Tottenham Hotspur vs Lazio, Thursday 20th September, White Hart Lane, 8pm kick off, ITV4
As we make our first foray into European action this season Ciaran Griggs previews the game for us:
Read it back, the “m” there is very important. If there were such a thing as Tottenham numerals, “m” would represent 2 weeks. 2 weeks in which we went from stories of boos ringing around White Hart Lane to a very respectable 3-1 victory against Reading, with plenty for Spurs fans to be optimistic about as Sunday night drew to a close. Onwards from the Premier League, Spurs now turn their thoughts towards European competition. Glory nights ahead, you say?
Andre Villas-Boas has already stated very clearly his intention to take the Europa League seriously this season. With good reason, he is a fan of the competition having won it 2 seasons ago during his successful spell as Porto manager and he has spoken eloquently and at length about the positive effect winning a trophy can have on a club, especially one of Tottenham’s stature. Such a change to a mere 12 months ago when our opening match of the EL campaign was a thing to be feared with a schoolboy 11 sent to the slaughter, their manager openly deriding the competition even before they played! AVB (get over it, he’s now an acronym) has a squad of senior players at his disposal that need competitive matches and he knows that Thursday night offers a great chance for that.
So who is likely to come into our squad? It’s difficult to predict Tottenham’s line-up, with this being our first foray into the campaign. Suffice to say, we expect a change of goalkeeper with France captain Hugo Lloris making his debut in the Lilywhite shirt. He watched from the bench on Sunday, his appetite has been whetted and he’ll be looking to prove himself to the Spurs faithful. In defence, we have a ready-made backup pair of centre halves in Dawson and Caulker. Caulker has been retained this season after playing an entire season of PL football last year and now has a chance to show that he is ready to step up to football of a slightly higher level. Dawson was nearly sold by the club during the summer but has been kept on and can now fight for his place. In midfield, Sandro deserves a rest and a chance presents itself for Tom Huddlestone to step into a slightly calmer game against some Italian opponents and impose himself on a bigger stage. I expect Dembele to continue in the middle, to reinforce his showing against Reading. Up front, we have fresh legs in Dempsey. Dempsey is a proven goalscorer from slightly deeper lying positions and gives us a skewed top 3, a tactic that AVB likes to play, as it gives extra defensive solidity with one of the front three in a slightly recessed role.
What of our opponents? Lazio also have a new manager and for the first time in their history, have opened a Serie A campaign with three successive victories, the most recent a 3-1 triumph over Chievo. Hernanes pulled the strings in the middle and will perhaps provide Spurs fans with a slightly fuzzy view of what it may have looked like if we had successfully purchased Moutinho, a midfield maestro. Hopefully, our high defensive line, new pressing game and skewed front three will provide enough protection to shut down their slower, centrally focused game.
Lazio have had a good start to the season and come to the Lane confident, with a passing game that could trouble their English opponents. Lazio will field a strong lineup against a Spurs team that is expected to have a number of changes and may struggle early on for fluidity. White Hart Lane will be rocking with the fans giving the boys in white their usual strong support. Tottenham have strong players to come in and have a more cutting edge to their game than the Biancolesti. I expect a 3-1 victory for Tottenham.
Ciaran (@LordFIMM on Twitter)
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