Tottenham – Anzhi (Europa League)
Next Thursday, when Tottenham Hotspurs face Anzhi Makhachkala at White Harte Lane, Group K’s standings have already been determined. Both sides are moving into the knock-out stages of the Europa League. So, will this be just a friendly match? No, not exactly. The two of them are facing some serious heat in their home countries and will use this last fixture to recharge their batteries for the lies ahead.
Tottenham secured the top spot of Group K and no last result could change that. They lead with 15 points, 5 above their next opponents. André Villas-Boas’ men won the 7 European games they’ve played so far and they’ll want to maintain the 100 per cent victorious track-record. Europa League has been kind of a safe place for the Spurs squad and staff, somewhere they can kick-back and relax from the struggles and pressure of the Premier League. AVB, more than the team itself, is being called upon and the rumours of whom will be next in line to replace him have started. Maradona, seriously??!! Who came up with that? The players defended the Manager. Even Gareth Bale backed his former coach saying he deserved more time to shape the Spurs up. Following the weekend Premier League outcome Tottenham are just 8 points behind Arsenal and, more important, only 3 separate them from second place. They are 6th with 27 points in 15 games and have not lost a tie since late November, when they were defeated by Manchester City at the Etihad. That should have appeased the crowds, so why is the Portuguese still under fire? Well, Bale leaving was out of his hands, sure. But it was about time he cocooned a plan B and alienating the supporters was plain stupid.
Odds are the Manager will start some of those players that we generally see on the bench for this one. That will allow the likes of Vlad Chiriches and Jan Vertonghen to recover. It’s also possible that Soldado is given an opportunity to win back his forward position. André, make all your experiments now, Liverpool will be waiting on Sunday. And you don’t want a sequel of City’s horror movie, do you?
Probable line-up: Brad Friedel – Fredericks, Stewart, Fryers, Naughton – Holtby, Sandro – Lamela, Sigurdsson, McEvoy – Soldado.
Anzhi are yet to notch a win in the Russian League. Last weekend they were really close to doing just that against Kuban Krasnodar but a 0-0 draw was the best they could achieve. They are currently last in the table with 8 points for 19 ties. That’s why progressing into the Europa League last 16 is such a big deal for them, it’s this season’s life line for the Russian squad. Having done that they can focus on playing a good game and gain some momentum. Manager Gadzhi Gadzhiyev won’t be able to count on forward Lacina Traoré and midfielder Odil Ahmedov. Ali Gadzhibekov will be on the sidelines due to a fractured jaw.
Probable line-up: Kerzhakov – Angbwa, Samba, Ewerton, Grigalava – Jucilei, Epureanu – Eshchenko, Maksimov, Burmistrov – Serderov.
Early, when Tottenham visited Makhachkala the Russian team was incapable of breaching their defence. The Spurs made a convincing performance and came home with the 3 points. Now Anzhi travel to London with a clear head. Their job was to qualify and that is done. All they want now is to make their fans proud for one last time before enjoying the Russian League winter break.