Sizzling strikers take centre stage

Harry Kane (left) and Mauro Icardi both suffered rejection early in their careers before blossoming into deadly scorers at the top level for Tottenham and Inter.
Harry Kane (above) and Mauro Icardi both suffered rejection early in their careers before blossoming into deadly scorers at the top level for Tottenham and Inter.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Harry Kane (left) and Mauro Icardi both suffered rejection early in their careers before blossoming into deadly scorers at the top level for Tottenham and Inter.
Harry Kane and Mauro Icardi (above) both suffered rejection early in their careers before blossoming into deadly scorers at the top level for Tottenham and Inter.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Spurs, Inter turn to rejects-turned-hotshots Kane and Icardi for key Champs League clash

LONDON • Tottenham's Harry Kane and Inter Milan's Mauro Icardi will stage a highly anticipated duel as two of the Champions League's most prolific strikers go head to head at Wembley today.

But Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino was keen to play down the battle and claimed that football is ultimately a team sport.

In an interview with Italian daily La Gazzetta dello Sport yesterday, he was asked if Kane and Icardi are two of the best strikers in Europe.

"Yes, but football is a team game. You never win alone and then Inter also have other strong strikers such as Lautaro (Martinez) and Keita (Balde)," he said.

"Same with Tottenham with Dele Alli, Lucas Moura and (Erik) Lamela, in front we are well placed. Surely those two are important but, to win, you need a good performance from the whole team."

Kane and Icardi share humble origins after surviving rejection to reach the top of the game.

THERE WILL BE GOALS

I expect Inter to come to London to win. They play offensive. We will both play on the attack from the first minute. I do not think they come here to defend themselves.

MAURICIO POCHETTINO, Tottenham manager, expects a free-flowing game between two attack-minded sides today.

Both have been linked with European champions Real Madrid and today's vital clash gives them another chance to celebrate their "rags-to-riches" story.

Born in Argentina, Icardi, 25, moved to Spain when he was nine and was one of the most sought-after players in Europe when Barcelona, Real Madrid, Arsenal and Liverpool fought for his signature in 2007.

He eventually chose Barcelona, but he never broke into the first team after being written off as lacking technical quality.

A loan spell in Italy with Sampdoria proved the making of Icardi, who stepped up to the big time when he joined Inter in 2013.

Icardi has since scored 106 league goals in 167 appearances for Inter, twice finishing as the joint-highest scorer in Serie A.

It is a success story that would strike a chord with Kane, who also had to endure rejection before proving his doubters wrong.

He was written off time and again as a schoolboy, with Arsenal, Tottenham and Watford all deciding he did not have the right qualities.

  • HARRY KANE VERSUS MAURO ICARDI THIS SEASON

  • DOMESTIC LEAGUE GOALS

    7 in 13   |   7 in 10

    CONVERSION RATE (BASED ON SHOTS ON TARGET)

    30.4%   |   58.3%

    ASSISTS

    1       |   2

    CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GOALS

    4 in 4  | 3 in 4

    CONVERSION RATE

    44.4% |   50%

    ASSISTS

       0    |   0

Spurs eventually recognised the potential Kane possessed, but even then it took loan spells at Leyton Orient, Millwall, Norwich and Leicester before he was finally given his chance in 2014.

A barrage of goals followed as Kane made up for lost time in stunning style. Now also 25, Kane has scored 115 times for Tottenham.

He has 11 goals in all competitions this term, with his late brace against PSV Eindhoven in Tottenham's last Champions League tie especially important as it clinched the 2-1 win that kept their last-16 hopes alive. Those goals also extended Kane's remarkable Champions League record to 12 goals in 14 appearances.

Icardi has been equally potent in Europe's elite club competition.

He scored the late goal that gave Inter a 2-1 win over Tottenham in the opening game of the group stage.

The Argentinian also netted in the 2-1 win at PSV and bagged a priceless last-gasp equaliser in the 1-1 draw with Barcelona this month.

That strike against Group B leaders Barca gave second-placed Inter a three-point lead over third-placed Tottenham (four points).

An Inter victory at Wembley would book their last-16 berth, while Spurs must win to send the battle to the last round of matches.

"We must win, of course," Pochettino added. "Inter are a great team, but we aim to replicate the performance against Chelsea (Spurs beat the Blues 3-1 in the Premier League last Saturday). If we can play with the same intensity, we can win.

"I expect Inter to come to London to win. They play offensive. But we will both play on the attack and to win from the first minute. I do not think they come here to defend themselves."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TOTTENHAM V INTER

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2018, with the headline 'Sizzling strikers take centre stage'. Print Edition | Subscribe