Football: Spurs bullish ahead of crunch Barca showdown

Tottenham Hotspur's players take part in a training session on the eve of the Uefa Champions League group B football match against FC Barcelona at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, on Dec 10, 2018.
Tottenham Hotspur's players take part in a training session on the eve of the Uefa Champions League group B football match against FC Barcelona at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, on Dec 10, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • The Nou Camp is one of the most intimidating venues in all of football, but Dele Alli remains unfazed and is looking forward to one of the "biggest nights" of his career.

Tottenham visit Barcelona today, knowing that they face a potentially season-defining game against the Spanish title holders in the Champions League.

Mauricio Pochettino's men must beat the LaLiga leaders in their final Group B clash to reach the knockout stage as Inter Milan, also on seven points, have a far easier task on their hands, taking on already eliminated PSV Eindhoven at home.

But Alli, fresh off scoring his 50th goal for the club at Leicester over the weekend, believes Spurs "have a chance" to do the unthinkable.

"They are one of the best teams in the world. They've got some great players and as a kid, you dream about playing at the Nou Camp, and we're going to go there and give it our best shot," the midfielder said.

"It's going to be another difficult game but they're the games you want to be a part of... That's the most important thing."

Belief will be something that Spurs will hold on to as the five-time European champions are already assured of their spot as group winners and Ernesto Valverde is expected to rotate his squad with midfielder Carles Alena in line to make his Champions League debut.

Spurs manager Pochettino is also sharing Alli's positivity ahead of their "massive game" but warned his side not to expect a free ride.

"They have qualified for the next stage but in the Champions League, no one is going to give a present," said the Argentinian. "We need to win and deserve to win. The mentality is going to be 200 per cent to try to win."

That Spurs are travelling with genuine hopes of making it to the last 16 is an achievement in itself, after collecting just one point from their first three games.

Yet it will still be seen as a failure if the club do not advance from the group phase for the third time despite the odds Spurs face, with Barcelona unbeaten in 28 Champions League home matches.

Valverde's men have lost only two home matches in 33 against English opponents, but Spurs will arrive in a rich vein of form, winning eight out of their last nine fixtures in all competitions.

Beating the Catalan giants would also be particularly sweet for Pochettino, a former player and coach at city rivals Espanyol.

In 2009, he earned his first win as a manager by shocking Barcelona as Espanyol recorded their first away win in 27 years and he is hopeful of a repeat.

"All the people were saying Espanyol were dead and had no chance. It was a special victory and an unbelievable memory," he recalled.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 11, 2018, with the headline 'Spurs bullish ahead of crunch Barca showdown'. Print Edition | Subscribe