After years in the Europa League, Tottenham are in the Champions League in back-to-back seasons for the first time in club history. Tottenham’s second place finish, their highest finish since 1963, was more than enough to launch them back into Europe’s top competition.
Spurs fans will be expecting a trip to the round of 16 at the minimum after their disappointing third place finish in their group last season. However, considering their group consists of Spanish champions Real Madrid, German runner ups Borussia Dortmund, and Cypriot champions APOEL, that may be easier said than done.
Real Madrid are the two time defending European Champions, the first team to be able to win the Champions League in back to back years, and probably the most talented team in Europe. Madrid won both the Spanish League and Champions League last season, establishing their dominance across multiple competitions.
While Cristiano Ronaldo had a bit of a down year in La Liga by his insanely high standards (0.68 non penalty goal per 90 minutes, according to Squawka.com) he had an incredible Champions League run with 12 goals in 13 matches, including 10 in his the quarterfinals, semi finals, and final. On top of Ronaldo, Madrid have probably the most talented midfield in the world with former Tottenham midfielder Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Isco, Mateo Kovacic, and Casemiro. On top of that, they have one of the best centerbacks in the world in Sergio Ramos, the best fullback combination in the world with Marcelo and Dani Carvajal, and an attack of Karim Benzema, Marco Asensio, and former Tottenham superstar Gareth Bale to supplement Ronaldo.
Real Madrid will likely win the group and Spurs will be lucky to get a point in either of the matches.
Dortmund are an interesting proposition as they are going into the season with a new manager and without crown jewel Ousmane Dembele. Dembele left for Barcelona on a massive deal that could be worth up to €145m, but Dortmund did not have the time to replace him. Though the German side lost Dembele, they did keep Pierre-Emerick Aubamyang, Marco Reus, Julian Weigl, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, and Christian Pulisic. Even without Dembele, Dortmund are supremely talented.
New manager Peter Bosz has shown he can put all that talent in positions to succeed with two wins from their first two Bundesliga matches. In those two matches they’ve scored five goals and are yet to concede. The only other time the two sides went head to head Dortmund won both legs of a two legged knockout tie, knocking Spurs out of the Europa League. Mauricio Pochettino will hope that this Dortmund side will not knock Spurs out of a European competition again.
APOEL will likely be the whipping boys of the group, but that doesn’t mean they can’t provide a stiff test for all the sides they’ll face. They were in the Champions League quarter finals as recently as 2012, where they were knocked out by Real Madrid. Their last excursion into the Champions League in 2015 saw them ousted in the group stages. While they got only one point, they help PSG to only one goal both home and away and conceded only once against Barcelona at the Camp Nou. If Spurs fall into any trap APOEL set for them, it could prove to be disastrous.
Spurs will likely not win the group and will almost certainly not finish bottom. Their future likely lies between 2nd and 3rd and there is a whole world of difference between the two. 2nd will send them through to the knockout rounds and will be seen as a success. 3rd will send them to the Europa League and will b another year of failure in Europe. 2nd or 3rd will be the question hanging over the head of Pochettino until December.