Tottenham’s brutal Champions League draw a blessing?

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 20: Hugo Lloris of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on August 20, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 20: Hugo Lloris of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates his sides first goal during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on August 20, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images) /

Tottenham Hotspur were drawn into the Champions League “group of death,” but that could be more a blessing than a curse for Spurs.

Tottenham Hotspur supporters who are convinced whatever football gods may be out there are against their beloved Lilywhites probably didn’t feel any differently about that particular matter after watching the Champions League draw take place earlier this week. For those who somehow missed it or are in denial, Tottenham will be matched against defending champions Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and APOEL of Cyprus.

The reactions had by Tottenham supporters and casual observers to this grouping were about what one would expect. Spurs fans found themselves in a state somewhere between disbelief and outright laughter at the club’s situation, while respected journalists around the world pointed out Tottenham have little chance of making much noise in this season’s competition. The following from Roger Gonzalez of CBS Sports, who listed Spurs as one of the losers of the draw:

"Poor Spurs. After a good group last year, the team is now drawn with Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund. That’s four matches against two top contenders in the cup. How in the world are they expected to get through, especially with [sic] the team is playing poorly at home at Wembley? They are going to have to get at least seven points in the fourth matches against Real and Dortmund to have a chance. I don’t see that happening."

Every point Gonzalez made is fair, if not completely accurate. Four matches against two top contenders, two of which will be played against what has to be considered the top side in the world today, is brutal for any side that isn’t Barcelona. So much has been made about Tottenham’s inability to earn positive results at Wembley Stadium, the club’s home for the 2017-18 season, that you probably stumbled upon this piece by accident if you don’t know about that narrative.

It shouldn’t be ignored that it is, on paper, more likely than not Spurs will, once again, be unceremoniously bounced from the Champions League before you find yourself opening presents on Christmas morning. The likes of Chelsea and Manchester City would struggle to survive this season’s “group of depth,” and Tottenham don’t have the squad depth possessed by either of those clubs as the end of summer approaches.

What’s funny — or maybe more so ironic than humorous — is that it’s easy to believe manager Tottenham Mauricio Pochettino wouldn’t have his club’s Champions League route go much differently. Under Pochettino, it has become commonplace for Spurs to face the likes of Real, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and other top-tier clubs in preseason friendlies to test his squad ahead of grueling campaigns. He welcomes the challenge of Tottenham facing Europe’s elite with open arms.

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Tottenham’s recent record at Wembley probably doesn’t inspire much confidence among supporters, but all should do well to remember Spurs weren’t disastrous in their past two defeats to Chelsea at the venue. Truth be told, Tottenham deserved at least a draw versus the defending Premier League champions back on August 20, as Spurs bossed much of the action despite hitting the back of the net via an own goal.

Logic suggests Spurs may be dealing with a simple crisis of confidence as it pertains to their temporary residence. Victories against the likes of Burnley, Swansea City and Bournemouth would be beneficial, but think just how more it would mean for Spurs to hang with both Real and Dortmund during a home contest. A win against either side could provide an emotional boost to a Spurs side that has come up painfully shy of the mountaintop each of the past two campaigns.

Tottenham were placed in what seemed, at the time, to be a favorable group last summer, and the expectations that came with such a pairing did Spurs zero favors. This time around, the pressure is off Tottenham. Most foresee Spurs finishing third in the group at absolute best. There’s something to be said for an underdog looking to establish itself among the top sides in the world and, in the process, silence doubters for even a brief period of time.

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Tottenham will be up against it. Even still, surviving and advancing could mean so much more for the team’s long-term goals than finishing second in the league table and remaining in title pursuits through the start of May. The Tottenham squad must embrace this challenge, if only because there’s no alternative.