Tottenham Hotspur vs. Panathinaikos.
A final group game in the Europa league and a win or bust outcome, seems to have stirred a little emotion, however not a great deal…
No Bale or Dawson. Still no Kaboul, BAE or Parker, despite the latter two being back in training and no Lloris who is being rested, hardly allows for massive team alterations without the unlikely situation where AVB decides to play a team of kids or fringe players, so you therefore assume that we will either go with as near to our best and freshest team as possible, or perhaps take the chance that the likes of Huddlestone, Carroll and Sigurdsson have enough quality to at least get the required minimum of a draw.
Of course picking a strongest team and hoping that you are 4-0 up at half time, enabling you to take off three big guns, but how practical is that really? Therefore I guess we either play an 70-80% full strength side and hope for the best or the players will simply have to play tonight and Sunday and look forward to a day or two's rest next week, as I feel in certain cases, AVB will chose to do to keep the players fresh going into the Christmas period.
I'm sure that AVB would love to rest a few players that have played almost every game and the likes of Sandro, Defoe and perhaps Lennon, could be potentially rested tonight whilst we don't know whether Dembele is yet 100% and able to play Thursday and Sunday. Others, such as Falque, Townsend, Sigurdsson, Hudd, Livermore, Carroll and Adebayor could easily be drafted in to allow a few players the opportunity to rest and focus on Sunday. After all, to many, the Premiership game is more important and you assume the harder game of the two, so are we better to keep a few players back and if our back up isn't good enough, then so be it. It might also work in AVBs favour when he talks to Daniel Levy about our pack of quality in depth, whilst also offering a potentially last chance to impress for some.
It is clear that Spurs are struggling for numbers in defence, with only five fit senior players to call upon. This in itself offers a few questions, such as how capable is william Gallas to play three games in eight days and how much fuel has Jan Vertonghen got left in the tank? Do we rest one (and which one) with Everton in mind? You get the feeling that Walker and Naughton can run all day and with Walker being rested recently and Naughton still trying to establish himself, this is a game where I feel that both should start and you then pick one of Jan or William to rest, perhaps there is even a though that either Livermore or Hudd could step into defence to at least be the replacement option if one of the starters has a problem.
Though Panathinaikos have a chance of qualifying should they win tonight, they are without question the weakest of the four teams in my opinion. I'm really not quite sure how they have managed to get themselves into this position, but equally, I struggle to understand why Spurs haven't already secured their top two place, aster throwing away so many points in the previous games. gaining a couple of points earlier, would have allowed AVB the luxury of resting far more players tonight, so in some cases, I suppose the players only have themselves to blame for having to fight for points at such a late stage...