Belfast Telegraph

Alan Green: Champions League success will cost Tottenham Hotspur on home front

It was all too obvious over the weekend that hardened Champions League campaigners such as Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United often find it difficult sustaining a domestic challenge while trying to make progress in Europe. So no-one should be surprised at the struggle for newcomers Spurs.

I left White Hart Lane last week exhilarated by what I’d witnessed. Inter Milan, the champions of Europe, weren’t thrashed but they were certainly well beaten. Harry Redknapp’s theory of how important those second-half goals were at the San Siro in terms of restoring his team’s credibility was wholly borne out.

And, difficult though it might be to believe, Gareth Bale was even better than he was on the night when he scored that hat-trick. But I couldn’t understand the tactics of Benitez.

If he knew all about the problems posed by the young Welshman — he said he did — why on earth, didn’t he double up defensively against Bale? What sense did it make leaving poor Maicon all on his own? Blind faith? And the sight of Lucio — another of the ‘World’s Best XI’ — sprawled on his backside as Bale flew past him will live long in my memory too.

Unfortunately, in the aftermath of a fantastic evening, all sense of realism was thrown out the window. I’ve heard pundits who should know better describe Bale as now being world-class. One even said the winger was the best player in the world! What? Better than Messi? Xavi? Iniesta?

No, Bale has had some exceptional evenings but you just knew that he and his team might very quickly fall back to earth with an almighty bump: as happened at Bolton.

Spurs were actually flattered by the scoreline at the Reebok Stadium. Bolton were so much better and deserved higher praise from their manager than simply being a “work in progress.” Gone are those ugly days of Allardyce and Megson. Bolton, under Coyle, can now PLAY.

Kevin Davies, amongst those being watched by the England coach Fabio Capello, was magnificent, giving a superb display of how to lead an attack. As his manager said: “Kevin doesn’t have to score goals to have an influence on the game.” But he did: twice.

Tottenham? Crouch was pale in comparison to Davies. Bale was completely subdued by Steinsson. Redknapp’s changes to the team from the Inter game represented a serious misjudgement. Palacios was pulled off at half-time: Sandro and Kranjcar were both substituted in the second period.

The manager admitted after his side’s fourth defeat in 11 league games that the team was “too open” and that they played “with wide men who can’t defend”. Does that include Bale, Harry?

I said before the Champions League campaign began that I was confident Spurs would emerge from their group and could do very well. I also said I had severe doubts they could do so AND maintain momentum in the Premier League. Increasingly, I feel Tottenham might have to win the Champions League to have a presence in it next season.

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