The football world was stunned last season when Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur – who were inches away from elimination in the group stages of the competition – ended up reaching the Champions League final following miraculous wins over Manchester City and Ajax.
This season hasn’t nearly been as exceptional for Spurs; Pochettino was fired in November after a run of poor results and Jose Mourinho has been brought in to replace him, but the Portuguese has only overseen mixed results himself, although things do seem to be beginning to change.
However, Tottenham are in the knockout stages of this season’s Champions League – having qualified in far easier circumstances than last season – and with a manager like Mourinho, who has won the competition twice at the helm, is it impossible for them to make the final again?
Definitely not – but if that is to happen, then the following 3 players will need to be on the top of their game.
#1 Dele Alli
Perhaps no other Tottenham player has felt the impact of Mourinho’s arrival as much as Dele Alli; the attacker was struggling under Pochettino due to a series of fitness issues and a lack of form, but since the new boss arrived, he’s improved massively. The England international has been involved in 9 goals since Mourinho’s arrival, scoring 6 goals and making 3 assists, including incredible finishes against Manchester United and Brighton.
And while Giovani Lo Celso seems to have taken a lot of the mantle of Tottenham’s most creative player since the January exit of Christian Eriksen, it’s Alli who often gives Mourinho’s side the spark they need to open tricky defences up. Against Southampton in their recent FA Cup fourth round replay, for instance, it was the attacker’s introduction from the bench that allowed Spurs to turn the game around and win 3-2.
In Champions League action during previous years Alli has also been outstanding; famously helping to down Real Madrid in 2017 and then assisting for 2 of Lucas Moura’s 3 goals in that comeback against Ajax last season. If he can step up to the plate as he has done previously, Alli could be the key to a successful European campaign for Spurs this time around.
#2 Toby Alderweireld
Plenty of attention has been given to Tottenham’s new signings this season, with the likes of Tanguy Ndombele, Gedson Fernandes and Giovani Lo Celso all heading to North London, but perhaps the best bit of business that Spurs have done in 2019-20 was to persuade central defender Toby Alderweireld to sign a new deal at the club.
The Belgian international was expected to depart Tottenham as his contract was due to expire in the summer, but instead the 30-year old has committed his future to Jose Mourinho and his side – and they’re all the better for it. The new deal seems to have lifted a weight from Alderweireld’s back, as he now appears to be back to the imperious form Spurs fans got used to seeing in previous seasons.
With some questions around his defensive partners – Jan Vertonghen and Davinson Sanchez – the form of Alderweireld will be key if Tottenham want to advance in the Champions League, as it’ll be largely down to him to keep things tight at the back against Europe’s most fearsome attacking forces.
And if Mourinho continues to encourage a more direct game for Spurs too, the Belgian could also be a key to their attacks, with his classy long balls over the top feeding the likes of Son Heung Min and Dele Alli. Basically, to make another final, Spurs will need Alderweireld at the top of his game.
#3 Steven Bergwijn
Tottenham’s most recent signing, Dutch forward Steven Bergwijn made a huge impact on his Premier League debut against Manchester City, scoring the opening goal in what was probably Mourinho’s biggest victory as Spurs boss to date. So could ‘Stevie Wonder’, as the Sky Sports commentators christened him, be the key to Spurs making another Champions League final?
Quite possibly. With it looking ever more likely that Spurs will be without their star striker Harry Kane for the remainder of the season – or at least until a potential Champions League final, just as they were in their last campaign – Mourinho’s side will definitely be in need of extra firepower, and while Son Heung Min has deputised for Kane at times, Bergwijn might be the better option to play as a central striker, as his 14 goals and 12 assists last season for PSV show.
What’s more, the 22-year old Dutchman will be dying to make a big impact during his first season in North London – and he’s already outright stated that he wants to win the Champions League with Tottenham. Based on their recent form it appears that if Spurs want to make the final of the competition, they’re going to need to be able to score plenty of goals – and that means that they’ll need Bergwijn to continue where he left off in his debut by continuing to find the back of the net.