Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid
April 05, 18:45 GMT; April 06, 00:15 IST
The contrast between the two teams couldn’t be greater even if one stretched one’s imagination a lot.
Tottenham Hotspur have played just 4 matches in last 1 month, have their best players well rested and returning from injury and are European newborns. Barring a miracle comparable to Jesus Christ’s birth, ‘Spurs’ will not be playing in this competition next year.
Real Madrid have played 8 games in last 1 month, have lost their major players to injury and are the most decorated team on the European stage. They are already guaranteed their place in the Champions league for the next year come what may.
Team News and Tactical Brief
The case of “Three Musketeers” and a desperate man
Benzema and Marcelo both picked up injuries on international duties and Ronaldo was injured in the match against Atletico.
These 3 musketeers are the backbone of Real’s attack along with Alonso and Ozil. Their absence causes a big tactical headache and deprives the team of both creativity and firepower. The Real Madrid medical staff has advised Mourinho against risking these players before the next leg against the same team. However, this weekend Barcelona won the league title unofficially. With 1 title already gone to their arch rivals, a prospect of conceding further ground on the trophy front looms large.
While Mourinho may staunchly deny it publicly, in private he must be feeling the heat of a trophyless season. Incredibly, he is yet to go trophyless since the year 2003. Make no mistake, Jose Mourinho is an embattled and a desperate man, and desperate men tend to take desperate measures. Already he has started digging trenches and has declared that he will be happy with a 0-0 or 1-1 result against Spurs.
While Benzema has been left out, the other 2 may feature at some point and a start is not entirely out of question.
Thus going by Jose’s usual favoured formation, there are two tactical possibilities:
- Both Marcelo and Ronaldo, start with Adebayor upfront.
In this case the squad picks itself up. Two half fit players on the pitch trying to play as well as avoid injury. More interestingly, Marcelo and Ronaldo depend on one another. With Marcelo out, the current Ronaldo becomes much less threatenting. Thus, it is unlikely that one will be started without another, especially Ronaldo. However a limitation of this tactic is that Adebayor is not really the kind of player that likes the ball at his feet and helps in build up play. Which means plenty of crossing and a predictable tactic which can be easily foiled, as Sporting displayed this weekend. However, Adebayor has scored 9 times in 8 matches against Spurs and that might ‘Spur’ Mourinho into playing him.
2. Marcelo and Ronaldo start with Higuain upfront
This will be an even more desperate punt. To overcome Adebayor’s technical deficiencies, Higuain will be played as a lone striker. Higuain’s build up play is much superior to Adebayor’s and he will certainly bring a half fit Ronaldo much more into play than Adebayor.
Weakness: One of the biggest weaknesses of this Real Madrid side is that with Ronaldo, Real are trained to counter attack rather than score goals through link up play. If Harry’s troops can restrain themselves from attacking, then Real will get frustrated and commit more men forward. Then they can turn Real’s own strategy on its head.
Strength: The biggest strength of this team is its defence. Real are yet to concede at home in the Champions league this season and they have won all their matches at home. Carvalho and his troops will need to continue this trend if Real want to win this tie.
Expected style of play:
However, given the fact that Adebayor has Premier league experience and has a fantastic record against ‘Lilywhites’, he is sure to start. Expect Real to make full use of wing play and the doubling of wingers and fullbacks both in attack and defence. The chief attacking threat will still come from the left with occasional forays down the right hand side.
Possible Line-up: (4-2-3-1) Casillas, Ramos, Pepe, Carvalho, Marcelo, Di Maria, Alonso, Khedira, Ronaldo, Ozil, Adebayor.
Arry’s boys come to town:
Harry Redknapp may project himself as a tactically naïve manager, but he is anything but naïve. Under that red visage lies a real manager’s brain and that has been evident several times this season. While Spurs may have leaked goals in the Premier league this season, on the European front they have been anything but profligate. Shutting out a Milan side boasting of Robinho, Cassano and Ibra is no mean task, but Arry’s men did it and did it convincingly.
Strengths: Their biggest strength is the toast of European football right now – Gareth Bale. However, although the Welshman’s displays have been breathtaking, it would be unfair to exclude his other team mates who have been just as important. A midfield comprising of Van Der Vaart, Modric and Lennon is not something to sneeze at and definitely is their key asset.
Weakness: After the display against Milan, it would be unfair to pinpoint their weakness as their defence. Rather more surprisingly for an attacking team, their Achilles’ heel lies upfront. Their strikers have rarely contributed this season and no one is more aware of this than Redknapp himself. In January, Spurs went into a bidding frenzy, reportedly bidding for no less than 8 strikers; all of them top notch and Spurs were more than willing to play top dollar. However, nothing materialised and Spurs failed to remove this weakness.
In short, they are overly reliant on their midfield to score goals.
Expected style of play:
A typical English style of play: Plenty of wing play, long balls, with central midfielders spraying the ball out wide to the wingers to cross inside the box with Crouch trying to get on the end of them.
Possible Line-up: (4-1-4-1) Gomes; Corluka, Dawson, Bassong, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Sandro, Modric, Bale; Van der Vaart; Crouch.
Form Guide (Champions League):
Real Madrid: D-W-W-D-W
- Adebayor has scored 9 times in 8 matches against Spurs.
- Real Madrid have won none of their last five Champions League games (drawing one and losing four) against English teams and failed to score in the last four.
- Jose Mourinho won five (drew two & lost one) of his eight matches against Tottenham and all five games against Harry Redknapp.
- Peter Crouch has scored seven goals in eight starts for Tottenham in Europe.
- Aaron Lennon and Mesut Özil are the joint top providers with 5 assists in the Champions League.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Emmanuel Adebayor(Real Madrid): The big Togolese failed to fire in the last match and Real paid the price for it. However, his premier league experience, his physicality and a half fit Ronaldo and Marcelo make him the the man to watch out for.
Rafael Van Der Vaart (Tottenham): There is no enemy like an old friend and Rafael van der Vaart fits the bil perfectly. With Bale freshly out of injury, Rafael will be expected to pull all the strings and he has shown that he has the capability to do it. He will want to prove a point to his former masters and Bernabeu will be the perfect stage for that.
Real Madrid 1-1 Tottenham Spurs
While Spurs maybe newbies on the European front, treating them with kid gloves could be fatal. Real Madrid need to remember that. In the recent past, Real have not defeated an English club, and with a host of injured/half fit players on field, international fatigue, and a demoralising loss in La Liga, make it an ideal time for a fresh Spurs side to visit the Bernabeu.
Enjoy a promo as these sides meet for the first time.