Tottenham Hotspur host Barcelona in what is likely to be an engaging Champions League soccer group-stage contest at Wembley, London, England (3pm ET Wednesday).
The match is one that Spurs would have liked to have played at their rebuilt White Hart Lane, but with work at the new stadium still ongoing, it is Wembley, a stadium at which Barcelona have a rich history, that will instead act as host.
Barcelona won the first of their five European Cup and Champions League trophies there with victory over Sampdoria in 1992, and also sealed their fourth at Wembley with a spellbinding performance in a 3-1 win over Manchester United in the 2011 final. In addition, they defeated Arsenal 4-2 in 1999 on their only previous visit for a group-stage encounter.
Spurs need not necessarily be overawed by Barcelona. They won at home and drew away to Real Madrid en route to topping their group last season, showing in those encounters that on their day, they have the necessary tools to compete with Spain’s best. Barcelona also come into the match on the back of two draws and a defeat over the course of the last week.
Coach Ernesto Valverde took a very practical approach last season, prioritizing a strong defensive base and providing the necessary midfield support for Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez to make the difference in the final third. It was enough for them to comfortably win the title, with the best scoring and second-best defensive record in the division, but it also produced their lowest goals total in seven seasons and their worst goal difference in four.
That league title success was enough to support Valverde’s work, despite the fact that his side gave up a three-goal advantage to fall to Roma in their Champions League quarter-final. It didn’t fully shield him from criticism from an ever-demanding press pack and supporter base. Winning isn’t always enough at Barcelona, style is important too, and Valverde’s team are certainly not producing collective masterpieces to match Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona side.
Valverde is slightly unfortunate that he is being judged against an ideal, and some of his team’s issues have certainly been overblown. While Barcelona’s underlying statistics do still look quite good, there is undoubtedly too much of a reliance on certain individuals to make things work out. As Suarez said after the home draw against Athletic Bilbao on Saturday: “We cannot depend so much on Messi.”
There is, therefore, some hope for Tottenham coming into Wednesday’s game. If they can produce the sort of bold and disciplined collective performances that powered them to those results over Real Madrid and wins home and away to Borussia Dortmund in last season’s Champions League, then they might just pull off another victory against one of the European elite.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side could really do with at least a point from the encounter after conceding twice late on to lose out 1-2 away to Inter Milan in their group opener. Without wishing to underestimate PSV Eindhoven, the group’s other team, Tottenham’s hopes of reaching the last 16 most likely rest upon on at least matching the results that Inter are able to get against Barcelona, beating PSV by a greater margin and defeating Inter at home.
Spurs have had a few stumbles early into the new campaign, with that defeat to Inter coming on the back of league losses to Watford and Liverpool. Saturday’s 2-0 win away to Huddersfield, with Harry Kane scoring twice, was still their fifth win in seven in the Premier League. While a lack of summer signings has been interpreted as being synonymous with staleness in some quarters, it does give them the advantage of a well-established play style.
If they can maintain their defensive concentration and progress the ball forward with pace and quality, Spurs certainly have enough fast options in attack to cause problems to a Barcelona defence that hasn’t looked all that solid so far this season.
Our Preview’s Spurs vs. Barcelona Picks & Betting Predictions Verdict
Barca are the evens favorites on the road with the bookies, including the American online offshore sportsbooks. Any team with Messi in it should never be discounted, but Spurs can be fancied to cause a minor upset at home.
- Bet on Tottenham Hotspur to win @ best odds of +255 with Bovada Sportsbook.