If you had asked any Tottenham Hotspur fan a few weeks ago how they fancied their sides chances of qualifying from their Champions League following two losses against both Inter and Barcelona while also dropping points from a winning position in the most winnable of their opening three group games at PSV Eindhoven.
Fast forward a fortnight and a lot has changed, at least in terms of the perception of Spurs in recent weeks. It was all doom and gloom at the club with reports suggesting that Mauricio Pochettino wouldn’t be there for much longer, and with big games against Liverpool and Man City in the Premier League producing woeful performances.
After wins against Crystal Palace, West Ham, Wolves, the home tie against PSV and a very impressive performance under the Wembley arch against Chelsea this past weekend though, suddenly the upcoming game against Inter looks not only vital, but winnable from the London club’s point of view.
Of course, the players and coaching staff won’t be treating this as an easy game due to their recent run of results but confidence will be sky high heading into it, with players like Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Heung Min-Son all showing against Chelsea how well they can work together as a unit as well as players who are in and out of the side such as the young and impressive Juan Foyth looking great in the defence, Lucas Moura and former Roma man Erik Lamela providing depth from off the bench and even Moussa Sissoko is looking like a solid player in the midfield with great work rate, tremendous effort and clever passing to match (i’ll take ‘things you’d never thought you see someone write’ for fifty?).
Spurs looked sluggish in the weeks prior to the most recent international break, with key players looking worn out. Surprisingly though, against Chelsea, Spurs were faster out of the blocks than they had been in any other game this season, and despite having used up significantly more energy in the first half than they have in most 90 minutes, they looked fresh and looked like they had been freed of any pressure.
This is the kind of approach that you should expect Spurs to have going up against Inter. Press the back line, force the likes of Milan Skriniar to pass the ball almost as quickly as he receives it and put him under pressure, block the midfield dictators like they had Dele Alli do against Jorginho this weekend and prevent Mauro Icardi from getting himself isolated anywhere in or near the 18-yard-box. It’s one thing to keep Alvaro Morata from scoring (or even staying onside) but to have the same high defensively line against Inter and Icardi will be very dangerous.
Expect Spurs to be more physical than they were in the San Siro, with a bit more pace going forward with Lucas Moura perhaps likely to replace either Heung Min-Son, Eriksen or Dele in the front line. Sissoko and Dier will likely start with Harry Winks available off the bench if Spurs need to unlock any doors, but the duo of Sissoko and Dier will look to bully the Inter midfield off the ball and provide the screen for the defensive line and give the front four permission to burst forward at will, knowing they have two strong and capable midfield runners to cover the space that is left behind.
Full-backs will also be key, with Serge Aurier and Ben Davies likely to keep their places. They offer a deeper crossing threat, but don’t exactly overlap the front runners too often because there isn’t really a need. A noticeable thing from the Chelsea match was how Aurier and Davies were occasionally reserved with their forward running, which allowed them to sit a bit deeper than usual and fend off Eden Hazard and Willian. I’d expect Spurs to run the same tactic against Inter, with Sissoko usually coming back to help out Aurier defensively.
This Spurs team will 100 per cent be different to what Inter faced at the San Siro. In Milan, Spurs were leggy and didn’t look capable of keeping up with Inter at times, but at Wembley it will be a much stronger match-up between two teams who will be desperate to take all three points home in what is turning into the best group of the Champions League this season.