Oct 17, 2017

An Inspiring Performance From Spurs as English Clubs Boss Europe

Tottenham Hotspur's inspiring 1-1 draw at Real Madrid last night demonstrates Mauricio Pochettino's men deserve to be included with the elite clubs of Europe. With Liverpool beating up on poor Maribor and Manchester City defeating Napoli, it was an impressive night for Premiership clubs in the UEFA Champions League and one that may underlie a resurgence of English teams on the continent. More on that later.

But first to the events of the Bernabeu. Here were Spurs, fresh off a listless 1-0 victory over Bournemouth on the weekend, showing themselves every bit the equal to the reigning European champions. Yes, Hugo Lloris needed every bit of his athletic reflexes to salvage the draw and sure, there was a bit of good fortune in Kerim Benzema's squandered opportunities in front of the Tottenham goal. Still, make no mistake: Spurs belonged here and could have even nicked the victory with a bit more good fortune. Also, Spurs were robbed of a penalty in the first half when the Polish referee decided that a blatant trip on Fernando Llorente was, for reasons yet obscure, not worthy of his whistle. So while the result was just it would not have been unfair for Tottenham to make off with all three points. And yes, this demonstrates Spurs can compete with absolutely anybody, as Pochettino made clear in his postgame comments.

You have to credit the Spurs manager for being creative with his formation. Nobody could have predicted the 4-2-3-1 he trotted out. While the Llorente experiment didn't exactly come off (few touches for the Spaniard), Moussa Sissoko did wonders with the extra space provided to him in midfield and Harry Winks again looked like a seasoned pro. Jan Vertonghen was steady at left back and Davinson Sanchez very solid throughout. Only Serge Aurier, ostensibly in the game for attacking purposes, was a defensive liability. His clumsy foul cost Spurs the penalty that led to the equalizer (though even the most dedicated Kieran Trippier fanboy would claim the English wingback would have been a better option than Aurier. I mean seriously, Tripper has proven himself as a defensive liability. The Bernabeu is no place for a player like that). Christian Eriksen, normally one of Spurs' best players, had an uncharacteristic poor game in the attacking end. If he had done a little more Spurs surely would have been superior to Real on the night.

With the point, and Borussia Dortmund's surprise draw at APOEL, Spurs are all but assured passage to the knockout stage of the tournament. Who could have predicted that when the groups were drawn?!? But all Tottenham have to do is keep Real and Dortmund close in their next two games before beating the Cypriots on the final matchday and the elimination round is theirs. They could even win the group depending on how things play out.

Premiership Resurgence
Take a look at the Champions League tables. English clubs are unbeaten, and sit either first or second in their groups. Man City is looking all but unbeatable and will certainly warrant consideration as the top team in the world when the next rankings are released (after the next set of Champions League games, promise). English teams' records so far: Ten wins, three draws, no losses. If that doesn't speak to a European resurgence for the Premiership teams then it's hard to say what would. Some of these victories have been truly impressive: Spurs' dismantling of Dortmund, Chelsea's win at Atletico Madrid. In today's matchups, Manchester United (at Benfica Lisbon) and Chelsea (home to Roma) have an opportunity to drive the point home, that English clubs are back and that the continent should take notice. It will take advancing into the deeper rounds of the knockout stage to prove this point of course, but the early signs are very encouraging.

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