Tottenham would be the heavy favourites to win their Champions League match against Barcelona on Wednesday if they had Lionel Messi in their ranks, Osvaldo Ardiles says.
The London side host the Spanish champions on Wednesday as Mauricio Pochettino's men look to recover from their 2-1 defeat to Inter in the first week of the European competition.
With the likes of Messi, Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele paying a visit, Spurs are gearing up for a massive challenge, but their form has picked up since going down in Milan, having won their last two Premier League games.
And Ardiles expects Tottenham to give a good account of themselves against one of the best teams around, suggesting that the presence of a certain Argentine "guardian angel" will be the decisive factor.
"Barcelona is a team that has always been characterised by that reputation for winning, yes, but doing it in a very special way, based on a very nice and colourful football, which can also be terribly effective," ex-Tottenham star Ardiles told Goal.
"Tottenham was never spectacular, but has always come out to win and I think they will again against Barcelona.
"Barcelona always has to be considered one of the best teams in the world, but if you take out the little guardian angel, if we do not count on Messi, things change.
"It's very difficult to compete against a team that has that. If you give me Messi and put him in Tottenham's team, I assure you that Spurs win immediately, if we look at player by player, there is not much difference, they have Luis Suarez but we have Harry Kane. Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who is great, is a better goalkeeper than ours."
He added: "Barcelona are always Barcelona and have extraordinarily important experience in this competition, a style that we can talk about for hours and hours and an ace up their sleeve, which is Leo Messi. With him, the rest goes to the background. Of course, Barcelona's confidence may have taken a hit but I would take it with caution.
"Barcelona are still the favourites, not only for the game and when it comes to being first in the group, but thinking about winning the title, as always. But Tottenham also have experience and last year we managed to win against Real Madrid, who ended up the champions. We will go with confidence and Pochettino knows Barcelona well, anything can happen."
Tottenham are four points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City and Liverpool after seven matches, and Ardiles believes they can stay within touching distance of the top two contenders.
"It seems a bit premature to say that they do not aspire for the title," he said. "We have lost two games but we have recovered. The season in England is very long, it is like a marathon more than a hundred metre race, and at the moment the two best teams are Liverpool and Manchester City.
"Still, a lot can happen over the season. We suffered a lot at first because there were many players at the World Cup and did not play as well as we should, but we have recovered and we are there, it's going to be a long season so to say that Tottenham will not be a candidate for the title is premature."