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For a native Londoner like Jermain Defoe, the very thought of walking out at Wembley Stadium to play in a UEFA Champions League final is enough to stir the emotions.
"I'd probably start crying," said the Tottenham Hotspur FC and England forward when the prospect was put to him. "Just playing in any final really is special but to play in the Champions League final in London at Wembley, being a Londoner, [would be] fantastic."
Not so long ago the mention of Tottenham and a UEFA Champions League final would have seemed the stuff of fantasy, but not any more. Spurs have made a resounding impact on their return to Europe's elite after a 49-year absence – they won their group ahead of holders FC Internazionale Milano and now hold a 1-0 lead entering the home leg of their last-16 tie with AC Milan.
Little wonder Defoe uses the word "magical" to describe the rise of a Tottenham side who, prior to last May, had not finished among the top four of English football for 20 years. Speaking at the launch of the Finale London, the official adidas match ball for this season's final, Defoe reflected: "At the beginning of last season people didn't really speak about us finishing in the top four, so to actually finish there and have that consistency which we showed towards the end of the season was great. To do it again this season is even better."
And if some people doubted Tottenham's ability to "even qualify for the knockout stages", Harry Redknapp's men have proved them wrong again. "The Inter game [Spurs beat the European champions 3-1 at White Hart Lane in November], and winning at AC Milan, was fantastic," Defoe said. "It's just been magical to be honest. It's a great time to be at the club. The manager has done well, the coaching staff, the chairman, the players he has brought into the club. Everything seems to be working and we've just got to keep it going."
To keep it going against Milan, Defoe believes Tottenham must treat the game as any other at White Hart Lane, where they have won four out of four so far in the UEFA Champions League, scoring 14 goals. "
We've got to go out and from the first whistle just try and score. The fans are going to be fantastic, the stadium is going to be rocking, so we've just got to work hard and play like we have been," said the 28-year-old, who has hit three goals in the competition despite what had been a season-long drought in the Premier League until his double in Sunday's draw at Wolverhampton Wanderers FC.
Defoe feels Tottenham surprised Milan by altering their approach at San Siro – "maybe they thought we were just going to go there and just try and go forward" – but he expects the Rossoneri to adopt an identical approach now they are the away side. "I think they will come and sit back, try and frustrate us and make it difficult."
The striker thinks the key will be "to keep possession, don't get sloppy, and just make sure you don't switch off. If you switch off at any stage, especially in the Champions League, you can get punished, especially with the players they've got going forward – [Zlatan] Ibrahimović, Robinho, and Pato, who didn't start the game over there. So it's important to keep focused and hopefully we can win." And move one step closer to making that Wembley dream a reality.
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