Spurs face Bayer Leverkusen in Germany this evening looking to keep their Champions League fate in their own hands. Maurcio Pochettino’s side slumped to an anticlimactic 2-1 defeat against Monaco in their opening group game, but responded well to win away at CSKA Moscow. The challenge now for Tottenham is to start winning their ‘home’ games at Wembley, and put to bed any concerns about a jinx or a handicap.
However, if they want to top the group, Spurs must pick up another win on the road. Leverkusen have made a very average start to the season in the Bundesliga, picking up 10 points from their first seven matches but are renowned for playing an effective pressing game just like Spurs.
Their coach Roger Schmidt has been talking about the similarities between the two sides in the build up to the game, and expressed his admiration for the work Pochettino has done at White Hart Lane:
“We play intense football. One of our main points is a good organisation against the ball. We try to win the ball very early, very close to the goal of the opposition. We try to be very fast to the ball, and switch to the offensive. It is a little bit similar to Tottenham.”
The Bundesliga is renowned for this intense style of play, and Spurs will have to be prepared for a difficult game. The visitors also boast familiar attacking threats in the form of Hakan Calhanoglu who excelled for Turkey against England in May, and former Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez.
Spurs made a fast start against Monaco last month, but failed to convert their early dominance into goals. Two home wins against Leverkusen and Monaco would take Tottenham to nine group stage points, and put them on the verge of qualification for the knockout stages. However, in not the most daunting group, Pochettino’s men will harbour ambitions to go through as group winners.
Elsewhere, Toby Alderweireld has definitely been ruled out of tonight’s clash and Pochettino must make a decision as to who replaces him. Kevin Wimmer filled in for the injured Jan Vertonghen in the spring, but has found himself on the fringes of the squad at the start of this season.
However, according to The Sun, Pochettino is set to move Eric Dier back a position into the heart of his defence. With Victor Wanyama excelling in the holding midfield role and Spurs playing a 4-1-4-1 formation, the axis of Dier and Moussa Dembele that served them so well last season is no longer indispensable.
Finally, Heung Min Son has credited Dutch starts Rafael van der Vaart and Ruud van Nistelrooy for helping him settle in Europe after he moved from South Korea to Leverkusen aged just 16. Son has been a surprise package this season; despite angling for a transfer in the summer he has been in blistering form and filled the void left by the injured Harry Kane. Son said:
“Ruud van Nistelrooy helped me a lot. He saw my first training session and he talked to me. He told me I was a good player. He gave me confidence and I want to thank him for that. We had a really good team and were successful for a time with him.
“Also Rafael van der Vaart came and he helped me. He told me more about English football and how tough it was. I was only young. I listened to him and tried to learn from what he was saying.”
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