Champions League – Mission Impossible for Spurs and Inter

Back Page Football contributor Ger McCarthy looks ahead to Wednesday night’s Champions League quarter final second legs and analyses Tottenham Hotspur and Inter Milan’s ‘mission impossible’ task of overturning their first leg defeats.

Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg
White Hart Lane, London
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Real Madrid
(Real lead 4-0 on aggregate)

Real Madrid’s first leg 4-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur at the Santiago Bernabeu proved as difficult viewing for Spurs fans as Rory McIlroy’s capitulation in the final round of the Masters Golf tournament in Augusta. A difficult task was made virtually impossible for Harry Redknapp’s side with the dismissal of Peter Crouch for two bookable offences early in the tie.

Irrespective of the fact Spurs had been reduced to ten men the defending for both Adebayor’s headed goals was atrocious and not acceptable at the highest level of European football. Madrid’s third and fourth strikes were of the highest quality with DiMaria and Ronaldo efforts putting the icing on the cake following a rampant Real display. Jose Mourinho’s deployment of DiMaria and Marcelo on the left wing has proven a masterstroke with both players combining superbly throughout the first leg and each being involved in Real’s best moments.

Harry Redknapp’s decision to place the flying Gareth Bale on the right wing (for the absent Aaron Lennon) meant the Madrid left winger and left-back were occupied until the Welshman was forced to swap sides once Crouch was ordered from the pitch. From that point onwards Real tore down the left wing at will with central midfielder Luka Modric caught out of position repeatedly having been asked to fulfil an unaccustomed role following Bale’s switch.

There were few bright spots on the night for the travelling Premier League club amid a torrent of Real Madrid attacks but apart from the two opening goals, Michael Dawson and William Gallas performed competently in the heart of Spur’s defence and Gomes produced some important saves to keep the score down. Tottenham have nothing to lose in the second leg as they are effectively playing for pride so expect Harry Redknapp to deploy his troops in an attacking formation and bow out of this season’s Champions League on a high.

Real Madrid are almost there and a professional defensive display at White Hart Lane will secure passage into the last four for the first time in eight long years where a two-legged battle with arch rivals Barcelona looks likely. Jose Mourinho has guided Madrid to their first quarter-final appearance for many years and now they look set to go a step further where four meetings in the space of sixteen days with the Catalans will define their season.

Match Statistics
• Spurs have won four out of five Champions League games at home thus far but face a Madrid side unbeaten on their travels in the competition this season

• Tottenham are seeking a first home Champions League win over Spanish opposition at the fifth attempt

• Real Madrid have gone through in 40 of their 53 Champions League ties having won the first leg at home

• Jose Mourinho has won all four of his previous UEFA Champions League quarter-finals and triumphed on three of four visits to White Hart Lane

Match Verdict
Even the most ardent Tottenham Hotspur fans must admit it is virtually impossible to expect their side to overturn a four goal deficit let alone keep a clean sheet at the Lane on Wednesday night. Spurs lit up the early rounds of the Champions League this season with their gung-ho, all out attacking approach and deservedly reached the quarter-finals having stifled the challenge of AC Milan over two legs in the Round of 16. Real Madrid under Jose Mourinho have proven a much tougher task however and deservedly won 4-0 last time out.

The North London club did not play well on the night and contributed to their downfall with some atrocious defending for the opening two goals. I expect Spurs to attack from the off on Wednesday evening and may even score a surprise victory but the not the 4 or 5 goals required to stage the most amazing comeback in Champions League history. Real Madrid will go through despite a narrow defeat in London.

Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg
Arena AufSchalke, Gelsenkirchen
Schalke 04 vs. Internazionale
(Schalke lead 5-2 on aggregate)

Brief Review
Few Champions League ties from the 2011 season will match the surprise and shock 5-2 result inflicted by Schalke on Inter Milan in the quarter final first leg a fortnight ago. Dejan Stankovic opened the scoring early on for the hosts with a remarkable volley from just inside the half way line. Inter’s makeshift centre-back pairing were cruelly exposed by Ralf Rangnick’s side from that point onwards however with Edu (2), Matip, Raul and an own goal making it a night to remember for the travelling Schalke fans.

Overturning a 5-2 deficit appears a difficult task to say the least but reports of Wesley Sneijeder suffering from a bout of flu would make a 3-0 away win virtually impossible. The Serie A side fought doggedly in the previous round to knock Bayern Munich out on their home patch but Schalke 04 will surely not be as defensively naive and with reportedly Manchester United bound Manuel Neuer in fine form between the sticks it appears Inter are going out.

A 1-0 loss to relegation threatened Wolfsburg at the weekend underlined Schalke’s indifferent Bundesliga form which has Rangnick’s side moored in 8th place in the standings. An important 2-0 victory over Chievo helped Inter stay in touch of with Serie A front-runners AC Milan and Napoli thanks to goals from Maicon ad Esteban Cambiasso.

Match Statistics
• Schalke has won four out of four in the Champions League on their home patch in Gelsenkirchen and have never lost a tie in UEFA competition after winning the first leg away

• Inter have won three of the seven UEFA competition ties in which they have lost the first leg at home but never facing a three goal deficit

• Schalke have won all ten UEFA competition ties in which they recorded an away first-leg victory

• The Bundesliga side are unbeaten against Italian opposition in Gelsenkirchen with three wins and two draws

• Inter are bidding to become the first club to successfully defend the trophy in the Champions League era

Match Verdict
Inter Milan under new Coach Leonardo have been revitalised in recent months but defensive frailties and poor tactical decisions have proven the reigning Champions League holders’ downfall in recent weeks. The writing was somewhat on the wall when AC Milan scored an impressive 3-0 derby win before Schalke arrived and fired 5 more goals past Leonardo’s side.

The Italians managed to overturn a first leg loss at Bayern Munich in the last 16 to qualify for the quarter finals but will not be afforded such same time and space by a Schalke 04 outfit likely to hit Inter on the counter-attack and make it through to the semi-finals of the tournament.

Ger McCarthy

The Author

Ger McCarthy

Author of the book entitled 'Off Centre Circle'. Champions League correspondent for Back Page Football, contributor to the Hold The Back Page football podcast, also a contributor to the Irish Examiner Newspaper, SetantaSports Satellite TV Sports Network, NewsTalk National Radio station, Shoot! Magazine and Dangerhere websites.

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