Tottenham Hotspur are travelling to Macedonia with a nearly full squad and having not played on Tuesday as expected, Jose Mourinho has options available.
Tottenham Hotspur have still not officially qualified for Europa League. While the goals and victories count toward European totals, the games are still qualifiers for the group stage of the competition.
With the need to qualify in mind and the extra rest from the cancelled Carabao Cup match against COVID-stricken Leyton Orient, Jose Mourinho will pick a strong team intent on winning the match early against Shkendija.
We know Gareth Bale is not fully fit yet, Sergio Reguilon is not yet eligible for Europe, and Japhet Tanganga is still recovering from injury, as per Tottenham’s website. Outside of those three players, there is a full Tottenham Hotspur squad available to Mourinho, so who makes his top XI, who makes the bench, and who is left at home?
Goalkeepers and defenders
Hugo Lloris (GK) – Given the importance of the game and the leadership necessary for a closed-door match on foreign soil, this is a no-brainer. Hugo Lloris takes the armband and starts in goal.
Serge Aurier (RB) – Matt Doherty has started all three matches for Tottenham Hotspur thus far and that trend may continue here, but I get the sense, this may be a better opportunity for Serge Aurier than Sunday in the Premier League. At some point, the Ivory Coast international will either play or be sold. Given he missed the opportunity for the cup Tuesday, it might make sense for him to play here.
Toby Alderweireld (CB) – We have not seen Toby Alderweireld on the pitch since the opening day loss to Everton. He did not even travel to Bulgaria last week for the second round Europa League affair. With over two weeks since his last appearance and a need for some minutes, Toby plays for Davinson Sanchez in the middle two in the back.
Ben Davies (CB) – Ben Davies is not known as a left-sided center-half, but he is a left-sided defender who has played in a back three quite often for his Wales national side. Eric Dier has been manning the left-side of the duo since the start of the campaign, but another left-sided center-half is needed for the season. Maybe Davies is that guy.
Ryan Sessegnon (LB) – With Davies pushed in and Reguilon not yet available, this gives the young Ryan Sessegnon a chance to shine. It is highly likely that Sessegnon would have played on Tuesday in the Carabao Cup as the team looks to feature the young left-sided player and possibly move him on a loan before the window closes. The best way to get a loan is to feature on Thursday in Macedonia, the best chance Sessegnon might get for a while.
Pierre Emile-Hojbjerg (CM) – Danish midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was brought to Tottenham to play and that he has as he has played every minute thus far in the season. This will continue Thursday as Mourinho continues to try to find the right midfield combination as different players look to adapt and gain match fitness. Regardless of who else is in the middle of the park, Hojbjerg makes their job a bit easier.
Moussa Sissoko (CM) – I know this is not a name that is going to excite a lot of folks, but again there is a major need to play so we are likely to see Moussa Sissoko from the off. With both Giovani Lo Celso and Tanguy Ndombele in reserve as they work on their fitness, Sissoko gets a chance to show that he can be a box-to-box difference-maker who can serve a real role in the squad.
Dele Alli (CAM) – We do not know for certain that Dele Alli will start, but Mourinho made it clear there was the possibility in his pre-match presser. Dele has not played since being yanked at half-time of the season opener against Everton.
Since that time, there have been several rumors surfacing about the future of Dele, particularly given the return of Gareth Bale. However, Mourinho has made it clear Dele is not out of options yet, but his leash will be short, and the questions asked before the season about Dele’s career being at a crossroads seem quite real.
Son Heung-Min (LW) – After the four-goal masterpiece against Southampton from the weekend, Heung-Min Son looks to push on with his form and add to his tally this season, attacking from the left of the “front” three.
Harry Kane (ST) – Speaking of masterpieces, Harry Kane was world class in setting up all four of Son’s goals against Saints, as well as scoring one of his own. When Kane has the kind of movement and vision displayed against Southampton going, other teams should be very concerned and it could and should make for a long day for Shkendija.
Steven Bergwijn (RW) – This is a choice between Steven Bergwijn and Lucas Moura – for now. It seems Mourinho is even rotating the two. Regardless, both will be taking a bit of a backseat in the coming weeks for Gareth Bale. In the meantime, both players will have an opportunity to show they deserve as many minutes as possible.
Moura had that chance on the weekend, so now it is Bergwijn’s turn midweek. No matter how you look at it, the growing competition for spots in the starting XI and squad is very promising.
Tottenham Hotspur will have an increasingly strong bench as more players become eligible, get fit, and even possibly get signed. Until then, there is no shortage of options for Jose to choose from. It is obvious Joe Hart is the number two in goal, so Hart makes the team.
Additionally, we need both outside and inside defenders, so Sanchez, Dier, and Doherty all go to the bench following their weekend efforts against Southampton. The midfield is supported by Lo Celso, Ndombele, with Erik Lamela and Moura providing attacking options and a little balance.