Trevor Steven: Barcelona test offers Tottenham chance to kick-start season

Trevor Steven
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Kane has returned to form ahead of the high-profile European clash (Source: Getty)

Were it not for the way they wilted in their defeat to Inter Milan last month, I’d be far more confident of Tottenham getting something out of their Champions League clash with Barcelona on Wednesday night.

Yet the fixture remains a great opportunity for Spurs to kick-start their season, having spent much of the new campaign trying to hold things together amid unusually poor performances, a series of injuries, the sluggish form of Harry Kane and demoralising delays to their new stadium project.

That loss at Inter was a third consecutive defeat – Tottenham’s worst run of form under Mauricio Pochettino – but back-to-back Premier League wins over Brighton and Huddersfield, sandwiching Carabao Cup progress against Watford, have stopped the rot.

Read more: Four things we learned from the Premier League this weekend

A win over Barca would represent a huge lift. How Spurs could use it.

There are reasons for Tottenham to take heart. Barcelona are vulnerable and they arrive in London in a bit of rut, without a win in their last three matches.

Draws at home with Girona and Athletic Bilbao and a shock defeat to Leganes have highlighted just how reliant Barca have become on Lionel Messi. When he is not there they are nowhere near as effective.

FC Barcelona v Athletic Club - La Liga
Barcelona have become very reliant on their prize asset Messi (Source: Getty)

They are not a compact side – Gerard Pique spends as much time trying to get into the opposition penalty box as he does defending his own in some games – and Pochettino can draw encouragement from that.

Kane appears to have his shooting boots back on, having scored twice at Huddersfield on Saturday, and he will fancy his chances against a Barca back four who will be without World Cup winner Samuel Umtiti.

Goals are a striker’s driving force and when you are struggling to find form they cure all. Kane is England captain playing at Wembley and he’ll be up for the challenge.

Tottenham let a lead slip in their defeat to Inter Milan last month (Source: Getty)

Pochettino’s team selection will reveal whether he is happy to take a draw or wants to go for all three points.

Spurs are at their most attacking when using a back three, as they did at the weekend, which allows Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose to get into dangerous areas on the flanks.

It’ll be interesting to see whether he sticks with that or adopts a more cautious back four, with one eye on the fact that Tottenham could have no points from two games if they aren’t careful.

Spurs boss Pochettino faces a tactical dilemma against Barcelona (Source: Getty)

European competition could be massively important for Spurs this season.

I don’t see them winning the Premier League this season – they would have to have shown a lot more in the first few weeks to show they can keep up with the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool.

But the Champions League is a different environment and the football is a different style. Teams aren’t as familiar with each other as they are in domestic games, so you have always got an opportunity to get a result on a given night.

This tournament might just be the best way for Tottenham to regain their confidence.

A win against Barca would not only send a message to the rest of Europe, it could also trigger a morale-boosting run across all competitions. It’s a stiff test, but it could be just what the doctor ordered.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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