Looking Back: The Last Time Spurs Visited The Bernabéu

Alex Dowie

In April 2011, Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham travelled to Madrid ahead of a Champions League quarter-final clash with Los Blancos. Spurs, in their first ever Champions League season had dazzled on their way to a showdown at the Santiago Bernabéu.

Despite this, Tottenham suffered a nightmare in Madrid, with Peter Crouch seeing red early on. Los Blancos put four past Tottenham and all-but ended their glorious European run. Six years later, a lot has changed for both clubs ahead of their group stage clash.

The two sides faced-off at the Bernabéu for the first-leg on April 5th, 2011.

Real Madrid fielded the familiar faces of Sergio Ramos, Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo, their only starters who still remain at the club. Meanwhile, their attack was headed by the controversial Emmanuel Adebayor. The former Arsenal man tormented Spurs on the night before spending the following four seasons at Tottenham, performing as inconsistently as ever.

Amongst Spurs’ ranks were two future Galácticos, Luka Modric and Gareth Bale. Rafael van der Vaart also featured for Tottenham having departed the Spanish capital the previous summer.

Despite this, Tottenham were far from the complete side at the time. With a centre-back pairing of William Gallas and Michael Dawson in front of the erratic Heurelho Gomes, they were inevitably in for some trouble on the night.

To make matters more difficult, the speedy Aaron Lennon, who with Bale, provided Tottenham with huge counter-attacking threat, was ruled-out with illness shortly before kick-off.

Tottenham started dreadfully and conceded from a corner after just four minutes. Adebayor headed past Gomes and the ball trickled-in under a scrambling Luka Modric.

Things got even worse for Tottenham when Peter Crouch was sent-off after just 15 minutes. The towering forward had been an invaluable weapon for Spurs in the Champions League but two horrifically-timed tackles rightfully earned him the double-booking.

“I was angry after, of course, in the changing room to be honest I found it difficult to speak… It all turned on that red card. We had started so well in the Champions League, it was really something special that year. It was a hard one to take.” Rafael van der Vaart

At this point, Spurs could probably have benefited from the help of a striker like Harry Kane. But Kane’s schedule was full on the night – he was busy making a substitute appearance for Leyton Orient in League One instead:

Tottenham did manage to threaten after the sending-off with van der Vaart and Bale both coming close around the half-hour mark. But Madrid were dominant and it only seemed a matter of time before they added another.

Adebayor went close again before the break, at which point Redknapp brought on Jermain Defoe, presumably to provide an outlet for Spurs. However, the man advantage soon told for Los Blacos and Adebayor scored his second header of the game 10 minutes into the second-half.

Spurs were in survival-mode by this point, trying to take a respectable score back to White Hart Lane to leave them a slight chance in the second-leg. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. Real Madrid sensed blood.

Ángel Di María unleashed a powerful left-foot strike for Real Madrid’s third before Ronaldo scored his token goal late on as Mourinho’s side ran out 4-0 winners.

“It was a difficult night full stop. We lost Aaron Lennon as the team walked on, he was not well enough to play, then we go down to ten men. You need a miracle to play here with ten men. It was an uphill and impossible task.” Harry Redknapp

The defeat in Madrid was a killer blow for Tottenham and the return-leg a week later was an uncharacteristically dull affair at White Hart Lane. With Spurs having little to play for, Ronaldo scored the only goal of the game to end the London club’s memorable Champions League run.

A lot has changed for both clubs since their Champions League face-off in 2011. Madrid eventually ended their 12-year wait to capture La Décima in 2014, with Gareth Bale scoring a crucial extra time goal to put Los Blancos ahead in the final.

Their success is gradually becoming a dynasty under Zinedine Zidane and Luka Modric, amongst others has become an irreplaceable component of the Frenchman’s team.

Tottenham, contrastingly, experienced a few years of turbulence before Mauricio Pochettino steered their ship in the right direction. They’ve since had a compete overhaul of the team that faced Real Madrid in 2011 and have emerged as a Premier League powerhouse.

Both sides have won their opening two Champions League fixtures ahead of their face-off to decide who tops Group H. Madrid are undoubtedly the outstanding favourites, but Tottenham arrive as a far more cohesive, all-round unit than they did in 2011. Their fans will be thankful to see the likes of Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Hugo Lloris protecting their goal this time around.

“We had four or five stand-out players you come to the stadium to watch but now with Tottenham you come for the whole team… They need to use that against Madrid because this is the biggest difference now and also their biggest strength. They are a fantastic team.” Rafael Van der Vaart

Though Los Blancos now own two of Tottenham’s stars from 2011, the Lilywhites have a superstar of their own in Harry Kane. If Spurs are to get a shock result at the Bernabéu, expect the English forward to be integral.

Meanwhile, Gareth Bale has been ruled-out of the fixture against his former club whilst Spurs have received a boost with both Danny Rose and Mousa Dembélé returning from injury for the trip.

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