With 36 points from 16 Premier League games, Spurs are enjoying their best ever start to a season. Third in the league, six points off leaders Liverpool and well placed to launch their own challenge at the summit in the remainder of the domestic season.
But all eyes will be on Europe on Tuesday night, for what many would see as the club’s biggest game of the campaign so far.
With Inter Milan hosting an already eliminated PSV, anything less than a win for the Italians would be a real surprise. With that in mind, victory for Spurs in the Nou Camp appears the only outcome that would avoid Pochettino’s men failing to make the knockout stages for the second time in the last three years.
If that happens, it’ll likely not be Tuesday’s result in Spain that all connected with Tottenham will be left rueing. It’ll be the dropped points from winning positions earlier in the group stage where ultimately the damage was done. The last minute defeat in the San Siro, to a lacklustre Inter side, was hard to stomach.
Just over a month later, Spurs went to Eindhoven and after turning around a one goal deficit to lead 2-1, conceded another late goal and had to settle for a point from a match they should have won twice over.
One thing is certain, if Tottenham are to win in the Nou Camp, their game management must be much improved. It’s perhaps the one area for criticism of Pochettino and his side this season. As well as those two Champions League results, Spurs have also gone on to lose from winning positions against Watford and Arsenal. If they get their noses in front on Tuesday night, they’ll have to protect the lead with their lives.
It might seem like the impossible task (Tottenham to win is 11/5), given Barcelona haven’t lost a home game in the Champions League group stages in five years, but there’s enough to give Spurs fans reason to be optimistic.
With eight wins from their last nine, Pochettino afforded himself the rare luxury of resting both Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen for the majority of the team’s 2-0 victory at Leicester on Saturday. Both will be raring to go in Spain and are two players familiar with performing at the top of their game on the biggest of stages. Kane to score anytime is 10/11, while Eriksen is priced up at 3/1.
Undeniably, much rests on the side Ernesto Valverde decides to select for Barcelona. The Catalans are three points clear at the top of La Liga, with a trip to sixth place Levante to come on Sunday.
Last season, Barcelona had already qualified as group winners before their final match, a home tie with Sporting Lisbon. Amongst a host of changes, Valverde rested Messi and Iniesta. Barca still won the game 2-0, but the prospect of facing the Spaniards without Messi would give Tottenham a massive pre-match boost.
The year before, a different manager in Luis Enrique, but an almost identical qualification scenario. Barca made eight changes, Messi played but Neymar and Suarez were rested. Again it mattered not to the result, with the Catalans running out 4-0 winners. So recent history suggests Barcelona will field a ‘weakened’ team, but such is their strength in depth, that the victories have still followed.
Speaking after Saturday’s win at Leicester, Dele Alli admitted success in the Nou Camp would “definitely be up there” with Spurs best achievements under Mauricio Pochettino. There have been a handful of glory glory nights over the past four and a half years, none more so than the 3-1 victory over Real Madrid last season, but if Tottenham are to take their place in the Champions League Last 16 next February, this could very well be the best of the lot.