Weblog: The football punter

Barcelona to beat injury-hit Tottenham

Champions League
BT Sport 2, 8pm Wednesday

Tottenham have cobbled together a mini-revival by posting away wins at Premier League strugglers Brighton and Huddersfield but their limitations are likely to be exposed by Barcelona at Wembley.

The last time Spurs came up against a world-class attack they were humbled 2-1 by Liverpool.

And the scoreline could have been much worse had Jurgen Klopp's side shown more of a ruthless side.

Since then Tottenham have hauled themselves back into the top four and scrambled past Watford with a penalty shootout success in the EFL Cup third round.

But none of those performances showed Spurs anywhere near their best and that is where they will need to be if they are going to enjoy another memorable European night.

Last November Spurs delivered one of the finest performances of the Mauricio Pochettino era by beating Real Madrid 3-1 at Wembley.

Dele Alli rose to the occasion against Real, scoring twice, and Christian Eriksen rounded things off with a superbly taken goal.

But Alli is ruled out of the Barca game through injury and Eriksen is also unavailable after failing to recover from abdominal strain which sidelined him at Huddersfield.

Harry Winks will likely to be asked to fill Eriksen's shoes and his vision will be key to opening up a far-from-perfect Barcelona defence weakened by the absence of injured right back Sergi Roberto and suspended centre-back Samuel Umtiti.

Clement Lenglet will fill in for Umtiti and a lot of responsibility rests on the shoulders of his centre-back partner Gerard Pique, who has been guilty of making several mistakes in recent weeks.

Barcelona's shaky defence has been a factor in a sequence of three games without a win which has allowed Real Madrid to draw level with them on 14 points at the top of La Liga.

However, the Catalans still have the best attack in Spain – scoring 18 goals in seven league games – and it should be enough to see off Spurs.

Lionel Messi should be nicely rested after being restricted to the role of second-half substitute in Saturday's 1-1 draw at home to Athletic Bilbao, and he topped the Champions League scoring charts on matchday one thanks to a hat-trick in the 4-0 demolition of PSV Eindhoven.

Luis Suarez – three goals in eight games this season – has been less impressive and, aside from Messi, the biggest danger to Spurs could come from pacy attacker Ousmane Dembele, who is making up for an injury-ravaged start to his Barcelona career.

The key to coping with Barca's front three is to restrict the service to them but Spurs' midfield does not look up to the task.

Eric Dier has had a poor start to the season and, with Mousa Dembele ruled out, either Moussa Sissoko or Victor Wanyama will be asked to enter the fray.

However, neither has had enough games to build up any rhythm and, at less than 100 per cent, they are going to struggle to cope with the class and movement of Barca's midfield magicians Ivan Rakitic and Philippe Coutinho.

Despite a midfield mismatch, Spurs could have their moments and Harry Kane, back to something like his best form, is an obvious threat.

Kane may well add to his tally of nine Champions League goals but it is likely to be in a losing cause with Spurs heading for successive European defeats.

Barcelona win and both teams to score

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Match in Focus

12:30 Sa 16Feb BT2

Brighton v Derby

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Derby have lost only one of their last nine outings.
Expert verdict
Derby haven’t lost in over a month so should go into their fifth-round tie at Brighton with high hopes. Brighton were hammered by Burnley in their last outing and there could be a shock on the cards when the Rams, buoyed by last week’s dominant performance against Hull, head south.