Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Shamrock Rovers v Tottenham Preview

Spurs know that qualification to the knock-out stages of the Europa League is out of their hands.  Even if they gain a five goal advantage over Shamrock Rovers in Dublin, they must rely on PAOK Salonika defeating Rubin Kazan in Greece.  The question is will Harry Redknapp set out to achieve that big win and hope that PAOK can assist Spurs or has he accepted that elimination is inevitable.

Harry Redknapp to Send a Team to Win by Five?

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.

Shamrock Rovers record in Group A of the Europa League:
v Rubin Kazan (h) Lost 0 - 3
v Tottenham Hotspur (a) Lost 1 - 3
v PAOK Salonika (a) Lost 1 - 2
v PAOK Salonika (h) Lost 1 - 3
v Rubin Kazan (a) Lost 1 - 4

Pre-Order: Code LH1
Only in the last match where defensive laps cost them dearly have Rovers struggled to make a match of it.  In their first match at home to Rubin Kazan, they were stunned by an early goal which gave the visitors control of the match.  Two second hald goal secured the victory with Rovers unable to take advantage of a penalty awarded to them.

In Greece, they conceded another goal early in the first half but drew level at the start of the second half before PAOK secured the points with the winner on the hour.  In the return match in Dublin, PAOK scored early and added two more before half time but Rovers early second half response wasn't enough to spark a revival.

In Russia, Rubin scored early but Rovers equalised immediately.  The home side scored ten minutes before half time and two goals in the first fifteen minutes of the second secured victory which puts them in a strong position to qualify at the expense of Spurs.

Shamrock Rovers finished their season as Champions and this match against Spurs could be manager, Michael O'Neill's last in charge as he is one of the front runners for the vacant Northern Ireland managerial post.  The manager and the players will want to bring their European campaign to a close on a high and the scalp of Tottenham would be some prize.

Tottenham's View?
What will Tottenham's position be with regards to this game?  Have they accepted elimination from the competition and are they relieved as they chase the greater goal of Champions League football?  The unfortunate defeat at Stoke will have added to Redknapp's concern as will Chelsea's victory over Manchester City, making Sunday's match against Sunderland another must win game.

Redknapp has been able to justify sending out weakened teams throughout the Europa League by pointing to the amazing League run the club has achieved since the end of August.  He rested his first choice players and relied on the young players and squad members - a situation which worked successfully as the youngsters showed great composure and endeavour in those earlier matches.  Unfortunately, a defensive error in Russia saw them fall to defeat and that was compounded by a home loss to PAOK who have now qualified for the latter stages of the competition.

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.



  1. I like how Harry has bloodied some youth in this competition. I think Kane, Livermore and Carroll show promise, not convinced by Townsend just yet.

    It is a shame GDS, Pav, Pienaar and Kranky got injured as this competition could have really given them a chance to shine and earn the respect of the fans to be in the first team.

    Onwards and upwards...I sense FA Cup Fever coming on next month!

  2. Thanks for the comments - it's been good that some of the younger players have been given a chance in the Europa League and I have also been impressed with them - especially Carroll. Good for Kane to get that first goal. Townsend was very effective on the left against Shamrock Rovers at WHL when he came on and seems to have done well in Dublin, although I haven't seen the game. Yesterday, with Bale out, would have been a good chance to see if he could do it at a higher level.