Tottenham are 90 minutes away from achieving something the club hadn’t done since 2011. Make it past the first knockout round of the UEFA Champions League.
With a 3-0 aggregate lead, Tottenham is in pole position as it travels to Dortmund, hoping it can hold off the Bundesliga leaders for what would be an epic comeback. Around a month ago, this result seemed nearly impossible. Dortmund was surging, leading the Bundesliga by 10 points while Tottenham had just lost Harry Kane and Dele Alli to long-term leg injuries.
But as Spurs showed, it didn’t need Kane and Alli. Heung-min Son starred up top, Jan Vertonghen put in a Man of the Match performance at left wing back and Tottenham stunned Dortmund. Now, with Kane back and Alli returned to first team training, Tottenham has all the momentum heading into the match.
“It’s a great opportunity to play and go through to the next round in an important competition like the Champions League,” Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino said at his pre-match press conference. “Tomorrow is going to be a tough game. We need to forget the first leg.”
As he mainly just plays cup and mid-week matches, this could be Christian Pulisic’s last big hurrah before moving this summer to Chelsea. Dortmund said they believe, in front of the Yellow Wall, anything is possible.
Meanwhile, another club in league turmoil takes the field against a strong contender. Real Madrid holds a 2-1 aggregate lead ahead of the match at the Santiago Bernabeu, but they’ll be without Sergio Ramos, who’s been suspended for two matches.
Los Blancos suffered yet another defeat at arch rival Barcelona last weekend, and is desperate for some good news. Facing rising stars Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie De Jong, this could be the week for a big Champions League win at home.
Van Dijk should lead Player of the Year conversation
Now, we all know that a player from the team which wins the title is usually named the player of the season (except for last season when Salah pipped Kevin De Bruyne to the accolade) but there have been some wonderful individual campaigns from stars across the league in 2018-19.
With that in mind, below we take a quick look at the top 10 contenders with nine games of the season to go. Can anybody challenge VVD?
Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool) – The Dutch defender has been a colossus at the back for Liverpool, as they’ve conceded just 15 times so far this season. He leads the defense and his belief spreads throughout the team with his incredible passing ability. A true “Rolls Royce” of a defender. The front three for Liverpool are very important, but VVD is probably more important. A defender hasn’t won the POTY accolade since John Terry in 2005…
Heung-Min Son (Tottenham) – After two breaks during the season for the Asian Games and the Asian Cup, Son has returned and played superbly for Tottenham. He stepped up big time when Harry Kane was out injured and the South Korean forward has been a menace all season. He has looked a little jaded in recent weeks, but this has been his best season in the PL by far.
Sergio Aguero (Man City) – He leads the PL with 18 goals and Aguero’s all-round game has improved drastically under Pep Guardiola. We all know he’s a predator in the box, but his work rate, link-up play and hunger is through the roof. If City win the title, Aguero will be one of the main reasons why.
Harry Kane (Tottenham) – To miss the games he has through injury and still have 16 PL goals this season is remarkable and Kane has been Tottenham’s talisman once again. He always delivers and even though Spurs are out of the title race, Kane has kept them in it for most of this season. In a world he is relentless.
Raheem Sterling (Man City) – Last season will have been tough for Sterling to replicate, but in many ways he has got even better in 2018-19. With 12 goals and nine assists only Salah, Aguero and Hazard have been involved in more PL goals than Sterling this season. He continues to refine his game under Guardiola, and Sterling’s impact off-the-pitch is inspirational.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – Yes, he’s blown hot and cold for most of this season but when he’s been good, he’s been very, very good. Hazard is the main reason Chelsea are still well in the top four hunt, and even though his future is unclear you can hardly accuse him of coasting through games. Playing as a false nine whenever asked he has still caused problems, but Hazard is much better on the wing. This could well be his final season in the PL.
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – The Egyptian forward has struggled for consistency this season, but he still has 17 goals and seven assists to his name. So if this a below-par campaign for Salah, it’s still very decent… His form has dipped over the past few months but Salah’s importance to Liverpool is clear and the reigning POTY will no doubt kick on in the final months of the season.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) – Arsenal’s main man up top has scored 16 goals and he could have scored quite a few more. His partnership with Alexandre Lacazette has been building, but the duo aren’t always selected alongside one another by Unai Emery. Aubameyang’s strike rate since he arrived in the PL is remarkable, as he’s now scored 26 goals in 40 outings. His slick finishes have kept Arsenal in the top four battle.
