Shamrock Rovers have put up a gallant fight throughout their European campaign this season and done the League of Ireland proud. Unfortunately, they have failed to gain any points from their five matches but they created a few scares alomg the way. They took the lead early in the second half at White Hart Lane and only three goals in five minutes after an hour saw Spurs take the three points. In their games in Greece and Russia, they drew level after conceding an early goal and at no time were they outclassed and always showed total commitment. Rovers were backed by an enthusiastic group of supporters and the team will be ensured of their full support on Thursday evening in their Tallaght Stadium in Dublin.
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I know many will differ from my view on this and suggest that Harry should send out a young team with no thought of trying to qualify as the chase for league position and Champions League football is all that counts. I would like, however, to see the strongest possible team sent out looking to gain that five goal advantage and then see what happens in Greece. The cynics will say that PAOK and Rubin will play out a no chances taken draw to allow both clubs to progress. I would rather that we give it a go and try to put ourselves into a position to qualify should PAOK deny Rubin the point they require. At least that would show a respect for the competition and that we're not a club who has given up on all Cup competitions.
A strong team is available to the manager. Brad Friedel, Rafael Van der Vaart and Emmanuel Adebayor are obvious absentees as they haven't been registered for the competition. They can be replaced with squad and younger players. Younes Kaboul is also available as he is suspended for Sunday's game after last weekend's dismissal. Along with either Sebastien Bassong or Jake Livermore, he could play in central defence. Jermaine Defoe and a motivated Roman Pavlyuchenko should start but it is in the selection of players for the other positions which will indicate the team's intent.
If the team are to score goals then players like Kyle Walker, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Aaron Lennon need to be in the team from the start. If they were to start, it would show the team's intent - that they are looking to score goals. If, however, the team consists mainly of the squad players, Harry Redknapp is taking the decision to forego any opportunity of reaching the next stage as such a team is very unlikely to have the creativity or firepower to achieve the required result.
Some will say that the players need to be rested in preparation for the weekend's game but on this occasion they should be able to cope with the additional match, having had such a light match load since the start of the season with most having exemption from most of the Cup games. There is a busy schedule ahead in the coming weeks but continued participation in this competition should be the goal in Dublin on Thursday.
On previous visits to Ireland Spurs have recorded high scores in European competitions and the team which scored five against Hearts in Scotland in August could give a repeat performance in Dublin. Then, it depends on what happens in Greece but at least Spurs could say they had done all that they could to ensure qualification but it wasn't enough on this occasion because of matters that weren't in their control.