Slowly raise your hand if you’re still revelling in Saturday’s win? Come on now, don’t be shy? Yes, I thought you might be. If that is the case, then stop it. Right now. Granted, Tottenham Hotspur’s 3-2 victory over Manchester United may be a case to celebrate, but it’s time to focus on more important facets of the season, most notably the Europa League.
I know, I know, it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as the Champions League, nor does it possess the same pizzazz as its bigger brother, but the Europa League is still a chance to pick up silverware. Head coach Andre Villas-Boas has insisted he will attack the competition, much like he did with FC Porto.
It’s a far cry from the approach Harry Redknapp took, who opted to field a weakened starting XI in the competition as he looked to secure a high domestic finish. It’s also a welcome change from the veteran boss, who openly admitted the tournament was a distraction from the Premier League as he looked to regularly secure a top four finish.
The path to glory took somewhat of a slow start, it has to be said, with Spurs only mustering a 0-0 draw with Serie A outfit Lazio two weeks ago at White Hart Lane, despite two of the three goals being incorrectly ruled out. Nevertheless, Spurs remain the fourth favourites to pick the trophy in May and it the players at Villas-Boas’ disposal; it comes as no surprise.
the Europa League is still a chance to pick up silverware
The 34-year-old, prior to the Group J opener with the Italians, insisted that he is going to play a strong team throughout the competitions. This saw the likes of Gareth Bale, Hugo Lloris, Clint Dempsey and Aaron Lennon all turn out for Spurs two weeks ago, with only the latter duo not completing the full 90 minutes.
Thursday nights’ encounter with Panathinaikos is going to be no easy trip for Spurs either, meaning Villas-Boas is likely to field another strong starting XI. The Portuguese tactician is desperate to pick up some silverware in his debut campaign at White Hart Lane to prove the doubters wrong, having lifted the Europa League during his solitary season with Porto.
It’s absolutely pivotal of Spurs to take a string squad to Greece if they are to achieve this feat. To Trifylli certainly won’t be any pushovers and the squad are North London side are likely to perform in front of an intimidating atmosphere, if last season’s trip to PAOK is anything to go by.
The one player fans are hoping to see on show will be Lloris. The Frenchman arrived on deadline day, but has made just one appearance to date due to the form of current number one Brad Friedel. He made his debut in the aforementioned 0-0 draw with Lazio and certainly showcased his worth.
The Portuguese tactician is desperate to pick up some silverware in his debut campaign at White Hart Lane to prove the doubters wrong
Lloris has already endeared himself to the White Hart Lane faithful, regardless of reports suggesting the 25-year-old was unhappy; rumours that he denied. Supporters had expected him to start the recent Capital One Cup encounter with Carlisle United, but Villas-Boas went for a different shot-stopper, this time in the form of Carlo Cudicini.
Nevertheless, fans are hopeful that he starts against Panathinaikos. The France number one needs to gain the experience of playing with his new team-mates and while the standard won’t be as high as the Premier League; it’ll give the defenders to chance increase their playing time with the ‘keeper.
Fans of Panathinaikos are likely to be in high spirits, despite their heavy defeat to Maribor two weeks ago. A baptism of fire is set to greet the players once they enter the Olympic Stadium and one which will prove a good learning curve for Lloris, despite his seven years of first-team experience.
Should he start, the Frenchman will certainly provide the basis for a defence that is set to consist of Steven Caulker, Kyle Walker, Michael Dawson and, should he return from injury in time; Kyle Naughton.
The France number one needs to gain the experience of playing with his new team-mates
Further forward, Mousa Dembele, Tom Huddlestone, Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon and Gylfi Sigurdsson could make up the midfield, while Emmanuel Adebayor, if he has recovered in time, or Jermain Defoe will lead the front-line.
Even if the starting XI is different from the one above, Spurs still possess the strength in depth to overcome their opponents, who currently lie in 12th place in the Greek Superleague. Furthermore, it is strong enough for Villas-Boas to really launch an assault on the Europa League as he looks to leads Spurs to European glory for the first time since 1984.
More great pieces to come out of White Hart Lane
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