Peter Crouch has reserved his best performances this season for continental opposition with seven goals in the Champions League but on Tuesday he is pitted against one foreign defender who undoubtedly has the measure of him.
Real Madrid's Ricardo Carvalho has shut out Crouch in all but one of the 13 matches they have gone toe-to-toe, so it will be an irresistible force meeting an immovable object at the Santiago Bernabéu.
Tottenham Hotspur, who owe their quarter-final contest with José Mourinho's galácticos to Crouch's composed finish against Milan at San Siro, only perked up on Saturday after his arrival just shy of the hour. But a fourth consecutive failure to beat relegation strugglers has jeopardised their chances of re-qualifying for the competition.
However, Crouch insisted: "In Europe we haven't had a problem. We've scored a hell of a lot of goals against top opposition. We find it better when teams attack us, and it's more of an open game. We've got a tough task, but we've proved this year against top teams like Inter and Milan that we've been able to get results. Hopefully we can do that in Madrid. Even when I played in the Champions League with Liverpool, I always seemed to do well and score goals. It's been no different this season. I've got a few goals in the competition so far and long may it continue. I can't put my finger on why. My record with England has also been good."
Indeed, Crouch reached the Champions League final with Liverpool in 2007, after Chelsea were seen off on penalties in the semi-final. Crucially, however, Carvalho missed the second leg. "I had a lot of respect for Carvalho when he was at Chelsea and I've had some good battles with him," Crouch said.
Having seen his bottom-placed side shut Spurs out – a point was unsatisfactory for both clubs – Wigan's manager, Roberto Martínez, nevertheless extolled their attacking virtues. "People can underestimate Spurs, especially in the Champions League sometimes, because they are a new name in the competition. The biggest asset they have is that they've got goal-scoring ability from many angles. They can be direct with Crouch or they can link up play with Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart, and with set-piece plays they are sensational.
"People just don't have that kind of option that Crouch gives you. Technically he's a very gifted player but with that height and that control he gives you in the aerial game, it gives you a different dimension that teams and centre-halves just aren't used to on the continent. Spurs can hurt you in many ways and in Europe you don't get that, so they can make things very difficult for Real Madrid.
"It's impossible to predict who will win because normally in the Champions League home advantage is crucial but I don't think it will play a part in this case. Real Madrid are very, very strong at home but Spurs can score from many ways. I think it could be a closer game than people think and it could come down to details, a referee's decision, a piece of magic, or having someone like Gareth Bale fit to give you a different option. Those margins are so small."
Ironically, it was a small margin four minutes into the second period that denied Wigan the double over the north London club when Heurelho Gomes' fingertips clawed Tom Cleverley's cute curler around a post. It was the one moment of real quality in a turgid match.
Restricted to two senior players at their Chigwell training ground in the build-up – Tom Huddlestone and Jermaine Jenas – due to mass international call-ups, Tottenham appeared ill-prepared for a return to league action after a fortnight's break. Fatigue and inexperience of competing on two fronts are clearly having an effect as they approach the home straight, and it is clear they will have to be stronger in mind and body to earn a second Champions League campaign.
"We look forward to these great European nights but we have to get back to winning ways in the league because that's how we're going to get back into the Champions League," said the captain, Michael Dawson. "We know that Real Madrid and these sort of nights at the Bernabéu are a reward for what we did last year in the league."
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