Tottenham travel to Ukraine to face Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk this Thursday, as action resumes in the Europa League. Spurs face a 3,000-mile round trip for the first leg of the last 32 tie, their first European game under their new boss, Tim Sherwood.
The Lilywhites hold an unblemished record in this season’s competition with eight wins in as many games, and are seeking to continue the winning streak against the team of their former manager, Juande Ramos. But, with the race for Champions League qualification very much alive in the league, Sherwood is expected to make some changes in his lineup, with Norwich awaiting them next Sunday. Let’s take a look at his options.
Hugo Lloris is the undisputed no.1 keeper for Spurs in the Premier League, although former manager Andre Villas-Boas used Brad Friedel in three matches during this season’s Europa League campaign. This is the first European game under Tim Sherwood, so we don’t know his approach on this front. But in FA Cup and League Cup games under him, Lloris had kept his place, so the Frenchman should start again.
There could be some changes in the back four, compared to the team that played at Newcastle. Danny Rose missed that match because of injury and although it was not something serious, he may be rested, with Kyle Naughton starting again at left back. Younes Kaboul returned in the heart of defense at St. James’ Park, but it was his first game after a long injury absence and Sherwood could prefer not to risk him in the Ukrainian winter, recalling Michael Dawson alongside Vertonghen, while Vlad Chiriches is apparently still out. Kyle Walker should retain his place at right back.
Against the Magpies, Sherwood fielded a 4-1-4-1 formation with Ettiene Capoue shielding the defense, Mousa Dembele playing in he right side of midfield, Aaron Lennon on the left and Paulinho partnering Nabil Bentaleb in the centre od midfield. It proved to be successful on that occasion but there are some selection headaches for the trip to Ukraine.
Bentaleb is not available since he is not in the squad for European games, Sandro and Gylfi Sigurdsson are probably out with injuries, and the English press reported that Mousa Dembele will be rested. Aaron Lennon played only once in the group stage this season and could take a breather as well. So a change to 4-2-3-1 is possible, with Capoue and Paulinho in front of the back four, Andros Townsend and Nacer Chadli on the flanks and Christian Eriksen supporting the striker.
Roberto Soldado has looked like a real centre forward almost only in the Europa League after his move to Spurs, netting five goals in three games in the competition, including a hat-trick against FC Anji Makhachkala in the group stage. He has a good goalscoring record in Europe and he could get the nod up front after being left out in the last few games. Emmanuel Adebayor is the man of the moment at Spurs, but he has been playing through the pain barrier lately, and Sherwood could decide that it is not worth it to risk him in the Europa League. Erik Lamela misses out again.
Possible lineup (4-3-2-1): Lloris; Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Naughton; Capoue, Paulinhο; Townsend, Eriksen, Chadli – Soldado.