Kane and Messi set for first-ever duel as stars headline Tottenham vs Barcelona

Aditya Devavrat 08:36 02/10/2018
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Wednesday's clash sees Kane vs Messi for the first time.

Tottenham‘s newfound status as one of England’s Champions League regulars faces its latest test on Wednesday as they entertain the mighty Barcelona at Wembley.

The clash will feature a battle of one of the world’s best strikers against one of the best to ever play the game, with several similar duels across the pitch making this a classic encounter between rising stars and an established powerhouse.

Here are the key player battles that will decide the game.

HARRY KANE VS LIONEL MESSI

Harry Kane is in poor form. He’s fatigued and doesn’t look match-fit. Harry Kane also has five goals in eight appearances this season, including three from his last two.

In fairness to the Englishman, he’s looked much sharper in Tottenham’s last two matches than in the three-match scoring drought that preceded them – five if you count two appearances for England – so he should be raring to go now.

Tottenham have tried hard to convince everyone they’re not a one-man team, but they will go only as far as Kane takes them. It’s a good thing he’s hitting top gear as they prepare to host Barcelona.

Form is rarely a concern for Lionel Messi, who has eight goals and four assists this season, including a hat-trick in his last Champions League outing against PSV Eindhoven.

Barca needed him to come off the bench on Saturday to avoid a loss against Athletic Bilbao, as he set up an equaliser, and though there are some big names throughout the squad, like with Spurs there’s a case to be made that this team is too reliant on one man.

Such problems won’t concern Messi, however, as he faces Kane and Tottenham for the first time. The stage is set for a battle royale at Wembley.

The main men: Kane and Messi.

ERIC DIER VS SERGIO BUSQUETS

Eric Dier has made an indifferent start to the season, and though he was a part of England’s World Cup squad, it’s hard to put his form down to fatigue when he played just 194 minutes in Russia. Whatever the reason, Dier has often let Tottenham surrender control of the midfield battle so far this campaign.

Going up against Barcelona, that will be a criminal offence. Even players and teams in top form can be lulled into submission by Blaugrana, so if Dier continues to be off-colour, Tottenham could end up being overrun.

If Dier needs an example of the role he needs to perform, there will be a good one lining up across him. Sergio Busquets has been the unsung hero of Barcelona’s success for too long, but he’s now the only remaining member of the famed Xavi-Iniesta-Busquets trio that underpinned the side’s dominance, and the responsibility of marshalling Barcelona’s midfield, and upholding its tradition, falls on him.

So far, he’s living up to it. He’s averaging one key pass per game this season, with a passing accuracy of 90%. On that form, he’ll be a nightmare for Tottenham to defend against.

Midfield enforcer Dier against pass-master Busquets.

KIERAN TRIPPIER VS JORDI ALBA

Serge Aurier started at right-back against Inter Milan, but Kieran Trippier has started six out of seven Premier League games and it’s clear that the young Englishman is first-choice.

It’s a mark of how far he’s come that he emerged from this summer with his reputation more enhanced than that of any Barcelona full-back. His form for Tottenham and England over the last year has been exemplary, with his passing, crossing, and disciplined pressing and defending a key to both sides’ play.

That he’s also a reliable set-piece taker is the icing on the cake. Barcelona have been forewarned.

Of course, while Trippier had an outstanding World Cup, Jordi Alba has a body of work stretching back years which has made him one of the best left-backs in the world. His attacking ability, and especially his relationship with Messi, is not just a huge bonus for Barcelona – it’s vital to how they play.

Watching Alba come up against the upstart Trippier will be fascinating – not to mention, a big test for the Tottenham man. The Spaniard is among a select crop of players who set the standard for full-back play. No doubt Alba will want to put Trippier in his place.

The full-back area will be key.

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