From the moment that the Europa League knock out draw was made, and Tottenham Hotspur knew that if they could get past Lyon there was a reasonable chance that Gareth Bale would once again be pitted against Inter, all the talk was whether the Welsh player could reproduce the form he showed against the Italian side in the Champions League two seasons ago.
Before that clash however, comes the small matter of a North London Derby that could be critical in determining which of Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur claim a Champions League place this season, and Spurs fans might well be cheered by the news that of all the Premier League opposition he has faced, Bale has scored more goals against Arsenal than anyone else.
Bale has already netted against the Gunners this season, but only as a consolation in the 5-2 shellacking Arsene Wenger's side gave Spurs at the Emirates. He also has another consolation against Arsenal in a 3-1 loss near the start of his Tottenham career. Bale will remember his other goals more fondly, as he scored the winner in a 2-1 victory most famous for Danny Rose's improbable volley, and the first goal for his side in the 3-2 comeback win at the Emirates in 2010.
There is every chance the game will be an open one on Sunday, and with Bale in simply astonishing form, he could well add to that tally this weekend. Then on Thursday Inter come to town, with Bale's two performances against the Italian side no doubt fresh in their minds. The Welshman's hat trick in vain at the San Siro was followed by his virtuoso display in the 3-1 win at White Hart Lane, with Maicon famously unable to cope with Bale's pace and skill.
The Brazilian is of course no longer at Inter, and the experienced Javier Zanetti will be the man tasked with keeping Bale quiet next Thursday.
On Sunday it will be Bacary Sagna, another excellent right back, and both will no doubt be helped out by the rest of their defence as Bale roams infield. Both know all about Bale's quality, but knowing about it and stopping it are two very different things.
image: © Jan S0L0