Right, step away from your DVD burners, Tottenham Hotspur. The commemorative Emirates victory disc can wait: there’s now the business end of the Champions League to secure.
You read correctly. Harry Redknapp and his wonderfully erratic Spurs side enter White Hart Lane tonight knowing victory over Werder Bremen and holders Internazionale getting something from a home fixture against some Dutch Champions League virgins means they’ll be hearing that ubiquitous music into 2011.
Of course, Inter getting turned over by a sprightly Twente outfit isn’t an impossibility. A 2-1 defeat to mid-table Chievo left Rafa’s ageing champs nine points behind city rivals AC Milan in Serie A and the Spaniard admitting his family might be seeing a lot of more of him this festive season. But Tottenham need not concern themselves with Inter’s travails any longer. Instead, their attention turns to a team experiencing similar problems. Werder Bremen have yet to score in their three November fixtures, which have included 6-0 and 4-0 away thumpings against VfB Stuttgart and Schalke 04 respectively. They’re sat glumly in 12th domestically and look, well, total rubbish. Their fans even chanted: “Apart from Tim Wiese (their put-upon goalkeeper), you can all go home” last weekend. Hardly catchy, but you get the point. So even if injury doubts Rafael van der Vaart and Gareth Bale don’t make it, Spurs are looking at a rout, right?
Perhaps not. It’d be folly to dismiss the challenge posed by an established Champions League outfit (let alone a German one), but it’s an error of judgement Tottenham could easily make given Bremen’s form. And we know how Spurs often perform against teams they’re expected to easily dispatch. Hint: pretty poorly and with no little complacency.
There’s an argument to suggest van der Vaart – extraordinarily good as he’s been – would be the easier absence to digest. Why? Jermain Defoe.
A quick scan of the Bremen team and a re-watch of the teams’ 2-2 draw at the Weserstadion will tell you dangers remain. Chiefly via rat-faced nuisance Marko Marin. Lazily tagged as a Bavarian Lionel Messi, the skilful No10 is still a prodigious talent who tormented poor old Vedran Corluka last time out. Indeed, that skinning arguably cost the Croatian his right back slot to Alan Hutton. Elsewhere, one-time England possible Aaron Hunt (he’s got an English mum) is a cerebral-if-inconsistent forward full of guile and the hulking Hugo Almeida can offer a more robust goal threat.
But as their recent drubbings have proved, Spurs could dine out on a porous, comically dreadful defence. With trusty centre back sidekick Naldo crocked, Per Mertesacker has undone all his World Cup progress, while workaday right-back Clemens Fritz will have observed Inter’s win nightmares with blind panic. The absent Mikaël Silvestre might prefer his sick bed tonight.
The best hope for Bremen’s beleaguered backline? That Bale and van der Vaart don’t overcome their knocks. Tottenham’s twin talisman have, of course, excelled in this competition and without them, the side threatens to look rather ordinary. Bale looks the likelier to make it, and there’s an argument to suggest van der Vaart – extraordinarily good as he’s been – would be the easier absence to digest. Why? Jermain Defoe. His game-turning 45 minutes in the North London Derby showed he’s raring to get involved, and in the very short term, his return might be made smoother by playing in a bog-standard 4-4-2. Harry could then worry about whether a Defoe-van der Vaart front pairing is too short to thrive together at a less pressing date, and he’s admitted facilitating the Dutchman in a midfield four isn’t his favoured option, regardless of Saturday’s miraculous turnaround. Of course, you won’t find a single Tottenham fan complaining should van der Vaart make it through tonight.
A prediction? Spurs to keep their dream week rolling – but only just. Bremen could view tonight as a holiday from their Bundesliga bother, and see their talented attackers play without shackles. They’ll be aware of Tottenham’s opening goal generosity, and an expectant White Hart Lane could get jittery. Alternatively, this could become another DVD-worthy glory, glory night.
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