Oct 30, 2017

Real Madrid are in a bit of crisis and Spurs can beat them -- but only if Harry Kane plays

Tottenham Hotspur host Real Madrid in the Champions League tomorrow hoping to rebound after a tough week. For the uninitiated: Spurs were every bit Real's equal in their first meeting a fortnight ago and provoked a series of media fellatio after trouncing Liverpool. Then the letdown of the Carabao Cup defeat to West Ham and 1-0 loss to Manchester United on the weekend have caused a pretty brutal hangover for Tottenham.

Real Madrid have been struggling as well and their struggle is more real if only because of the immense expectations placed on this side. Zinedine Zidane's men were upset by newly-promoted Girona on Sunday and have fallen to third place in La Liga, eight points behind their Catalan rivals after just 10 games. More importantly, they've been dropped from our latest #top5 (so too have Tottenham). The team's president bitch-slapped the players in front of Zidane after Sunday's defeat and there is talk of this being the first genuine crisis facing Zidane as Real manager.

To put the pressure facing Zidane into perspective: if Spurs win tomorrow, it would be just the second time Real have lost consecutive games since he took charge at the Bernabeu, according to data compiled by our friends at Transfermarkt. But that would be enough to plunge Real into real crisis and one would think put Zidane's job in peril.

Tottenham are up for the task. They almost nicked the first game at the Bernabeu. Against Liverpool, the last time an 'A' Spurs side graced the Wembley pitch, they were confident and played superbly, with the 4-1 score flattering Liverpool in the end. An 'A' Spurs side -- ay, there's the rub. Tottenham's best player, Harry Kane, is nursing a hamstring injury and missed the last two games, both losses. At Old Trafford, Harry Kane's absence gave Jose Mourinho the necessary latitude to actually dominate proceedings for once, at least in the early going. Spurs might have been unlucky to not sneak off with a point, but there's no question the game would have been completely different with Kane in the starting 11. The latest reports have Tottenham "optimistic" that Kane will be fit for the match, with Pochattino apparently hinting he could play, though the medical staff will surely err on the side of caution seeing how this is not a must-win situation (Spurs are still in good shape to advance to the next round even with a loss).

Spurs will need Kane to keep Real's defenders honest. Without Kane in attack, everything else Tottenham does is secondary. He is the only one who can create the necessary havoc by himself. Sure, having Fernando Llorente alongside to free up space worked out great in the first game and can probably have he same effect this time out. But Kane needs to be there from the start. Without him, there simply isn't enough to threaten Real Madrid. Christian Eriksen has been poor lately and was arguably Spurs' worst player at the Bernabeu. Dele Alli is not in midseason form yet either and does not appear capable of single-handedly breaking down a defense like Real Madrid's. Heung Min Son is a complementary player and nothing more, or at least not yet. All of them need Kane to work more effectively. For this reason it's hard to see Spurs having much of a chance if Kane is not starting tomorrow.

Our fearless forecast then will have to depend on this x-factor. If Kane starts, we're calling a 2-1 Tottenham victory. If he is on the bench and can see 30 or 45 minutes of action, chances favor a draw. If he is unable to play at all, Spurs have no chance.

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