After Sunday’s chastening defeat, Spurs face Dnipro on Thursday night in the Europa League round of 32. The first leg saw a disappointing 1-0 loss in Ukraine, meaning Spurs must win to make it through to the next round.
In fact they need at least a 2-0 victory to prevail without the need for penalties. An attacking mentality is a necessity, but they can’t afford to be gung-ho. An away goal for the opposition would leave Tottenham needing three. The perils of European knockout football when you don’t score an away goal.
On a positive note Spurs are at home, and won’t have the twin problems of a terrible pitch or a revolution, this time around. Ukraine is one of the more far flung European destinations and the travel and disruption to players’ routines cannot have been easy. Playing Dnipro at White Hart Lane should be a very different proposition.
The big question is whether to go for broke and play our best XI, or to rest players with one eye on the Premier League. All in or fold?
Fourth place in the Premier League looks unlikely now. We are six points behind Liverpool who are in good form and have a relatively easy run in. The Europa League, on the other hand, is a realistic chance to win a trophy. We’ve made it through the interminable group games, now the tournament gets exciting. If you don’t think this competition matters, just imagine watching Spurs in the final, the thrill of winning, then cheering as our players parade the trophy. Lauding it over our north London rivals as they complete another trophy-less season (let’s hope).
Despite a poor performance in the first leg, we did create chances; memorably the open goal missed by Soldado. We also controlled possession, finishing up with 65%. Dnipro, while being a tricky opponent, are a team we should beat.
Konoplyanka will again be the danger man, on the left of midfield. In the first game he was a handful for our defence, completing eight successful dribbles. That’s more than double any other player. He also had the the most shots of anyone on the pitch (5) and the second most touches for a Dnipro player. If we are to succeed, we must stop him.
Capoue, Rose, Walker, Kaboul, Sigurdsson, Lamela and Chiriches are all out according to the Tottenham website. This will create some problems at fullback, with both first choice players unavailable. The big news is that Sandro is a possible inclusion. If so, his return would be timely. We struggled without the big Brazilian last season and with Capoue out he could be vital in the run-in. As well as his defensive attributes, he provides drive and character, something the team has been sorely lacking.
Eriksen will surely get some playing time. His recent omissions have been baffling. Going into the game needing goals, against a team likely to defend, seems like a situation made for his talents.
On Betfair, Spurs are strong favourites to win the match at 1.55, the draw is 4.4 and a Dnipro win is 7.6. However, Dnipro are marginal favourites to go through at 1.9, Spurs are at 2.06.
It will be interesting to see the team Sherwood puts out on Thursday. Whoever ends up playing, a raucous crowd, and the long journey from Ukraine will hopefully turn the tie in our favour. It’s time to push the chips forward and go all in.
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