With a five goal advantage from the 1st leg against Dinamo Tbilisi in Georgia last week, Andre Villas-Boas must consider whether to field a weakened team ahead of Sunday’s north London derby against Arsenal at the Emirates.
It would require a catastrophic defeat at White Hart Lane for Tottenham not to qualify for the group stages of the Europa League. Having conceded five goals last week, Tbilisi will want to recover some dignity with an improved performance but while they looked dangerous on the break they rarely troubled the Spurs defence. It was only after Spurs were five up and coasting through the final stages of the game that Tbilisi threatened and Hugo Lloris was required to made a number of saves.
Villas-Boas will want to have his players at their best for the clash with Arsenal so to avoid injury and tiredness, he may decide to rest some of the players and rotate his squad to benefit those who have had limited involvement so far and those who are recovering from injury. The question is how far should he take this?
Players who I would expect to play some part in the game are Brad Friedel, his first match of the season, Younes Kaboul, Sandro and Lewis Holtby as they build up their match fitness. It will depend how near they are to full fitness whether they start the game or whether they make an appearance later on. Jermain Defoe could also start as he has been restricted to brief substitute appearances late on in the two League matches so far.
Kyle Naughton will probably replace Kyle Walker at right back but Danny Rose could again start on the left as currently there is no alternative unless Zeki Fryers is given an opportunity. I would expect Kaboul to again be in the starting line-up but who would be alongside him is unclear. Vertonghen may again be rested having missed the final weeks of preseason with injury so Dawson may be required unless Etienne Capoue is played in defence on this occasion.
In midfield, Sandro, Tom Carroll, Lewis Holtby and Gylfi Sigurdsson could all start or be used from the substitutes bench to give the midfield players some recovery time. Mousa Dembele doesn’t look totally fit at present and Paulinho could also be rested after a hectic start to the season. Aaron Lennon, if recovered from his recent injury, could be involved at some point while Andros Townsend will probably start again as could Nacer Chaldi. Harry Kane will probably make an appearance as a substitute with Defoe starting the game.
If AVB starts with an understrength side, he will ensure there are re-inforcements on the bench in case of an unexpected emergency. Some of the younger players like Fryers could also be among the substitutes and get game time as the match progresses to build on his experience.
Friedel; Naughton, Dawson, Kaboul, Rose; Sandro, Capoue, Sigurdsson; Townsend, Defoe, Chadli Subs: Lloris, Walker, Fryers, Holtby, Lennon, Kane, Paulinho
What Team would you select for match against Tbilisi?
Andre Villas-Boas has always selected a near full-strength side for Europa League games, will he do that again as he talks about “the team finishing the job”?