Heading into this season’s Champions League group fixtures, I must admit that I didn’t give Tottenham Hotspur much of a chance. That’s partly because just a season ago, Mauricio Pochettino’s men couldn’t finish top-two in a group with Monaco, Bayer Leverkusen and CSKA Moscow.
Monaco, of course, went on to win Ligue 1. Leverkusen, however, stumbled to a 12th-place Bundesliga finish. CSKA was the only team Tottenham handled in their brief return to the UCL stage, in fact. So when they couldn’t get out of that glorified Europa League group—not sorry if this offends—expectations were immediately tempered when both Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund were drawn together with them.
Fortunately for Tottenham, Harry Kane has decided to play the role of savior—as he often does.
Through two matches, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur are on six points apiece. Both sides have tallied five goals and conceded just one. Both sides have each won a home and away fixture. That also means both Dortmund and Cypriot side APOEL currently sit on zero (0) points. Suddenly, only four matches remain. Suddenly, Dortmund has to scramble. Sort of. For their next two UCL contests are a home-and-away against APOEL.
Six points isn’t a given, but at this point, it needs to be.
Now we’re assuming most fans weren’t expecting much from APOEL. And that makes sense. But if all matches were played on paper, well, it just wouldn’t be much fun.
Alas, Tottenham had some trouble with the hosts throughout Tuesday’s contest. But whenever they couldn’t capitalize, Harry Kane punished them. In the 19th minute, APOEL hit the bar. In minutes 36 and 37, attempts trickled just wide. Harry Kane slotted home just two minutes later for his first of three, and Tottenham were off..
Yet in the first 15 minutes following the break, APOEL consistently threatened. Again, chances went just wide. Again, they failed to capitalize. And in minute 62, Harry Kane made them pay. 5 minutes later he’d finish off his hat-trick. Now here we are. Real Madrid versus Tottenham Hotspur. Cristiano Ronaldo versus Harry Kane. Gareth Bale going up against the club that saw him shine for the first time since moving to Spain. The narratives write themselves, and there are just so many to choose from.
After two matches, Kane leads the competition with five (5) scores. Ronaldo is right behind him with four (4) of his own. Could we be in for a passing of the torch? Don’t count on it. Cristiano will be done when he says he is. He proved it again with yet another scintillating UCL performance Tuesday against Dortmund, bagging a brace in the process.
But back to Tottenham.
Dele Alli, yet to serve the final game of his three-match ban for this atrocious tackle last season, will miss the first matchup between Tottenham and the La Liga giants. Tottenham, who will already be the underdogs heading into this fixture, also have to make the trip to Spain. Then again, this Champions League campaign is nothing like the one of a season ago. Spurs are approaching that doorstep; they just need to keep their composure.
Still, it will be an uphill battle. And while Tottenham fans wish it could remain September forever—thanks to Harry Kane’s recent form—Tuesday, October 17 could be just another night in Europe for Ronaldo and Real Madrid. At the moment, we have no way of knowing. In the meantime, it’ll sure be fun to imagine Harry Kane and Cristiano Ronaldo sharing the same field together.
For the fate of the group falls at their feet.