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By Ben McAleer
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Spurs fan Ben McAleer looks ahead to the start of Tottenham’s Europa League campaign this evening.
It’s that time of the year again – European football is back. And, while Tottenham aren’t in the Champions League following Chelsea’s heartbreaking victory over Bayern Munich in that horrendous penalty shoot-out in May, the chance to go on an adventure across the continent is still one that excites the fans.
Head coach Andre Villas-Boas is fully aware of the merits of the Europa League, having picked up the trophy with his former club FC Porto during his season-long spell with the Portuguese side in 2010/11.
The 34-year-old took the tournament seriously that season and it’s imperative he now does so again with Spurs, who take on Serie A giants Lazio at White Hart Lane in Group J this evening.
Managers have tended to avoid playing their strongest team in the competition in the past, and Harry Redknapp fielded a largely inexperienced team during the group stages last season.
That approach may have helped Spurs to secure a fourth-placed finish in the end, but sacrificing the stronger players in order to focus on domestic duties all but rules out the opportunity to add another piece of silverware to the trophy cabinet.
The young tactician Villas-Boas is likely to alter his starting XI for the encounter with Lazio as well but, while it is a good move to rotate the squad, it’s imperative that he doesn’t go too far and make wholesale changes.
Hugo Lloris is expected to make his debut, with the Frenchman getting a chance to stake his claim for the No1 spot in front of the home fans against Lazio.
The likes of Clint Dempsey, Steven Caulker, Emmanuel Adebayor and Tom Huddlestone are also in line to start the encounter and, along with Lloris, they are certainly all good enough to take to the field from the off.
Indeed, the strength in depth in Tottenham’s squad was evident in the fact that the quintet who have been mentioned were all on the bench at the start of the 3-1 victory over Reading on Sunday.
Villas-Boas has already hinted that he will pick a strong squad and, while it may not appeal to those supporters who would rather see Spurs focus on the league, fielding a strong team from the off will send a clear message that Tottenham are taking the Europa League seriously this year.
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