It is now almost a year since Tottenham Hotspur limped out of last season’s Champions League after back-to-back defeats at home to Bayer Leverkusen and away to Monaco took destiny out of their own hands.
Since that loss in France, Spurs have undergone a European revival and are now unbeaten in their last five Champions League matches having won four and drawn one. Of course, that run featured the recent encounters with Real Madrid in which they came away with four points from a possible six, thanks to a 1-1 draw in Madrid and a 3-1 win at Wembley.
There was a feeling in years gone by that European football was not a high priority for the London side with their campaigns often being cut short after some poor performances. But these claims were often hiding the truth that in most cases, they just weren’t good enough.
European football requires a very different mindset and it can take time to develop a team that has the belief and ability to mix it at the elite level. And carrying that winning mentality right through to the latter stages of the Champions League takes something really special.
Top online football tips have Spurs priced as high as 25/1 to win the Champions League and some punters may be tempted as those odds. But, after three years at the helm, has Mauricio Pochettino finally unlocked Spurs’ European potential? To answer that question, we need to delve a little bit deeper.
First, let’s consider one major issue that definitely seems to have been resolved: Wembley. There were many pundits who believed that the North Londoners inability to settle into their temporary home would scupper their chances of finishing in the top four, and would certainly hinder their Champions League hopes. In fact, some of their players even used Wembley as an excuse for their failings last term. But after a shaky start at home in the league, the Lilywhites now seem to be enjoying their football at the National Stadium.
They are unbeaten in five at home in the Premier League having drawn two and won their last three in a row, while their last three European home games have all ended in 3-1 victories, the last two against the might of Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid.
In fact, learning to shine on the biggest stage of all may have helped Spurs overcome another issue going forwards in UEFA’s elite competition: mentality. There are few arenas as big or intimidating as Wembley and becoming accustomed to stepping out in front of 80,000 each week could play a vital part in shaping the confidence of the team.
The final issue Spurs will need to deal with is experience. Teams like Real Madrid or Barcelona may have slip-ups or seem out-of-sorts in the group stages but it is in the latter stages where they shine, and that can only come with experience. Having the weight of history and experience behind you can count for a lot. When Christian Panucci helped Real Madrid win their seventh European Cup in 1997/98 he described how they had “won the trophy nine months earlier” because they were so confident in their own ability.
With that in mind, it might be a bit early to suggest that Tottenham Hotspur could go on to win the thing. They might need a season of two of reaching the latter stages before the final piece of the jigsaw falls into place. In the meantime, those looking to back them to reach to quarter or semi-finals, might still find decent value.