Ben Foster (Watford) – Watford are having a wonderful season and Foster is rolling back the years in goal. The 35-year-old has produced some memorable saves and displays to keep the Hornets’ European hopes alive. Not a player many would expect to see on this list, but one that truly deserves it.
Fernandinho (Man City) – So often the unsung hero for Man City, they do not operate in the same ruthless manner when the Brazilian midfielder is missing. Fernandinho’s absence has coincided with some of City’s worst displays of the season and his incredible range of passing compliments his tough-tackling and exceptional reading of the game. A key cog in Guardiola’s well-oiled machine.
This season, Son scored 16 goals in 34 matches for Tottenham. This past year he’s represented South Korea at both the World Cup, Asian Games and Asian Cup. South Korea’s Asian Games win exempted him and his teammates from the standard compulsory military service required of all young adult South Koreans.
Mauricio and Sonny have both been recognised at this year’s London Football Awards.
Son took another step up in January and February with both Kane and Alli missing in action. Son scored in four straight matches, all wins for Tottenham at home, including a 3-0 rout of Borussia Dortmund. Son has
The first quality chance belonged to Gonzalo Higuain, who hit a ball with the outside of his boost that plunked the inside of the post but bounded away from goal.
Eden Hazard laid off for Higuain after a terrible giveaway from Hugo Lloris, but the Argentine spun his shot wide of the far post.
For Spurs, Heung-Min Son was lively in producing a pair of moments in the first 25 minutes. The second was handled neatly by Marcos Alonso.
Spurs continued to grow into the game, and Harry Kane earned a corner when his left-footed shot was blocked by the Blues. And Harry Winks hit a ball over the hand of Willy Caballero but off the cross bar.
Pedro gave Chelsea its breakthrough, dribbling down the end line and hitting a shot between two defenders and past Hugo Lloris. It wasn’t a howler given the power, but the Spurs backstop will have expected to do better.
And the Spanish goal scorer turned tackling hero in the 64th when he slid to dispossess Christian Eriksen in the Chelsea box, then taking off on a 50-yard dribble.
Toby Alderweireld had the next chance, popping a header wide of the goal in the 67th minute.
Trippier’s own goal was a clinical finish, as Hugo Lloris charged forward to collect a big header from Olivier Giroud and Trippier never noticed the keeper’s unavailability to receive a pass.
Two managers embroiled in weekend controversy look to put a positive spin on the drama when Chelsea hosts Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
Chelsea’s Maurizio Sarri was already under fire before goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga openly defied his substitution call late in the League Cup Final on Sunday, and the Blues were denied silverware when Man City won in penalty kicks.
And Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino went bonkers on referee Mike Dean after Burnley beat his Spurs 2-1, an upset that put his side six points back of the table lead instead of three.
So it’s a big day for both men on Wednesday, with Spurs hoping to keep their feet in the title race and Chelsea keeping its eyes trained on the Top Four. The Blues are three points back of fourth place Arsenal.
What they’re saying
Kepa Arrizabalaga on his bizarre refusal to sub off in the League Cup Final: “Although there was a misunderstanding, on reflection, I made a big mistake with how I handled the situation. I wanted to take the time today to apologise fully and in person to the coach, to Willy, my team-mates and to the club. I have done this and now I want to offer the same apology to the fans.”
Mauricio Pochettino on his post-match confrontation of referee Mike Dean: “I hope I don’t repeat this type of situation. It’s not going to help my team, my club, the job of the referees and, of course, myself. I think I’m a very smart person who cannot repeat the same mistake. I was so frustrated after the game, so disappointed with the result. I didn’t want to justify the defeat and complain with the referee. It’s only that when you start to talk, your heart-rate starts to push.”
Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son hits their stride, and Chelsea is just a bit too gassed after 120 minutes and a silverware setback on Sunday. Spurs 2-0.
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