Martinez says Spurs can trouble Real despite firing more blanks

Wigan 0 Tottenham Hotspur 0
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The Independent Football

There is a suspicion, after a run of four Premier League matches without a win and three consecutive goalless draws that Tottenham's season is fizzling out, that defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League is probable and that qualification for next season's tournament is slipping towards improbable.

Against Wigan they did nothing to correct that impression, and they would be one point further away from fourth place were it not for their goalkeeper, Heurelho Gomes.

Wigan's performance, particularly the extent to which his young midfield kept control, excited manager Roberto Martinez, in spite of the missed opportunity to claim vital extra points. James McCarthy, Ben Watson and Tom Cleverley, with an average age of 22, were the game's outstanding players, with the exception of Gomes, whose saves from Cleverley, Charles N'Zogbia and Conor Sammon spared Tottenham defeat.

Yet Martinez, a Spanish coach working in England, believes that the threat Tottenham pose to Real Madrid in tomorrow's quarter-final first leg should not be written off. Although they will be without midfielder Steven Pienaar (who revealed on his Twitter feed last night that his groin problem would keep him out), Martinez gives Spurs a real chance against the Spanish giants "People can underestimate Spurs, especially in the Champions League, because they are new to the competition," he said.

"The biggest asset Spurs have is that they've got goal-scoring ability from many angles. They can be direct with [Peter] Crouch or they can link up play with [Luka] Modric and [Rafael] van der Vaart and with set-piece plays they are sensational. They can hurt you in many ways and in Europe you don't get that. Spurs can make things difficult for Real Madrid.

"Facing a player like Crouch is a real shock on the continent where teams just don't have the kind of option that Crouch gives you. Technically he's a very gifted player but with that height and that control he gives you in the aerial game it gives you a different dimension that teams and centre-halves aren't used to on the continent so I think Crouch is going to be a real problem for Real Madrid.

"It's impossible to predict the result because normally in the Champions League home advantage is crucial but I don't think it will play a part in this case. I think it could be a closer game than people think and it could come down to details, a referee's decision, a piece of magic, or having someone like Gareth Bale fit to give you a different option."

Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham manager, believes that the hamstring strain that kept Bale out on Saturday will have eased in time for him to start and it is likely that Crouch will be deployed too, although it would be as well for the England striker's confidence that no one points out his true record against Madrid's centre-half Ricardo Carvalho, an area in which he is plainly suffering from faulty memory.

"I've had some good battles with him," Crouch said. "I've got the better of him, I remember in a couple of semi-finals with Liverpool, one in the Champions League and one in the FA Cup, when we beat Chelsea."

In fact, Crouch has played in 12 competitive games for Tottenham, Portsmouth, Liverpool, Southampton and England against Carvalho and never won. In 726 minutes on the pitch together, Crouch has never scored. In the semi-finals to which he referred, Carvalho did not play.

Substitutes: Wigan Sammon 7 (Moses, 66), Di Santo (N'Zogbia, 85), Diame (Rodallega, 85) Tottenham Crouch 6 (Defoe, 57), Lennon 7 (Van der Vaart, 68), Kranjcar (Modric, 85).

Booked: Wigan G Caldwell Tottenham Sandro

Man of the match Gomes

Possession Wigan 50% Tottenham 50%.

Attempts on target Wigan 5 Tottenham 7

Referee A Marriner (West Midlands)

Att 18,578 Match rating 7/10.