Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tottenham v PAOK Salonika (Europa League)

Spurs return to Europa League action on Wednesday evening at White Hart Lane, against PAOK Salonika who top Group A and are unbeaten in their four matches.  Spurs must avoid defeat or their European campaign will surely come to a premature end and they really need to defeat their visitors from Greece if they have desires on qualifying to the knockout stages as Group winners.

The opening match of the Group stages of the Europa League matched these two teams and Spurs who send out a young team returned to London well satisfied with a scoreless draw.  The younger players, including Tom Carroll, Harry Kane and Andros Townsend, all excelled in a difficult atmosphere and were very controlled and disciplined in their play for much of the game.  PAOK missed a first half penalty and it was only as the second half neared its conclusion that the home team endeavoured to increase the tempo so as to take the three points.  At this point Spurs were grateful for the experience of Carlo Cudicini in goal.  In the final minutes he made a number of crucial saves to deny the home team and earn Spurs a well deserved point.  Spurs, with so many youngsters coped well but PAOK certainly had the ability to win the match and will be dangerous opponents on Wednesday evening.

Following the home draw with Spurs, PAOK travelled to Russia and earned a very creditable draw against Rubin Kazan.  They took a first half lead but the home team responded with two second half goals but PAOK snatched an equalizer nine minute to earn a point.  They have now completed their double header against Shamrock Rovers, taking all six points from two comfortable wins, 2 - 1 at home and 3 - 1 in Dublin.

Tottenham will again use this match to give younger players experience and Jake Livermore, following Saturday's success against West Bromwich Albion, spoke of the benefit of this tournament to himself and the other young players.  Roman Pavlyuchenko looks unlikely to be fit while Giovani Dos Santos is also struggling to overcome injury.

With losing in the last fixture in Russia, Spurs now find themselves in third place in their group, a point behind the leaders, PAOK, and behind the Russians on goal difference.  Rubin Kazan are surely guaranteed another three points with a home win over Shamrock Rovers and so regardless of the result in London, will maintain their advantage over Spurs.  Tottenham are on such a good run at present that it would be disappointing to lose momentum by slipping up in this competition and so may need to have some back-up, with senior players on the bench, in case the game doesn't go as planned.  PAOK have experienced players and they will see this game an opportunity to win in England and secure a place in the next stage of the competition.

To have the chance to finish top of the group Spurs need a win over PAOK - any other result would leave them in the hands of the other two teams and the result of their final match.  They could still qualify if they get a draw but would probably finish second as they would be dependent on the other result while a defeat would leave them in danger of elimination as they would require a big win over Shamrock Rovers and probably require a home win for PAOK in their final match.

Some supporters will be of the opinion that this match and competition are of no importance when compared with the statement Spurs are making in the Premier League at the moment but I want to see the club progress in this tournament as well - it's all about winning and Spurs have enjoyed success in Europe previously and benefited from it.


No comments:

Post a Comment