Lazio vs. Tottenham Hotspur.
Game five of our European adventure, see's what would on paper have always been our toughest game of the group.
Whilst Spurs have done their best to make hard work of Europa qualification, they only stand two points behind the Italians, and could actually top the group should they win tonight. Equally a defeat and a likely Maribor win in Greece, could actually mean that gaining a top two place and therefore qualification into the last 32, would be out of their hands for the final game and the Slovenians, might fancy their chances of beating a perhaps understrength and already qualified Italian side in the final game.
Of course many Spurs fans would see European elimination as a positive thing, however, it would represent a major embarrassment to Andre Villas-Boas, as he has repeatedly stated how important the competition is to him and the club and the fact that he has regularly opted to play strong sides, would be seen as a big blow to the club, even if it actually made their Premiership campaign a little easier.
AVB will again be expected to play a strong side tonight, but I hope there is also common sense in his selection with Sundays game against West Ham in mind. With Adebayor suspended for the weekend, is there a logic in starting with him and leaving Jermain Defoe on the bench? Perhaps playing Adebayor with Clint Dempsey will also give an indication over whether there is any chemistry between the pair? We can all be heartened by the news that Mousa Dembele is back in full training, though AVB has already stated that he isn't match ready therefore is very unlikely to play. That is good news for me.
With Steven Caulker back, I would also like to see a games break for Jan Vertonghen, who has appeared to have been running on empty in the last couple of games, so would we be wise to start with Walker, Dawson, Caulker and Naughton at the back? Similarly in midfield, it would be nice to see some or all of Lennon, Sandro and Bale rested, but for such a key game, can AVB take the risk of weakening the side too much and facing the wrath of the media, should it end badly?
There is the possibility that we could see a midfield with Sigurdsson, Huddlestone, Carroll and Townsend starting and it isn't exactly useless, but it would seem to lack pace, experience and confidence in differing areas, so I feel it is too big an ask to expect to see anything more than a few token changes and lots of crossed fingers that we have fit and fresh faces to entertain West Ham on Sunday...