Spurs pray for divine display but focus is on European return
'Miracles can happen,' says upbeat Redknapp as his side look to overturn a four-goal deficit against Real Madrid
Wednesday 13 April 2011
Eliminating real Madrid may prove to be beyond Tottenham Hotspur this evening, having lost the first leg in the Bernabeu 4-0 a week ago, but the experience of hosting the nine-time European Champions can serve as an incentive to ensure they are back in the competition next season.
The visit of Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid will in all likelihood draw Tottenham's exhilarating debut season in the Champions League to a glamourous, if anti-climactic, close.
The 4-0 drubbing Harry Redknapp's buccaneering side took in the Bernabeu a week ago leaves Tottenham keeping their fingers crossed for something outlandish, something that has never been done in the European Cup or Champions League, and has been accomplished just three times in all European competitions.
"Don't tell the players that," Redknapp joked. "They might call me up and say 'What is the use of me coming? Can I go shopping?'"
Faced with such a daunting proposition, Tottenham were understandably speaking of "miracles" yesterday. Redknapp said: "I don't think you can be too open otherwise you get smashed to pieces. It's all right saying we're going to throw everything at them but they have got amazing players on the break, with pace. You could end up getting ripped to pieces if you're too open. We want to win the game if we can and see what happens.
"Listen, we know that it would take a miracle but miracles can happen. We have to believe that if we play very, very well you never know what can happen. It will be very difficult obviously. But as long as we give our best shot and everything that we have, I can't ask for any more."
Playmaker Luka Modric was more upbeat about Tottenham's chances. "We don't have anything to lose. There's a big belief around the dressing room we can produce a miracle," said the Croatian, who, as if to prove his point, was wearing a T-shirt bearing an image of the Virgin Mary.
Tottenham are praying for something miraculous, but are also preparing for more mundane, but more important, games to come, starting with next week's north London derby.
Liverpool's 3-0 victory over Manchester City leaves Tottenham, currently in fifth place, with a good chance of overhauling the big spenders from Eastlands before the season is out, and snatching fourth for the second season running.
Redknapp said that consistently reaching the Champions League is the goal, not just making the odd appearance. "You've got to keep doing it. Tony Parkes [the club's goalkeeping coach] told me Tottenham have a year like that and it's another 12 years before you see them again. We don't want that... Next year we want to be in there again scrapping. Every year we should be in there," Redknapp said.
Tottenham come into the game amid stories that key players like Gareth Bale, Rafael van der Vaart and Modric will leave should the team not qualify for the competition again next season. Redknapp was quick to quash any such suggestion: "Not a chance. Absolutely rubbish. They've all got contracts, none of them are leaving."
More importantly, perhaps, Modric was just as forthright about the potential at Tottenham, and used a press conference yesterday to talk up the club's prospects of challenging for the Premier League title next season.
Modric said: "It is a bright future for us. We can become one of the best teams if we all stay together for a long time. We need to take the positives from the Champions League and try to put everything into next season, learn from our mistakes and try to fight to win the title. We are all thinking positively that we will qualify [for the Champions League]. No one is thinking of leaving Tottenham. We are happy here."
Aaron Lennon has recovered from the virus that led to his late withdrawal in Madrid last week, and is expected to start, alongside Roman Pavlyuchenko who is likely to replace the suspended Peter Crouch.
Some bookies have stopped taking bets on Real Madrid going through tonight but as a horse lover Redknapp knows that you can never write anyone off.
Fans face racism scutiny
Tottenham Hotspur supporters will be monitored by one of Uefa's top disciplinary officials during tonight's Champions League quarter final against Real Madrid after Emmanuel Adebayor complained of being racially abused in the first leg in Madrid a week ago.
Jacques Antenen, who is a police chief in Switzerland and acts as vice-chairman of Uefa's disciplinary committee, has been appointed as match delegate following the Madrid striker's complaints.
Spurs have appealed to supporters not to sing the offensive chant, and will be scanning the stands with CCTV cameras and stewards wearing head-cams. They will also urge fans to text the location of offenders to the police during the game so immediate action can be taken.
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