Since the European Cup was rebranded with a new moniker in 1992, Real Madrid has won the Champions League on six occasions for a total of 12 top-tier continental triumphs.
During that same spell, Tottenham reached the tournament’s knockout phase just once before bowing out to the heavyweights from the Spanish capital in the quarter-finals of the 2010-11 installment.
Seven years on, Spurs supporters will look back at the 4-0 first-leg defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2011 as a symbol of the rift in quality between the two sides. That divide has since narrowed, though, with the emergence of a talented Tottenham core in line for a European shock.
Considering both form and pedigree, here’s a look at a combined XI between the two squads ahead of Tuesday’s tilt in Madrid.
GK- Hugo Lloris:France‘s No. 1 has been instrumental to Tottenham’s consecutive top-three finishes with 28 clean sheets over two seasons, giving Lloris the edge over Los Blancos shot-stopper Keylor Navas – who, to his credit, has been better than the routine chorus of whistles would imply.
RB – Dani Carvajal: Slick-passing Carvajal is indisputably first choice ahead of Spurs right-back duo Serge Aurier and Kieran Trippier. Despite a spell on the sidelines with a viral condition that will see him miss Tuesday’s visit, the Spaniard has quietly emerged as one of Europe’s best full-backs.
CB – Sergio Ramos: Given his incomparable experience in the tournament and his knack for timely goals on Europe’s biggest stage, three-time Champions League winner and reigning tournament Best Defender honouree Ramos is a an automatic pick ahead of Jan Vertonghen.
CB – Toby Alderweireld: A massive reason Tottenham’s spine is arguably the Premier League’s best, Belgium international ball-stopper Alderweireld could walk into any club’s starting XI. Hotspur habitues are hoping that soon doesn’t become the case with reports of a contract stalemate prompting exit talk.
LB – Marcelo: Marcelo is football’s preeminent full-back and the first name in this lineup. Even if Danny Rose was fit, the England international couldn’t hold his Brazilian counterpart’s boots if he was selling them at a High Street retailer.
MF – Luka Modric: With Modric and his midfield mate Toni Kroos manning deeper positions in support of a No. 10, a defensive midfielder a la Casemiro or Mousa Dembele would be persona non grata in this squad. And for good reason, with the former Spurs star providing the midfield metronome in a bountiful Los Blancos squad.
MF – Toni Kroos: If Modric has the keys to the engine room, Kroos does the little things to ensure the train runs on time, combining a characteristically German source of industry with a penchant for threading a perfectly weighted ball into cramped confines.
MF – Isco: Free from the shackles of injury-plagued Gareth Bale‘s usual spot in Zidane’s starting XI, Isco has finally gotten his chance to shine in a central playmaking role. The Spaniard’s spot in this team pushes crafty Christian Eriksen out wide, relegating Dele Alli to the bench.
RW – Christian Eriksen: Making his case as the continent’s most underrated player, Eriksen is in the best form of his life. After being castigated as a crafty player who doesn’t score, the talismanic Dane has seven goals in his last 10 for club and country. His inclusion over Marco Asensio is a statement in itself.
FW – Harry Kane: Boosted by a varied skill set and deceptive acceleration, Kane has cornered the market on making the spectacular look unspectacular. The 24-year-old England No. 1 is the continent’s in-form striker courtesy of 36 goals in 31 matches in 2017 with six hat-tricks to boot.
LW – Cristiano Ronaldo: Even if the clock struck midnight and Ronaldo turned from football’s majestic stagecoach into an Emile Heskey-sized pumpkin, the Champions League record goal-scorer (109) gets into this starting XI based on his resume. The four-time winner has dominated the tournament over a decade and change.
Bench: Keylor Navas (Real Madrid), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham), Serge Aurier (Tottenham), Mousa Dembele (Tottenham), Dele Alli (Tottenham), Marco Asensio (Real Madrid), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
(Photos courtesy: Action Images)