Rivaldo Exclusive: Surprised Barcelona are favourites for Tottenham clash
Betfair Ambassador Rivaldo reflects on Barcelona's recent struggles and suggests Tottenham could shock them at Wembley on Wednesday, as well as looking ahead to Manchester United's clash with Valencia...
"Even if Dele Alli, Hugo Lloris and Christian Eriksen cannot recover from their injury issues, Tottenham still have good players such as Lucas Moura, who I played with at São Paulo in 2011. He is a good player who has had an excellent start of season in north London and Barcelona must be wary of his threat."
Reasons to be worried
Right now, the only thing I can say is there are reasons to be worried as it's rare to see Barcelona struggling for three consecutive matches in La Liga. Yes, that's good for the competition but bad for Barca because the club is not used to losing many points to 'lesser' opponents.
The team must be careful because the Champions League is tougher than the Spanish league, and if they are losing points against this kind of opposition, things could get even worse in Europe, so they must wake up quickly.
When you go three matches without a win, I think that both players and manager must share the responsibility. Barcelona have great players and a good manager, but things are not happening for them now, so it's time to worry about it, but taking common responsibility and never blaming anyone individually.
Anyway, if Barcelona wants to be crowned Champions League winner this season they absolutely must improve their quality and stop playing as they did last three games.
Stop over-relying on Messi
We all know how good Lionel Messi is as a player and how decisive he is so often, but Barcelona have other great players in the team and to keep depending on his goals and assists is problematic.
Barça needs other players to rise up to the occasion. Messi won't last forever and at his age it's normal that is level starts decreasing slightly year after year, so there must be someone to take the reins.
Of course, Barcelona already have the kind of players that could decide a match, but the truth is that they aren't stepping up when it's important, and for all the quality Messi could have, he cannot keep deciding games on his own.
Unjustified favouritism against Tottenham
Yep, Barcelona are a strong team, but they are without a win for three matches and playing badly, so I think Spurs have a chance here to claim a win. For that reason, I don't consider Barcelona favourite in this match.
As I mentioned last week, when a big club loses to lesser teams, it gives hope and motivation to the clubs about to face Barcelona, and now at Champions League level they'll face a very serious opposition. Tottenham have a good team and will fight for qualification from this group. They also have extra motivation from Barcelona bad run of results and will certainly try to grab a big win this Wednesday.
Pochettino's Espanyol link could be key
Mauricio Pochettino played and trained Espanyol for many years, so as a former rival, he has clear awareness of Barcelona's strengths. He will try to beat them, of course, but not only because of that rivalry. He is a good manager with a bright future and could pass that previous experience in Spain to his Spurs players in order to give them an edge that might lead them to victory.
I played against him and he was a good player, the typical Argentinian defender - passionate and a fighter - and we could already envisage him as a future manager back then because he was a leader on the pitch, so it was not a surprise to see him starting a managerial career.
Tottenham have many offensive weapons
Harry Kane is their main threat, of course, but Spurs have more weapons on the front that can hurt Barcelona's defence. They will try to take advantage of playing home against a team in bad moment to grab three important points.
Even if Dele Alli, Hugo Lloris and Christian Eriksen cannot recover from their injury issues, Tottenham still have good players such as Lucas Moura, who I played with at São Paulo in 2011. He is a good player who has had an excellent start of season in north London and Barcelona must be wary of his threat.
'Sad' times at Old Trafford
For a coach like Jose Mourinho, and a big club as Manchester United, being so far away from title contention is sad, but this is football and sometimes things don't go as we expect. It's a tough situation for Mourinho, but there is still plenty of time to recover.
When things are going wrong, pressure always rises on the manager and the debate starts about him losing his job. I hope that doesn't happen and that he manages to turn things around.
United have great heritage in the Champions League, but Valencia are a twice runner-up at the competition and a club with tradition so it will be a tough game. But I believe Manchester United will give a good answer and claim an important win this Tuesday.