Champions League preview
The group stages of the UEFA Champions League continues apace next week, with a couple of huge fixtures on the Wednesday evening (1 November).
Tottenham V Real Madrid
North London outfit Tottenham Hotspur welcome quite probably the biggest club in the world, Real Madrid, to their temporary Wembley home. And following a 4-1 mauling of Liverpool this past Sunday afternoon, the English side can go into this one with genuine aspirations of getting one over Zidane’s men.
The two sides played out a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu last week, a result and performance which will have given Mauricio Pochettino and his charges no shortage of confidence. Alongside Manchester City, they look like the most dangerous side in the Premier League right now, and Real were given fair warning last time out.
Tottenham looked anything but overawed when playing at Real’s ground, and over recent weeks they have been growing slowly accustomed to their temporary Wembley home. Last season they remained undefeated at White Hart Lane and, after defeat to Chelsea in their first league home game of this season, there were concerns they would slip slightly off the radar.
That now looks far from being the case, and their performances and panache have now seen them mix it with the very best on a regular basis. Real Madrid have of course won the Champions League for the last two season, and the fact that Tottenham could go to the Bernabeu and play the way they did says volumes about the progress they have made under Pochettino.
Harry Kane has become one of the most dangerous centre forwards on the planet and, following a brace against Liverpool over the weekend, will be looking to continue his recent excellence in front of goal. The England international has even been linked with a move to Real Madrid in recent weeks, and he certainly would not look out of place in their star studded line up.
With Dortmund stuttering in this so called group of death, top spot now looks to be a straight shoot out between Tottenham and Real. The Londoners must be praised for going to Madrid and playing bold but disciplined football, and now they will be in their own back yard you can expect the shackles to come off – expect this to be a fraught, roller coaster of a game, with Tottenham emerging as eventual winners.
Odds: Tottenham (3.00), Real Madrid (2.20), draw (3.60)
Napoli V Manchester City
Next up, Italian league leaders Napoli welcome English league leaders Manchester City to the San Paolo. This should be an entertaining one, if last weeks, 2-1 win for City at the Etihad Stadium is anything to go by.
City’s recent form under Pep Guardiola has been nothing short of imperious, and the way they are playing it would take a freight train to slow them down. There have been six wins in their last six, with as astonishing 20 goals netted – that’s an average of 3.33 goals per game, including a 7-2 thrashing of Stoke City nine days ago.
Napoli’s own excellent form has just started to falter, however. After winning their first eight Série A games in a row, they were held to a goalless draw by Inter Milan at home this weekend.
That follows that 2-1 loss at City last time out in the Champions League, and if the club have aspirations to be genuine title contenders in the continental competition this year, then they should be looking to take the game to Guardiola’s side in Naples. Napoli have scored at least three goals in seven of their nine league games so far this season, and are showing that they have become a force to be reckoned with in their own right.
City, however, are already in touching distance of the round of 16, and following a challenging first season under Guardiola now look to be finding their groove. Defensive frailties appear to have been ironed out and the side are an absolute dream going forward.
Napoli have made a strong start to the season but it is not every day that you come up against a team with the guile, precision and ruthlessness of this City outfit. This will undoubtedly be a stern test for Manchester City and especially their young forwards, but it is a test that they are more than capable of passing.
With both sides preferring an open and expansive style, this should be one for the purists. Expect the visitors to just about nick it and take the three points.
Odds: Napoli (2.60), Manchester City (2.50), draw (3.60)