It's going to take a miracle. At least that seems to be the consensus on what it would take for Tottenham Hotspur to advance into the UEFA Champions League semi-finals. Real Madrid won the first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu 4-0. Peter Crouch was sent off and Spurs in general didn't play all that well. All is lost. Only a miracle can save us now.
However, a comeback by Spurs would not be unprecedented. iTV lists a few of football's best comebacks here and while I, personally, only recall Deportiva La Coruna's comeback against AC Milan from 3 goals down all of those games give me a measure of hope. Things would be much easier had we managed to grab an away goal, but that is not the Spurs way. We must accomplish things in the most difficult way possible. To dare is to do!
Aaron Lennon seems to finally be rid of whatever illness it was that kept him out of the first leg and the addition of his pace will be a welcome one. Additionally, Tom Huddlestone, Steven Pienaar, and Younes Kaboul will all be available for selection. Niko Kranjcar is still struggling with a foot injury and his Croatian counterpart Vedran Corluka is set to miss out with and ankle injury sustained in the first leg. With Peter Crouch suspended Harry must decide whether to start Jermain Defoe or Roman Pavlyuchenko in front of Rafael Van der Vaart.
For Real Madrid, Karim Benzema looks set to return, though he'll have to battle Emmanuel Adebayor and Gonzalo Higuain for a spot in the first XI. Pepe is suspended and Lassanna Diarra, Pedro Leon, and Fernando Gago are all out injured. Manager Jose Mourinho has said that he won't be taking Tottenham Hotspur for granted and will treat them with the respect they deserve. So much for any hope that Mourinho would rest his stars.
Real's main concern will be protecting five players against yellow cards which would rule them out of the first leg of the semi-finals. Ricardo Carvalho, Sergio Ramos, Raul Albiol, Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria are the men in danger of missing the initial tie against Barcelona should they be booked in this game.
The first twenty minutes of this tie will be extremely important. Spurs need to score early and often if they are to have any hope at all of advancing. If Real Madrid score the tie is essentially over, that is if you're of the belief that it isn't already. One Real Madrid goal would mean that Tottenham Hotspur need to score six in order to advance. If Spurs make it through the first twenty minutes both without capitulating and with a goal (or two) then the game will certainly be on. If, on the other hand, Spurs are unable to break Real down early Mourinho may be more than happy to park the bus.
I honestly can't pretend to have any idea how either manager will line-up for this game. If I were Harry I'd line up in a 4-4-2 and go for it, but I think we'll see Spurs' regular European 4-4-1-1. As for Real Madrid and Jose Mourinho? I have absolutely no idea what he'll do. I'd park the bus if I were him, but without Diarra and Gago to insert into midfield his options are limited. When Kevin does these previews he makes a point of saying that the line-ups are how he thinks the squads will line-up, not how they should. So keeping with that method my projected line-ups.
Projected Tottenham Hostpur XI: Gomes; Benoit Assou-Ekoto, Michael Dawson, William Gallas, Younes Kaboul; Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Tom Huddlestone, Aaron Lennon; Rafael Van der Vaart; Jermain Defoe
Projected Real Madrid XI: Iker Casillas; Marcello, Ricardo Carvahlo, Raul Albiol, Alvaro Arbeloa; Xavi Alonso, Sami Khedira; Angel Di Maria, Mesut Ozil, Cristiano Ronaldo; Emmanuel Adebayor
Prediction: Tottenham will score, but so will Real Madrid. 2-2 draw. Real Madrid advances, and Spurs turn their focus to finishing in fourth.