Tottenham’s CL opener against Inter Milan already a key crossroads in their season

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One defeat, these days, is a setback. Two a slump. Three a crisis. Which may seem a touch harsh on Mauricio Pochettino, given the journey he has overseen for the last four years. But for any club with designs on grandeur, these are the stakes. Tottenham play with live ammo these days, which is why their trip to Milan already feels like a crossroads in their season.

Never under Pochettino have Spurs lost three in a row. It feels like months rather than just three weeks since a spectacular 3-0 win at Old Trafford preserved their 100 per cent record in the Premier League. But even if the downturn has been short and sharp, perhaps the trouble has been brewing for a while. For Spurs, the hope is that the step up to Champions League level can jump start a season that already looks in danger of stalling.

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Inter Milan v Tottenham is a fixture with connotations, of course, and their head-to-head record of two wins each barely hints at the drama those four games have contained. The scintillating double header in the 2010-11 Champions League is the one everyone remembers, when Gareth Bale first announced himself on the European stage with a hat-trick in Tottenham’s 4-3 defeat, before taking the defending champions apart at White Hart Lane in a 3-1 win.

If anything, though, their meeting in the Europa League round of 16 two seasons later was more dramatic still. A far inferior Inter side were swatted away 3-0 in the first leg before launching a staggering comeback at the San Siro, wiping out the deficit in 90 minutes before Tottenham finally staggered through on away goals after a 4-1 defeat.

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And in a way, those four matches encapsulate Tottenham’s European adventures in the modern era: emotionally charged, temperamentally brittle and as capable of thrilling collapses as they are of thrilling upsets.


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