A first leg strewn with symbolism awaits when Tottenham Hotspur’s bold new era and Manchester City’s relentless quest for historic success collide.
The state-of-the-art, 62,062-capacity Tottenham Hotspur Stadium will, belatedly, play host to Champions League football for the first time on Tuesday night. Much-delayed and over budget, yet this all-English quarter-final clash featuring an array of the game’s modern greats provides a fitting forum.
Spurs’ ambitions for the future are laid bare by an avant-garde setting. City, however, live in the present.
A berth in the FA Cup’s showpiece was secured on Saturday at their imminent opponents’ temporary home of Wembley. With the League Cup already secured and the destiny of the Premier League’s title under their control, attention now centres on continental aspirations.
NEW HOME, NEW GOALS?
An electrified atmosphere is guaranteed under 324 LED floodlights when the combatants emerge.
For the cohort clad in white, this moment symbolises the realisation of a dream sold to the likes of manager Mauricio Pochettino and superstar striker Harry Kane.
Until Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu and Barcelona’s Camp Nou are extensively renovated, they will be stepping out at a hyper-modern ground without compare. With the creation of a ‘wall of sound’ also built into the architects Populous’ innovative design, partisan support will urge them on.
Sparkling stadia does not usually equate to an instant improvement of results. BBC Sport research showed that of the four Premier League teams to move since 2000, only north London rivals Arsenal had a better points total than the season before.
In Europe, Atletico Madrid lost 2-1 to Chelsea in September 2017 for the Wanda Metropolitano’s Champions League inauguration. This same stands, however, would witness a 3-0 Europa League final triumph against Marseille by the hosts come the following May.
Spurs’ only run-out, to date, at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was an expected 2-0 win against Crystal Palace. Pochettino’s inspired troops, however, pumped in 26 attempts and a commanding 66-per-cent possession.
Spurs are nearly 20 points off the searing top-flight pace set by City and Liverpool.
They have only ever made one European Cup semi-final – and that was in 1961/62. Their last run to the quarters in 2010/11 ended in a 5-0 aggregate shellacking by Real Madrid.
The potential to take giant strides is there for all to see. Now, it requires actualisation.
There would be no grander way to start than derailing omnipotent City.
WILL WE SEE A BATTLE OF THE STRIKERS?
A familiar face has been witnessed at an unfamiliar setting.
Sergio Aguero has trained with team-mates at Charlton Athletic’s stadium, The Valley, after he missed the last two games because of injury.
His likely return to the XI should provide head coach Pep Guardiola with a welcome problem. The Argentina international’s 10 goals in 13 previous meetings will also send shivers down spines in the Spurs defence.
By reputation, the Blues’ rearguard should feel the same way about Kane. But with only two goals in seven fixtures against them, French centre-back Aymeric Laporte and company may feel quietly confident.
SEND OUT A MESSAGE
Barbs to attack City with rarely hold weight.
When you are recasting expectations, while performing at a rarefied level, jealousy is a predictable by-product.
Slights have been sent their way because of perceived easy cup runs this term. A point that should be rendered mute by Premier League form, but one that requires addressing nevertheless.
In Europe, the recovery from a 2-1 opening loss to Lyon has been staggering. The 10-2, round-of-16 humiliation of – admitted Bundesliga stragglers – Schalke was the second-widest winning margin in the competition’s knockout history.
A catalyst is now required to entrench the view that City – whose only semi appearance came in 2014/15 under Manuel Pellegrini – are coming of age in the UCL. Seeing off Spurs will send out a firm message to the likes of Juventus and Barcelona.
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