Tuesday’s Champions League match-up between Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur at the Bernabeu is arguably the most exciting fixture of the group stages. With neither club having dropped a point so far in Group H, the double-header matches, which sees both sides play each other twice in quick succession, are likely to decide who will finish top of the group.
Spurs arrive in Madrid the clear underdogs and it will be interesting to see how Mauricio Pochettino will approach the game. Should he enter the tie with the sole aim of achieving a draw? Or should Spurs treat the away fixture as a chance to go for it?
RealSport have picked out three different set-ups which Mauricio Pochettino could employ as he tries to outfox Zinedine Zidane at the Bernabeu.
With Ben Davies likely to miss out through illness, Spurs are without an established left back. Jan Vertonghen filled in against Bournemouth at the weekend and is likely to do so again in Spain. Vertonghen is an exceptional footballer who reads the game well and is extremely comfortable with the ball at his feet. However, he doesn’t provide the wide, surging runs that regular left backs Danny Rose and Davies do. So far this season, the Welshman has created 16 chances in the league, more than any other defender.
If Vertonghen is deployed at left back, Son Heung-Min will likely play as his midfield counterpart to provide pace and width on that flank. The South Korean was excellent against Dortmund on the opening day of the competition, scoring a goal as Spurs went on to win 3-1. Son will look to take advantage of the space that may appear if Dani Carvajal isn’t judged fit to play.
If Mousa Dembele is fit, he will likely play in the pivot along with Eric Dier. The Belgian is vital in breaking the press and moving the ball into the final third with his dribbling ability and passing. Moussa Sissoko has made a good start to the season and, with Dele Alli serving the last game of his European ban, he will likely play on the right, leaving Eriksen to support Kane up top.
With so many Spurs absentees, Pochettino may look to ensure his side are tough to beat in Spain first and foremost. Lining up in a 3-4-3 has become the staple set-up for Pochettino’s Spurs and it seems as though it may be foolish for the Argentinian to tinker too much with what is comfortable.
Harry Winks has made a great return to the Spurs first team since his injury and is brilliant at passing through the lines. Luka Modric and Toni Kroos are two of the finest central midfielders in world football, though, whilst Isco is also a world class playmaker who drifts centrally. As a result, Pochettino may deploy a three-man central midfield to try and shore up the middle of the park. Given that Christian Eriksen has been dropping to play deeper this season, he may look to do so again tomorrow night to help out Winks and Mousa Dembele.
Elsewhere on the field, Serge Aurier could provide the attacking width on the right. That said, despite operating as a full back, Jan Vertonghen does not have the physicality to play as a wing back and so Pochettino may choose to stick with a back four.
As it stands, Mousa Dembele remains a doubt for the Tuesday’s game. If that is the case, Mauricio Pochettino will probably look to put more numbers in the middle to make up for the loss of strength and size in midfield. With Madrid often favouring a 4-3-3 set up themselves, Pochettino may look to match them man for man and try to block the spaces and areas the Madrid players work best in.
That system is also set up perfectly for the counter-attack, which may be Spurs’ best route to goal. Harry Winks, Eric Dier and Christian Eriksen are all excellent passers of the ball and will all look to hit the pace of Moussa Sissoko and Heung-Min Son down the wings as early as possible in this system.
Kane, of course will be as vital as ever. He is the top scorer in the Champions League so far with five in two games. His intelligence, ability to finish from anywhere and all-around game will be crucial if Spurs wish to leave Madrid with anything.
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