Harry Redknapp: 'I'm ignoring my scouts but we will be prepared'
Sunday 12 September 2010
Tottenham Hotspur make their bow in the Champions' League proper on Tuesday night away to a team who are in many ways a mirror image of themselves. Werder Bremen, third in the Bundesliga last season, are renowned as an enterprising, attacking team who occasionally regard defending as something of an afterthought.
Yet attractive as the idea is of some sort of basketball match, with each side storming down the pitch in turn, the Spurs manager Harry Redknapp has already learnt a lesson or two from playing in the qualifying round against Young Boys Berne. One of them is not to believe everything his scouts tell him about the opposition. "The reports came back that they were useless, a poor side," he said. "So I thought 'OK, we can go away, get a couple of goals and get a win'. It didn't work out that way, they were much better than we thought."
Caught out defensively on the artificial surface, Spurs found themselves 3-0 down in half an hour of the first leg and almost out of the competition before they had begun to play. By the end of the game they were happy to scramble what Redknapp memorably called "a great defeat" and to overturn a 3-2 deficit at home, but in the group stage it would have been three points lost.
This time the manager is openly talking of a tighter formation, which could involve experienced European campaigner Rafael van der Vaart playing in his favourite position behind a lone striker. "In Europe we're not going to go away and play 4-4-2," Redknapp said. "Bremen play a diamond with four players in the middle and if we've only got two in there, we'll be chasing shadows. Clive Allen went to watch them and they'll be tough."
Allen saw a 4-2 home victory over Cologne which followed a 4-1 defeat by Hoffenheim. Crucially, Bremen have lost Mesut Ozil, the little wizard who bewitched England's Under-21 team last summer and then their seniors in Bloemfontein 12 months later. Another German World Cup squad player, Marko Marin, can take that role, however, and some of the money received for Ozil from Real Madrid has been spent on the Austrian striker Marko Arnautovic.
The central defenders Per Mertesacker and Naldo are both injured, which could give Mikäel Silvestre, late of Arsenal, an opportunity; like Mertesacker, goalkeeper Tim Wiese and Portugal's Hugo Almeida were both at the World Cup. Torsten Frings, the captain, and Tim Borowski are German internationals and Claudio Pizarro, the Peruvian striker, is another familiar figure from Chelsea.
For Spurs, even with some recent Uefa Cup experience, maintaining consistency from now until Christmas with six Champions' League games in between domestic matches will be a new challenge. Redknapp admits to a possible error in leaving a largely unchanged team to play at home to Wigan after draining games against Stoke and Young Boys. Although there are abundant options in midfield, injuries in other areas of the team, to Heurelho Gomes, Michael Dawson and Jermain Defoe, mean rotation must be carefully handled.
He believes that even Manchester United and Chelsea, with their years of know-how, will find it hard to win the competition this season, making Barcelona and Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid favourites. "If an English team win it this year, it will be a real feat," he said. "The two Spanish teams look fantastic. If you look at the players they've brought in, it's scary. But I'm looking forward to it. When you hear that music when the teams come out, it's great, isn't it?"
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