So today was the Champions League draw. I didn’t watch it but I followed it on the internet and my beloved Tottenham Hotspur got an okay but not great draw with Inter Milan, Werder Bremen and FC Twente. Inter won the Champions League last season with Jose Mourinho at the helm and remain the very strong team they four months ago. Since Mourinho left for more shark filled waters in Madrid, Rafa Benitez left the mess in Liverpool and landed quite well. He has always done well with in Europe with relatively weak squads as compared to the juggernaut Inter can field.
Bremen squeaked by Sampdoria in the qualifying rounds after a strong domestic campaign to make it into the lucrative group stages and though they no longer have Mesut Ozil in the midfield they can still call on a good mix of young and experienced talent (remember Ballack’s old partner in the German middle, Torsten Frings?). Marko Marin is a dynamite little player who I suspect should have gotten a harder look in the WC from Loew and he worries the hell out of me because I can see him skinning Corluka repeatedly down the right side. But other than that, I don’t see much about Bremen that scares me too much.
Twente had an amazing year to win the Eredivisie, especially since Ajax scored like six goals a game. That said, McLaren has moved on to Wolfsburg and we don’t know how the team will perform without him. They are very shrewd defensively and the consistency of their defensive performances are what allowed them to pip Ajax for the title. So, they are a bit of an unknown quantity, but I like the look of our side and having a vet like Gallas who won’t be overawed by the occasion will add some steel.
On that note, I think Gallas will prove a very shrewd buy in the long run because he gives Dawson another assured vet to play alongside when Ledley can’t do a domestic and European game in the same week and Dawson is always better alongside an older player. I don’t quite trust Assou-Ekotto against the elite wingers he is due to face in the competition but Bale’s ability to track back helps him out a whole lot.
I see us using Crouch regularly in the CL, especially for away matches. He is still a real handful for most continental teams as we saw against Young Boys and his record in non-domestic matches remains quite impressive. Huddlestone had a very assured performance against this week and I think in Europe the pairing of him and Wilson adds the steel we need in the middle. If Lennon and Bale stay healthy they give us enough creativity going forward that Modric becomes a bit superfluous since he doesn’t offer much defensively and makes us vulnerable to counterattacks. He could fit at the top of the midfield in a 4-5-1, I suppose, but we haven’t seen Harry give that formation a whole lot of thought yet.
It’s good that we we won’t have any tricky away trips to Eastern Europe. I think our boys might crumble at the inevitable sight of vaguely fascist fans and flares in the stands, not to mention the inevitable monkey chants that always seem to occur in the backwaters of the former USSR.
We’ll probably go down away to Inter and be fortunate to get a point at home. I think Spurs will probably manage to lose at least one of their away trips to Bremen or Twente but of they can pick up at least 2 points from our trips abroad and get 6 from out home tilts with the Dutch and Germans, I like our chances to pick up 2nd place in the group.