Playing Spurs now may not be a baleful experience
RIGHT-BACKS preparing to face Tottenham must have suffered from countless sleepless nights in recent seasons.
Guarding Spurs' left flank has become an intimidating task for defenders, with some probably more confident of their chances in a footrace with a cheetah.
But as Swansea City travel to White Hart Lane tomorrow, Angel Rangel will be more at ease than many of his Premier League peers.
That's because Tottenham's left side will be without one man whose absence will be unavoidable: Gareth Bale.
The Welshman was last night poised to complete a world-record move to Real Madrid, worth an estimated £93 million.
It is an eye-watering sum, though right-backs who have had to mark Bale might argue Real have made a sound investment.
The prodigiously talented 24-year-old has terrorised defences across Europe over the last few years, and Rangel had the dubious pleasure of lining up against Bale when Swansea lost 3-1 to Spurs two seasons ago.
A foot injury and his protracted transfer to Real will rule out the Cardiff-born flyer tomorrow, a welcome reprieve for the Swans.
But, as Rangel warns, that will be no reason to underestimate Spurs.
"Spurs without Bale are not as strong, but they have signed some quality players and the style of football they play is still very good," he says.
"They have so many match-winners in their squad in Jermain Defoe, Roberto Soldado and so on, and Gylfi Sigurdsson is doing well.
"Without Bale we have a better chance, but it is still a tough, tough game, especially away from home.
"Andros Townsend on the right, Nacer Chadli on the left and they have so many good quality signings. They are a tough team — one of the best in England."
Bale's move to Madrid has been a subject of much intrigue this summer, and not only because of the sum of money involved.
An extraordinary specimen brimming with pace and power, Bale's physicality is as integral to his game as his technical excellence.
That has helped him thrive in the Premier League, and it will be interesting to discover if he can adapt to the subtler requirements of Spanish football.
"The Spanish league is not as physical as the Premier League," says Rangel.
"Defenders try to tackle and bully him more here, whereas in Spain it is a bit more tactical.
"He will have to study more the kind of counter-attack football they play at Real Madrid.
"I think he will cope well if he goes and become one of the top players for Real Madrid.
"He is very similar to (Cristiano) Ronaldo — he has got pace, he can score with both feet, he can cross and he has a bit of everything. If he signs, he will become one of the best."
Like most of Bale's opponents, Rangel is effusive in his praise for the Welshman.
Although Bale has only limited Champions League experience and plays for a relative lightweight international side in Wales, his reputation has soared to stratospheric levels.
"He has become quite popular in Spain. We all know that it is Lionel Messi, Ronaldo and probably Gareth Bale," Rangel adds. "That shows he is in the top three in the world and he is an exciting signing for the Spanish market."
Rangel has his doubts whether Bale — or any player — is worth the £93 million Real are reportedly ready to spend, but he is absolutely certain of his quality.
"I don't think any player is worth £93m, but if they want to pay that it is up to them," he says.
"I enjoyed playing against Gareth Bale. It is a difficult one because you like to think you can catch him, but then he overtakes you.
"He is one of the top players in football history now.
"People back home say the deal is nearly done and, if he isn't training with the team, it shows you he isn't part of Tottenham's plans and shows they are trying to get a better deal.
"It is a shame for British football because if he goes we will be losing one of the top players.
"But from our point of view, if he doesn't play tomorrow it is an advantage to us."
Bale's absence will undoubtedly boost Swansea's hopes at White Hart Lane, but Michael Laudrup's men will still be overwhelming underdogs.
They have not won against Tottenham in their four previous Premier League meetings, though they managed a 1-1 draw at the Liberty Stadium in December 2011.
Gaining a positive result will be fine achievement in North London, particularly with Tottenham's summer spending spree in mind.
Andre Villas-Boas's side have invested heavily in the likes of Roberto Soldado and Paulinho, and they will be aiming to qualify for the Champions League at the end of this season.
Rangel knows those kind of aspirations are beyond Swansea, but they will be eager to settle a score tomorrow.
"They are one of the teams we have yet to beat in the Premier League. It is one of the things we want to change," the Spaniard says.
"We know the top six or seven teams is not our league. If we get something out of the game it will be a bonus.
"We want to go there and try hard, but we know what our league is.
"But our win (against Petrolul Ploiesti in the Europa League on Thursday) is going to boost our confidence and hopefully help us to go out tomorrow and put in another good performance."