|Tottenham to be eliminated from the Champions League at the semi-final stage||11/4||Paddy Power|
Before Tottenham Hotspur’s first leg at Wembley took place against Borussia Dortmund in the round of 16, they were already written off by the masses. The injuries to Harry Kane and Dele Alli fuelled the negativity surrounding the team, as well as the German side’s impressive form up until the night in London.
The Lilywhites might have lost to Chelsea and Crystal Palace in quick succession, exiting two cup competitions in the space of four days, but Mauricio Pochettino has done a sterling job since in keeping his – and the team’s – composure intact.
Hugely important wins against Watford, Newcastle and Leicester City followed before their first tie against the Bundesliga leaders.
With the first half barely separating the two sides, the Argentinean manager’s team talk evidently spurred his players on.
Son Heung-min, back from his duty with South Korea, opened the scoring with an immaculate volley from a superbly executed cross from Jan Vertonghen.
Tottenham went on to notch in two more goals in the 83rd and 86th minute, showing just how well they can close matches against top level European opposition.
Taking a three-goal margin into the away fixture at the Westfalenstadion puts the club in an incredibly healthy position, which is why fans are now beginning to question just how far Spurs can go in this year’s Champions League.
With odds of 12/1 offered with Paddy Power to win the competition, the Lilywhites’ loyal supporters will not be getting ahead of themselves just yet. Harry Kane has returned to training, which will add an immense boost to Spurs’ forward line, after Fernando Llorente’s inconsistent and, largely, frustrating performances shown.
Kane’s presence in the side will give Spurs an added boost if they are to truly challenge Europe’s elite clubs, moving into the quarter finals and into territory unfamiliar with most of the squad – as well as their manager.
The Englishman, who is 25/1 with Paddy Power to win the Champions League Golden Boot, will have a couple of weeks in the run up to the return leg in order to sharpen himself and rediscover his shooting boots.
The benefit that Spurs have is that they are fearless. The pressure is completely off Pochettino’s men as few expected them to get past Bundesliga leaders Dortmund, especially coming into the first leg with the injuries they had sustained.
Tottenham have beaten Real Madrid in the group stages previously and managed a historic draw in Camp Nou against Barcelona, so no team in the competition will intimidate them.
Spurs’ only slight problem is if injuries take a toll to their team. Due to the new stadium being built, Daniel Levy, the club’s Chairman, has restricted transfer funds for Spurs and has not sanctioned a player acquisition throughout the last two transfer windows.
Their squad is not one typically associated with that of a European-winning one, primarily because of the lack of strength in depth.
That is not to say that Spurs cannot cause upsets on their journey, however. With a place in the top four looking more and more likely with each passing week, and out of the two domestic cup competitions, Pochettino can really see what his players are made of in the Champions League.
There is no reason why they cannot go on a the type of European Cup run that has never before been seen by their fans.
Spurs have a great chance of reaching the deep waters of the competition. With Pochettino inspiring team positivity throughout and getting the utmost out of every single player, the North London side might just fancy their chances of reaching a semi-final.
Any progression past the last eight would be a huge improvement for Pochettino’s men, even if it is not covered in glory like a trophy would be, but the last four would be a significant step for the club, and they're capable.
Pochettino is constantly being harangued by critics about his lack of silverware at Tottenham, but if he manages to push Spurs into the quarter finals and beyond, that would arguably be his best accomplishment to date, especially given the lack of financial resources available to him.
If that is the case, Manchester United – who are 11/4 with the best bookmakers to hire the Tottenham coach as their next permanent manager – will have one almighty decision to make between Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the Spurs boss.