boot that took the ball wide for a corner.  Llorente came on for Lamela, who had run his socks off and was suffering with cramp, but it was Lucas who could only hit a shot straight at ter Stegen when in a good position, with less than ten minutes left.  His next effort a few minutes later might have pulled us level, if only it hadn't struck Lengelet in front of goal, as it looked destined for the far corner past the keeper.

The final nail in the coffin came in the final minute of the 90, with the ball taken off Sissoko and Alba playing a cross along the grass into the box.  Suarez stepped over it and Spurs had managed to leave the best player in the world with acres of space around the penalty spot.  It was a question of waiting to see which side of the stranded Lloris the Argentine put the ball and he hit it to the keeper's left as he went the wrong way and that was that.  2-3 wouldn't have been a bad score-line, but 2-4 had a bit more of a realistic reflection of the game unfortunately.

Footballing-wise, Barcelona are a class act and if this is not them at their best, then I wouldn't ;like to face them where they are on their game.  But then we had half a team out, although their bench was pretty strong and ours wasn't.  But there are aspects of the Spaniards' game that showed they are not all the perfect side are cracked up to be.  The diving to make contact look much worse than it was.  Picking up injuries that require treatment and breaking up play.  The incessant begging of the referee to book opponents (fabricating imaginary elbows to the head in the process). The cynical challenges.  Is this the difference between Spurs as they are and Spurs being successful in Europe ?  Our bookings were for nothing challenges in midfield.  Barcelona's were to stop breakaways that could potentially have got Tottenham back into the game.  Experience or gamesmanship ?  You choose.

The referee didn't help, by being overly generous to Barcelona with free-kicks going their way when the other way he gave nothing.  I am not sure I can trust a referee to enforce the laws of the game properly, when he went the whole 90 minutes without spotting one of the numerous foul throws that the visitors dropped onto the pitch.  The best was when Busquets (I think) took one standing on one leg like a flamingo !

But that wouldn't have stopped us going under after showing them too much respect in the first half, even if they didn't create too much, they still finished two of their opportunities.  Then in the second, we were a little too sloppy around our own box, with some kamikaze back-passes and loose control allowing the ball to be picked off.

Spurs now need to do very well in the remaining games, with PSV Eindhoven having been beaten twice, we need six points off them in the next two games and to take something from the last two group games against Inter and Barca.  A tall order, but it is that or a potential drop into the Europa League and nobody wants that ... especially with our thin squad.

Tonight was a good effort but shows there is still a long way to go.  We haven't been in the Champions League that often and while it looked as though we had got the hang of it last season in the group matches, improvement is still needed to catch up with the UCL regulars.  But when we are back at full strength, that might come.

Dev Chandra

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Match facts

Gerard Pique played his 100th Champions League match.

Erik Lamela's goal was the 8,000th Champions League goal of all time.


What you thought
East Stan I think that with half the team out Spurs were a little too cautious and showed Barcelona too much respect.  The third goal was a good example, as they had time and space without Spurs pressure on the ball to play 23 passes before Messi drifted into the box to finish off the move.

It is difficult to play a high pressure game against a side that is as technically gifted as Barcelona, as they will pop the ball around you, but it is something that we have been good at and by standing off them, it was giving them the opportunity to play whichever pass they wanted ... and that will hurt you.

So, next time, maybe we will be a bit more proactive and stop them having that time on the ball.

- -.


Other Champions League group scores this round of games :
Group A
Borussia Dortmund (GER) 3 Monaco (FRA) 0 Wednesday
Atletico Madrid (SPA) 3 Club Brugge (BEL) 1 Wednesday
Group B
PSV Eindhoven (HOL) 1 Internazionale (ITA) 2 Wednesday
Group C
Paris Saint Germain (FRA) 6 Red Star Belgrade (SER) 1 Wednesday
Napoli (ITA) 1 Liverpool 0 Wednesday
Group D
Lokomotiv Moscow (RUS) 0 Schalke 04 (GER) 1 Wednesday
FC Porto (POR) 1 Galatasary (TUR) 0 Wednesday
Group E
AEK Athens (GRE) 2 Benfica (POR) 3 Tuesday
Bayern Munich (GER) 1 Ajax (HOL) 1 Tuesday
Group F
1899 Hoffenheim (GER) 1 Manchester City 2 Tuesday
Olympique Lyonnais (FRA) 2 Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR) 2 Tuesday
Group G
AS Roma (ITA) 5 Viktoria Plzen (CZE) 0 Tuesday
CSKA Moscow (RUS) 1 Real Madrid (SPA) 0 Tuesday
Group H
Juventus (ITA) 3 Young Boys Bern (SWI) 0 Tuesday
Manchester United 0 Valencia (SPA) 0 Tuesday


Champions League Group B Table  2018-19
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Barcelona 2 2 0 0 8 2 6 +6
2 Internazionale 2 2 0 0 4 2 6 +2
3 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 0 0 2 3 6 0 -3
4 PSV Eindhoven 2 0 0 2 1 6 0 -5

Position before match :  3rd
Position after this round of matches : 


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