How far can Tottenham Hotspur go in the UEFA Champions League?
Looking firstly at the motivation for Tottenham. Naturally, this is rated as the biggest and most important trophy in Europe, where every club involved in this knockout stage will put all their effort and best-playing resources into it. However, whether or not other competitions are sacrificed can add to that presumed level of high motivation for each game in the UCL.
For Tottenham who roughly are priced @ 15.00 to win in the outright betting market, it is fair to say that the manager Conte has and will prioritise this competition over league fixtures. Possibly FA Cup ones too where Spurs should have their best chance of a longer run.
The most optimistic of Spurs supporters may dream about a long run to the semi-final or even final, but there are a good 7 or 8 teams much stronger based on experience in the competition and overall strength. I include every English side still involved in this, including Liverpool, who has the experience and will raise their performances in this competition.
Tottenham’s objective this season is split between the importance of winning a cup competition and making the top four to qualify for the Champions League next season.
The belief is that winning a trophy could be prioritised over making the top four, in the sense of how much Antonio Conte will opt to rotate. For example in resting key men the days before either the Champions League matches or the FA Cup matches.
While the FA cup is a far more likely competition Spurs can win this season, it is expected that the UEFA competition takes priority.
Focusing on the UEFA Champions League for now, Tottenham is favourites to beat AC Milan in the next round, but if they progress against what is near certain to be tougher opponents at the Quarter-final stage is much more doubtful.
Unless Tottenham gets a favourable draw such as the winner from Porto and Inter or Brugge against Benfica, a Quarter-final exit is the short answer to the headline question posed.
Significantly damaging Tottenham’s chance of coming close to winning the competition is the appalling defensive showing so often this season. This has even been the case against weaker sides with the best possible defence, which right now is Romero, Dier, Davies. And going into the first leg with Milan, Dier’s stock has never been lower based on recent showings!
Because there was no bolstering of the centre-back area, Tottenham’s weakness in this crucial area will be punished by elite European sides.
On top of this, serious injuries to Lloris and Bentancur should be pushing up the average price of 15/1 for the club to win this trophy. I would have expected Spurs to be in the 20-25/1 range with these two men out.
Indeed, the key Uruguayan midfielder may not be fit until the start of next season (based on early reports) which is a massive blow.
It is true that on their day, as proved by a deserved win over Manchester City in recent weeks, Tottenham can beat any club when playing at their best, particularly for games at home. The problems and big tests will be when playing away in sold out and hostile venues, up against more experienced UCL clubs.
This as well as injuries, suspensions, and more importantly, the struggling defence. On top of this, Conte has not done well in this competition.