Sport

SPURS' DECIDER

Tottenham Hotspur face one final hurdle to qualify for Champions League knockout

Tottenham Hotspur face one final hurdle to qualify for Champions League knockout
Marcus Edwards of Sporting CP and Rodrigo Bentancu of Tottenham Hotspur in action during their Uefa Champions League group D match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on 26 October, 2022 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo: Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images)

The Uefa Champions League group phase has reached its final round. While most groups have already been settled, English side Tottenham Hotspur may still be eliminated altogether from the competition in their tight group.

While the majority of the Uefa Champions League groups have been sorted in terms of the respective two teams which have qualified for the knockout phase, one group remains wide open in the last leg of the round-robin phase.

That is Group D. It features England’s Tottenham Hotspur, as well Portuguese side Sporting, German outfit Eintracht Frankfurt and France’s Marseille.

So tight is the competition between the four teams in this group that the gap between Marseille in last place and leaders Spurs is just two points.

Meaning, by the end of this latest round of fixtures, any of the four times may find themselves either progressing to the last 16, falling to the second-tier Europa League (third-place finish) or being eliminated from European competition altogether.

Coincidentally, the English side clashes with the French outfit in their respective final group game. While last season’s Europa champions Frankfurt tussle with Sporting. The two sides are level on seven points, only separated by second-placed Sporting’s superior goal difference.

Harry Kane of Spurs

Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur takes a shot on goal during his team’s Uefa Champions League group D match against Sporting CP at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on 26 October, 2022 in London, England. (Photo: Visionhaus/Getty Images)

Marseille and Tottenham’s only previous meeting in European competition came earlier in this season’s Champions League, with Spurs winning 2-0 on home soil.

The 10-time French champions are winless in their last nine games against English sides in the Champions League (seven losses and two draws), with their last such victory coming in December 2010 in a 1-0 win over Chelsea.

That knowledge will buoy the Brits significantly. Though, of course, in such crunch encounters these statistics can become null and void.

“Our ambition is definitely to go through. This is the number one. The key and ambition is to go to the knockout stages in the Champions League and this is what we are playing for 100%,” said Spurs midfielder Pierre-Emile Højbjerg.

The 2019 finalists will have to embark on this most important task without their charismatic and passionate manager Antonio Conte.


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The Italian was shown red for his reaction as his side was denied an added time winning goal by the video assistant referee (VAR) during their one-all draw against Sporting last time out. As a result, he will serve an automatic one-match touchline ban and miss this crucial clash.

“It’s a totally different world because normally the days before the game, Antonio will do all his preparation himself, alone,” said Spurs’ assistant manager Cristian Stellini. “But now, we have to do this all together so it changes everything. We have to work on the strategy and this can become complex.”   

The English side needs to just avoid defeat to progress to the round of 16.

Best of the rest

Having walloped Liverpool 4-1 in the opening round of the Champions League, Italy’s Napoli meet the Reds once more as both sides look to finish the group phase on a high.

The great Milan side of 1992/1993 are the only Italian team to have won all six games in the Champions League group stage. Napoli, with five victories notched up so far, can match them in this campaign.

“So far, we’ve been almost perfect,” said manager Luciano Spalletti. “But Liverpool is a team in great health — let’s not be fooled by the result of the last match, which I have watched, as well as the previous ones.”

Owing to the Italians’ significantly superior goal difference, Liverpool needs a huge victory if it is to prise top spot from guests at Anfield.  

Elsewhere, Chelsea are all but guaranteed of top spot in Group E. For them to finish second, AC Milan will have to thrash Salzburg by a significant score, while they would have to suffer the same fate against Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb.  

As such, Graham Potter’s side have little to play for, bar perhaps to gain some revenge for the 1-0 defeat in Zagreb on matchday one — a result which prompted Thomas Tuchel’s departure. DM

Selected Champions League fixtures:

Tuesday:

Porto vs Atletico Madrid (7:45pm)

Liverpool vs Napoli (10pm)

Bayern Munich vs Inter (10pm)

Marseille vs Tottenham Hotspur (10pm)

Viktoria Plzeň vs Barcelona (10pm)

Wednesday:

Real Madrid vs Celtic (7:45pm)

Chelsea vs Dinamo Zagreb (10pm)

Manchester City vs Sevilla (10pm)

Juventus vs Paris Saint-Germain (10pm)

 

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