Kane, Icardi's twin treks to top

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FC Barcelona's Clement Lenglet (C) vies with Inter Milan's Mauro Icardi (R) during a group B Champions League match between FC Barcelona and Inter Milan in Barcelona, Spain, on Oct. 24, 2018. Barcelona won 2-0. (Xinhua/Joan Gosa)

Tottenham's Harry Kane and Inter Milan's Mauro Icardi will stage a do-or-die duel as two of the most prolific strikers in the Champions League go head to head at Wembley on Wednesday.

Both Kane and Icardi have humble origins after surviving rejection and self-doubt to reach the top.

Now well established as talismanic figures for their clubs, these unlikely heroes have become two of soccer's hottest properties.

Both have been linked with European champion Real Madrid this season and this week's vital clash between their clubs provides another chance to celebrate their rags-to-riches rise and marvel at their predatory instincts.

Born in Argentina, Icardi moved to Spain when he was just 9 years old and was one of the most sought-after players in Europe when Barcelona, Real Madrid, Arsenal and Liverpool fought for the teenager's signature in 2007.

Icardi eventually chose Barcelona, but his time with the Spanish giant went surprisingly sour.

He never broke into the first team after being written off as lacking the technical quality to shine at Camp Nou.

A loan spell in Italy with Sampdoria proved the making of Icardi, who stepped up to the big time when he joined Inter in 2013.

Icardi has scored 106 league goals in 167 appearances for Inter, twice finishing as Serie A's joint highest scorer and becoming club captain three years ago.

It is a success story that would strike a chord with Kane, who also had to endure rejection before proving his doubters wrong.

While some English stars are earmarked for success years in advance such is their obvious potential, Kane was written off time and again as a schoolboy, with Arsenal, Tottenham and Watford all deciding he didn't have the right qualities to make it.

Tottenham eventually recognized his scoring potential, but even then it took loan spells at Leyton Orient, Millwall, Norwich and Leicester before he was finally given his first Premier League start by then-Spurs boss Tim Sherwood in April 2014. Sherwood later claimed he had to persuade Spurs not to sell Kane in January of that year.

A barrage of goals followed as Kane made up for lost time in stunning style.

Now 25, he has amassed a host of records, scoring more than 100 times for Tottenham and becoming only the second England player to finish as the World Cup's top scorer.

Kane has 11 goals in all competitions this season. His late brace against PSV Eindhoven in Spurs' last Champions League tie was especially important as it clinched a 2-1 win that kept the Londoners' last-16 hopes alive.

Those crucial strikes extended Kane's Champions League tally to 12 goals in 14 appearances.

Icardi has been equally important for Inter in the competition.

The 25-year-old's late winner earned a 2-1 triumph over Tottenham in the opening game of the group stage.

The Argentina international also netted in Inter's victory at PSV and bagged a priceless last-gasp equalizer in the 1-1 draw with Barcelona earlier this month.

That strike against Group B leader Barca allowed second-place Inter to keep a three-point lead over third-place Tottenham in the race to qualify for the last 16.

With only two group games remaining, Luciano Spalletti's side is in pole position to make the knockout stage as Inter hosts PSV in its last match, while Tottenham has the daunting task of a trip to Barcelona.

An Inter victory at Wembley would seal its last-16 berth, while Tottenham must win to send the battle to the last round of matches.

Inter has won eight of its last nine Serie A matches to climb to third in the standings, with Spurs in fine form as well after defeating previously unbeaten Chelsea 3-1 in the Premier League at Wembley on Saturday.

Spalletti expects Tottenham to come out all guns blazing, but he won't make special plans for Kane.

"We rate whichever opposition we come up against. However, Inter always inspires the opposition," Spalletti said.

"That means they have to go up a level compared to their normal performances.

"With us, we have no specific approach for one team or another. We have got to perform as Inter Milan."

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