Are Tottenham Hotspur potential 2017/18 Champions League winners?
Of the five Premier League clubs that have progress to the last 16 of the Champions League, Tottenham Hotspur are the surprise package.
Their lacklustre domestic form, coupled with a devilishly difficult group that featured European heavyweights Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, meant few expected Spurs to be in the draw for the knockout stages.
But Mauricio Pochettino’s charges, playing their home matches at Wembley Stadium while they await the completion of their brand-new stadium at White Hart Lane, exceeded all expectations.
Their reward is a daunting two-legged tie with last season’s runners-up, Italian powerhouse Juventus. Here, The Boot Room assesses Tottenham’s chances of lifting the trophy.
Performances so far
When the groups were announced, the odds were stacked massively against Spurs finishing in the top two.
Although Cypriot outfit Apoel Nicosia appeared on paper to be favourable opposition, the presence of two clubs with an enviable Champions League pedigree, in Real and Dortmund, looked to be too big a challenge to overcome.
So for Tottenham to remain unbeaten and qualify as group winners was a huge fillip for Pochettino. The victory at home to Real on a magical night at Wembley will live long in the memory, as will the hard-earned point they earned in the corresponding fixture at the Santiago Bernabeu.
That was the only match in which they dropped points, having completed noteworthy doubles over Dortmund and Apoel.
Although Tottenham finished second in the Premier League last season, questions continue to be asked about their strength in depth.
In Harry Kane, the north London club boast arguably the most in-form striker in world football, while the likes of Dele Alli, Cristian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld are regularly rated among the elite footballers in Europe.
Beyond that, however, Spurs have some issues.
Despite signing Davinson Sanchez, Serge Aurier and Fernando Llorente last summer in an effort to bolster his resources, the suspicion remains that Pochettino is over-reliant on a few individuals – especially Kane. If he were to get injured for a prolonged period, then Tottenham’s goal scoring potency and their effectiveness would be severely diminished.
Pochettino has been a revelation since swapping the Southampton hot-seat for Tottenham’s in 2014, taking the club to the next level.
The Champions League was not new territory for Spurs, who had qualified for a single season under Harry Redknapp’s stewardship, but the Argentinian manager has made their presence in the competition commonplace.
One criticism often aimed at Pochettino is that, for all his good work in transforming Spurs into a genuine force to rival the very best in the Premier League, he is yet to win any silverware.
He twice lifted the Copa del Rey with Espanyol, but his time in England has so far proved fruitless. With such a talented squad at his disposal, it is high time he saw tangible reward.
Chances of winning
Despite their magnificent effort to top Group H, Spurs are one of the outsiders to win the Champions League this season.
Their potential path to the final has already been complicated after being drawn against Juventus in the last 16. However, should they achieve the not-so-small matter of knocking out last year’s finalists, who would bet against them going all the way?
Domestically, Tottenham have struggled to reproduce last season’s form and have dropped far too many points, particularly at home. But this has been in stark contrast to their performances in Europe.
They can take great heart from their displays against Real and Dortmund and should believe they belong at this rarefied level. And with a striker as prolific as Kane in their team, anything can happen.
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