Tottenham vs Fiorentina: Discussion 1

Tottenham will resume their Europa League campaign tomorrow night after nine days’ rest that they sorely needed.  Last week, they travelled to Anfield off the back of an impressive, yet draining, derby win over Arsenal and they never looked quite right during any stage of their 3-2 defeat to Liverpool.

There were fleeting moments of quality, but far too many lapses in concentration; it was a performance littered with symptoms of fatigue.

So, on to Fiorentina - and here are some bullet points on the Italian side:

- They are currently fourth in Serie A and are currently on an eight-match unbeaten run in all competitions.

- They came through a Europa League qualifying group containing Guingamp (two wins), Dinamo Minsk (one win, one defeat), and PAOK (one win, one draw).

- Senegalese forward Khouma Babacar is their top-scorer in the league with seven goals, Juan Vargas and the now-departed Marko Marin lead the way in Europe with two each.

- In the last two away games, Vincenzo Montella has deviated between a 3-5-2 in the 2-0 win over Roma and a 4-3-3 during the 3-1 victory at Sassuolo.

- At a guess, expect them to look something like this at White Hart Lane:

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Tottenham have no injuries or suspensions, with Mauricio Pochettino able to pick from a fully-fit squad.  Given where Spurs are in their progression under the Argentine and with the Premier League being a focus rather than an absolute priority, expect a full-strength side to be named.

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There’s not actually that much debate here, because as the season has progressed Pochettino’s first-eleven has become clearer.  There are, however, a couple of areas of contention:

- Danny Rose might well pay for his defensive lapses against Arsenal and Liverpool.  Rose probably offers more going forward than Ben Davies, but given the importance of not surrendering an away goal, Pochettino seems likely to opt for the more rounded of the two full-backs.

- Federico Fazio should be recalled specifically to deal with Mario Gomez.  The former Bayern Munich forward may not quite be the force he was, but he remains a physical penalty-box threat - and, without making any kind of statement about Eric Dier’s recent performances, Fazio is better equipped to deal with the German.

- Christian Eriksen has been used from the left-hand side recently, but that role has a reductive impact on his contribution - and, defensively, he’s far more suited to pressing in central areas that he is to providing wide protect to a full-back.  Nacer Chadli starts, Eriksen shifts inside.

- The Dane has a key role off-the-ball.  David Pizarro may be in the twilight of his career, but his distribution from deep is a very important part of how Fiorentina play.  Expect the diminutive midfielder to sit behind Borja Valero and Mati Fernandez and operate as a kind of Pirlo-lite.  Eriksen - and all the other advanced players - must restrict his time on the ball and cut off his passing options into the more advanced areas.

- Mohamed Salah may have been a bust at Chelsea, but Tottenham fans shouldn’t need reminding of what an effective player he can be: The Egyptian roasted Spurs’ left-side in both legs of the Europa League quarter-final two years ago and, by all accounts, he’s started life in Italy with some encouraging form.  Erik Lamela’s defensive work-rate will be a key part of the battle to contain him, as will Kyle Walker’s discipline and position - which, let’s be fair, has improved a great deal since he returned from his long-term injury.

Pieces of Hate (The Set Pieces): Taking aim at hand-crafted fan banners.

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