The Champions League draw was favourable to Tottenham. We can’t really complain at being in a group with Monaco, Bayer Leverkusen and CSKA Moscow. The German club strike me as the biggest danger, with the two games possibly deciding who finishes top of the group.
CSKA are the group’s top seeds by virtue of being Russian champions and are 13/2 to win Group E according to the Bet365 Champions League betting. In the past three seasons, they have qualified for this stage of the Champions League and managed to win one game each time, finishing bottom of their group on each occasion as well.
They have played some of Europe’s best teams – Bayern Munich, Manchester City, and Roma – and some not so good – Viktoria Plzen being a prime example.
We travel to Moscow for the second game, the timing means that we are likely to avoid the inclement weather which can make these matches tougher than they need to be. CSKA visit Wembley for the final group match as well; I’ll settle for that – we can’t ask for much more than the weakest team at home if we need three points to qualify.
Whilst Akinfeev is a good goalkeeper, they lack a prolific goalscorer and it’s hard to see them particularly troubling us.
Leverkusen are the danger team. Last season they held Barcelona at home and only dropped into the Europa League by drawing with BATE Borisov. A win in that game and they would have progressed. Like us they went out of the Europa League to a team eventually beaten by Liverpool, Villarreal.
They have plenty of European experience, with some useful and dangerous forwards in Hernandez, Volland and Kiessling, as well as established German internationals in Bender and Leno.
AS Monaco are the final opposition. We know them well having taken four points off them in last season’s Europa League group stage and I honestly don’t view them as much of a threat. More likely, our over-confidence would beat us more than the opposition.
If Radamel Falcao was five years younger and not permanently lying on a bed in the treatment room, he might be a dangerous forward but he didn’t cut it in England with Chelsea or United and is something of a busted flush these days.
The biggest opponent in the group is Wembley Stadium. The heart of international football has had a facelift but the aura about the ground is still the same. Everyone knows the name, the history and if it is the only occasion they will play there, the vistors will raise the game accordingly.
Using a bigger stadium so more fans can see the game is a laudable intention from the club. Pricing it accordingly is even better but it won’t necessarily help the players. The England squad players shouldn’t be overawed as they are used to the stadium but the rest may be and that is something they have to work on.
Nerves are commonplace on the pitch but the width could work to our advantage if we can get the full backs and wide players working properly. We do have the depth, we now have strikers who can score so the opportunities are there to be seen.
More than anything, I want us to look back on the campaign with a feeling of pride. Winning the group ought to see us with a relatively kind draw in the knockout stage and whilst it won’t be easy, is surely enough for some more glory, glory nights?