Tottenham’s final match in Group K of the Europa League is the return match against FC Anzhi Makhachkala from Russia. The club is based in Makhachkala, the capital of the Republic of Dagestan. Spurs won 2 – 0 in the first match in October with first half goals from Nacer Chadli and Jermain Defoe.
Friedel; Naughton, Capoue, Fryers, Rose; Dembele, Holtby; Lamela, Sigurdsson, Townsend; Soldado Subs: Archer, Dawson, Fredericks, Chadli, Dombaxe, Eriksen, Coulthirst
Date: Thursday, 12th December
Kick-off Time: 8.05pm (UK time)
TV Channel: ITV4
Live Stream: http://www.itv.com/itv4/
Tottenham have already won the group and qualified for the knock-out stages of the competition in February. As group winners they are assured of a home tie in the second leg and will avoid any of the other group winners or the top four clubs to drop down from the Champions League. Anzhi are also through as runners-up.
Their 3rd place finish in last season’s Russian League took Anzhi into the Group stage of this season’s Europa League competition. They have progressed to the knock-out stages of the competition with 2 wins and 2 draws from the five matches played, so far. In their first game they took a point from a scoreless draw with Sheriff in Moldova. Spurs defeated them in their first home game. In the two head-to-head games against Tromso they won 1 – 0, although it took a goal in the 94th minute to secure victory in Norway. Their fifth game which ensured their passage ended in a 1 – 1 home draw with FC Sheriff, Anji equalising in the second half, five minutes after the Moldovan champions had gone ahead.
In the League
Last August the Anzhi owner drastically cut the club’s budget resulting in top players being sold including Willian and Samuel Eto’o to Chelsea. Anzhi’s results have suffered accordingly and they are currently bottom of the 16-team Russian Premier League with only 8 points from 19 games. They have yet to win a league match this season and are four points adrift of the team above them.
With qualification assured Andre Villas-Boas will rotate his squad once again. Danny Rose and Christian Eriksen are reported to have recovered from injury to give them an opportunity to take some part in the game. In defence, however, Spurs are sorely stretched with Michael Dawson being the only recognised central defender available. Etienne Capoue who played alongside Dawson at Sunderland could be used in that position once again.
AVB has more options in midfield but will probably want to rest Paulinho and Mousa Dembele who has been troubled with a hip injury recently. Erik Lamela will have the opportunity to repeat his display in the last home game against Sheriff and Roberto Soldado could start having been omitted from the last two matches.
Which Team for AVB?
It’s difficult to know how AVB will rotate his squad for the game with so many important matches in the next few weeks. I suggested a possible team earlier today:
HotspurHQ’s Team: Friedel; Naughton, Capoue, Dawson, Fryers, Sandro, Lamela, Eriksen, Sigurdsson, Townsend, Soldado
The national press came up with two contrasting suggestions – the Daily Mail was along similar lines to my suggestion but the Express had introduced a number of the younger players who are in the squad. Who’s got it right?
Mail: Friedel; Naughton, Capoue, Dawson, Fryers; Dembele, Sandro; Lamela, Holtby, Townsend; Soldado
Express: Friedel; Fredericks, Capoue, Fryers, Naughton; Sandro, Laste Dombaxe; Townsend, Sigurdsson, Lamela; Soldado
Tottenham will be hoping to finish the group with maximum points but if the result isn’t favourable in a match of no significance, hopefully, it will be accepted and we can move on to more important matters without the return of articles doubting the manager’s future at Spurs.