As Tottenham Hotspur prepare for tonight's first match in the Champions League proper, the club's chairman has warned that the competition is not the cash cow it is sometimes made out to be. Beating Young Boys of Berne in the play-off round was touted in some quarters as being worth up to £30m, but Daniel Levy said in a rare interview here that Spurs can expect to bank only half of that sum unless they progress through a tricky group programme that begins against Werder Bremen tonight.
"Tottenham is a huge club and we deserve to be in the Champions League," he said. "We have more than 30,000 people waiting for a season ticket. But you have to put it into context. We will make £15m from being in the group stage. You could buy one good striker [for that]. It's not a goldmine. We are, believe it or not, one of the smallest clubs in terms of stadium [size] in the Champions League."
Spurs are due to hear on 30 September whether planning permission is being granted for a new £400m stadium just behind White Hart Lane. In the meantime Levy believes they may be punching above their financial weight. "We all want to stay in the Champions League but let's be realistic, there are only four places but there are seven or eight teams competing," he said. "There are probably two clubs you could say are guaranteed, so then you have two places for six clubs. So the odds are stacked against you. But what we won't do is jeopardise the club to challenge to be one of those two."
The very least the current ground will host is home games with FC Twente, Internazionale and Werder, in a group which gives them a fair, although far from certain, chance of progressing. Tonight's game is one of the critical ones, against opponents renowned for attacking intent, who on Saturday produced a disciplined defensive performance away to the champions Bayern Munich.
Spurs also spent a Saturday afternoon of domestic football pulling in their horns in uncharacteristic 4-5-1 fashion to earn a useful away draw at West Bromwich Albion. The difference between the teams is that this evening Werder plan to revert to aggressive type while the London side will persist with a more cautious style aimed at avoiding the embarrassment of their qualifying round tie.
On that occasion, having received scouting reports implying that Young Boys of Berne were, in Harry Redknapp's words, "useless", Spurs went all out for goals from the start on a disconcerting artificial pitch and found themselves three down instead after less half an hour's play. It took invaluable goals of their own just before the end of each half and a far more convincing performance at White Hart Lane to see off the Swiss side and ensure that their first European Cup venture since 1961 was not prematurely halted.
Fitness permitting, Spurs will again use Rafael van der Vaart in his favoured position just behind a single striker, expected to be Peter Crouch, who scored a hat-trick in the second leg against Young Boys. Luka Modric, who suffered a blow to the leg he had previously broken, was ruled out last night so his countryman Niko Kranjcar may come in out wide on the left with Gareth Bale dropping to full-back.
Like Van der Vaart, the experienced William Gallas, who has appeared in more than twice as many European games as any other Tottenham outfield player, also made his debut on Saturday, and if suffering no ill-effects, will partner Ledley King.
Werder will miss their first-choice central defenders Per Mertesacker and the Brazilian Naldo as well as the former Chelsea striker Claudio Pizarro. They can, however, field Mikaël Silvestre, who is looking forward to meeting up with Gallas, another of the centre-backs Arsenal released last summer. "William is a warrior," Silvestre said at the stadium last night. "He can give a lot to Tottenham with his experience in this competition."
Gallas and King will need all their know-how to keep the defence tighter in the early stages than in Berne, and give Levy a first sniff of making some real money.
Three key confrontations
Torsten Frings v R van der Vaart
Spurs are hoping that Van der Vaart suffers no hangover from his debut on Saturday and can take his place between the lines of midfield and attack against a tigerish Werder captain and German international.
Mikael Silvestre v Aaron Lennon
Silvestre made an unconvincing debut at Bayern but will at least know what to expect from past encounters with Lennon, of whom he said: "He's very good at beating players, fast and intelligent."
Marko Arnautovic Ledley King
King and his troublesome knee were rested from the game at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday to facilitate his return this evening. He will be up against a powerful Austrian striker in Arnautovic.Reuse content