Tottenham Hotspur versus Inter Milan is one of the storied fixtures of the last decade – for it paved the platform for one of the most exciting footballers in Welshman Gareth Bale to put himself in the spotlight.
Since then both clubs have had mixed fortunes – while Spurs have, in the last few years been the most consistent side in the Premier League, they have still not been able to crack it in Europe where they have for various reasons – fell short of the heights they seem to hit in the domestic game.
This season, the Lilywhites have once again, in the penultimate game of the group stages. found themselves taking on an uphill task, trailing second-placed Inter Milan by 3 points with the final game set to be a showdown against Barcelona in their own backyard.
This has by no means been an easy group for the North London side – and it is a testament to how far they have come, that they were favourites to go through to the knockouts before the start of the tournament but it also serves as a reminder of how far they have still got to go under the manager and as a collective, if they were to truly become one of the serious contenders of the Champions League. All that said, given Spurs’ comprehensive win against fellow Premier League high flyers Chelsea in the weekend, who is to say they cannot take that form into midweek.
For Inter, this has been a season of redemption in the European scene – with the Italian club enjoying an advantage going into this game in London aided by a 3 point cushion and a relatively kinder final fixture – a home game against bottom of the group PSV Eindhoven.
The 2010 winners have made a strong start under Spalletti – but their recent form (3 wins and a draw in the last five) has not been spectacular, which includes a crushing 4-1 defeat to Atalanta in Serie A. However, knowing that a draw could take them to the last 16 of the competition should be motivation enough for the Nerazzurri to leave it all at Wembley on Wednesday night in a bid to secure exactly that. Spalletti, not one to underestimate the opposition, has already impressed on the importance of fully understanding the stakes ahead of this fixture.
“We rate whichever opposition we come up against. However, Inter always inspire the opposition. That means they have to go up a level compared to their normal performances. With us, we have no specific approach for one team or another. We have got to perform as Inter Milan.”
Vertonghen is in line to end his long wait for an appearance. With Davinson Sanchez (hamstring) unavailable, additional options at centre-back will be well received. Elsewhere, Mousa Dembele (ankle) and Kieran Trippier (groin) are also sidelined.
- The London club have lost only one of their eight fixtures at home to Italian clubs (W4 D3) – last season’s defeat against Juventus.
- Inter have progressed from their group in their last eight UEFA Champions League campaigns. This is the 12th time Inter have been in the group stage – but the first since 2011/12.
- Spurs have won their last five games in all competitions, and seven of their last nine (D1 L1). They beat London rivals Chelsea 3-1 on Saturday, Harry Kane making it five goals in his last six Tottenham games.
- Ten of Inter’s 25 league goals this season have come in the final 15 minutes.
Key Men Comparison
Harry Kane (Spurs) v Mauro Icardi (Inter)
It’s safe to say that this fixture will boil down to the heroics of the two best players; the two talismen; the most lethal marksmen on either side.
Harry Kane is having one of those hot streaks in the season when he finds goals in all forms: right foot, left foot, set plays, tap-ins; you name it, he has got it. The England and Spurs captain has scored 5 in the last 6 games in all competitions and at this stage of the season when games come thick and fast, it is important that he is in such ominous form when the team around him needs to supplement him with the right ammunition to give themselves the best chance of taking this qualification business down to the wire.
If Harry Kane breathes fire, Icardi is ice cold in front of goal. The Argentine has carried the weight of expectations of the legions of Inter fans around the world – and despite the often frosty relationship between the 25-year old and Interisti, Icardi never hides in a football match. His deadly instinct in front of goal has made him one of the most sought-after forwards in Europe and with 10 goals in 11 games in all competitions, a match-winning display in Wembley could be the perfect way to show what he is capable of – to the much wider Premier League audience.
Tottenham are a better side than Inter Milan and they are going to have another big night on Wednesday.
Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Inter Milan