Oh no Harry, not Peter Crouch
Anyone but Crouchy
I spent all last week in Madrid checking out the 'Irish Rover' for my fellow fans, No, don't thank me, it's a tough job but somebody's got to do it. In my spare time I investigated the ticket situation and posted on various sites how to go about getting one.. As far as I know nobody that wanted one has gone without although some seemed to have paid through the nose for the privilege.There seem to be plenty left for sale from 80 Euros
Real have certainly exploited the situation by not allocating enough tickets in the first place. But then what are fans for if not to be exploited? Except for me of course. I'm back in England on urgent family business and it doesn't look like I'm going to get back now to see the game live. However there are some things that are more important than football. That sentence doesn't sound quite right somehow especially on a football blog. What can possibly be more important than the Madrid game?
Well a surprising number of realistic Tottenham fans might say, 'The Wigan game'. We have more than exceeded expectations in the Champions' League and have nothing to prove, but if we can beat Wigan we might still have an outside chance of doing it all over again next year. A draw at Wigan will do neither team much good but a draw at the Bernabeu would suit us just fine.
Now it is commonly acknowledged that all roads lead to Rome, once it seemed as if they actually did. But to Spurs fans at the moment all roads lead to Madrid. The highways and byways of Italy have been successfully tramped. There is of course, before we wander the cailles and avenidas of Iberia, a small diversion along the road to Wigan Pier.
From the Road to Wigan Pier on Saturday to the Castellana on Tuesday night without breaking stride: from pies to paella; from black pudding to bacalao; from pigs' trotters to potatas bravas; from hot-pot to huevas rellones, in one easy step. The coming few days neatly encapsulates our season. Would anyone swap a win in Spain for one in the North West? Madrid has all the glamour and fulfills our destiny but a win at Wigan might help to ensure that this year is not just a one-off.
Can we beat Real Madrid? We are a better team now than we have recently been and Real are not quite what they once were. Mind games are prominent in the run up: Benzema,Ronaldo,Marcello, Bale,Lennon, and probably others are all described as 'struggling to be fit'. However it would be no surprise to see them all in place on Tuesday. A draw would be enough for us but they need to win the first leg.
They are trying to pull the old Brer Rabbit trick of pretending to fear most what they actually prefer. In Brer Rabbit's case he persuaded Brer Fox to throw him into the Briar Patch where unknown to his adversary he was born and raised. In Madrid's case that the person they claim to fear most is Peter Crouch when in Carvalho they have an experienced Premiership centre half that might well eat him for 'desayuno'.
Can we reproduce one of the the Milan scenarios and either score enough away goals or keep a clean sheet to make us favourites to go through? We haven't done a lot of defensive parsimony this season but Tuesday would be a good night to experiment with it.
Could we lose to bottom of the table Wigan who have conceded more goals at home than anyone else and allow them to become the first team this season to do the double over us? Now bottom of the table has an ominous ring to it but a win for Wigan could take them to the dizzy heights of 13h. so tight is the situation around the relegation zone this year. But it all sounds very unlikely.
I'm ignoring the usual advice to take it one game at a time because in Harry's and the players' minds the two games are inextricably linked. Some players might be kept back for the Madrid game. Bale, Crouch and Sandro might be earmarked for the Bernabeu. Pavlyuchenko and Jenas might be penciled in for Wigan.It looks as if Dawson and Bassong might figure in both as Gallas,Ledley, Woodgate and Kaboul are all 'struggling' as they say.
Harry might not be with us much beyond the end of the season and his mind might be focused on Champions' League glory and the England job but a win at Wigan might be the perfect set-up for the Spanish adventure. Two wins are unlikely but a win and then a draw would be more than enough to maintain all our hopes.
Anything less is unthinkable and I am confidently predicting a 2-0 win at Wigan and a 1-1 draw in Madrid. There are no easy games in the Premiership, as we all know, particularly at this time of the season and the easier the game appears then the more trouble it seems to cause us especially if our minds are not fully focused.