From Russia with Love: Spurs Edition

Today Tottenham Hotspur traveled to Kazan to take on FC Rubin Kazan in Europa League action.  Spurs entered the day on 7 points, with PAOK on 5, Rubin Kazan on 4 and Shamrock Rovers rounding out Group A with 0 points.  In the parallel game of the group, PAOK defeated Rovers 2-1 in Greece which was the expected outcome.  This meant that Spurs would have to get a result in Russia to keep pace at the top of the group.

Harry Redknapp was still in hospital recovering from his heart surgery the other day, so Kevin Bond and Joe Jordan assumed the managing responsibility for this match.  Lining up in a 4-4-2, they two assistants sent out Cudicini; Fredericks, Bassong, Gallas, Townsend; Falque, Carroll, Livermore, Pienaar; Defoe, Pavlyuchenko.  None of these player is in our starting XI though Defoe and when healthy Pienaar and Gallas would be on the substitutes bench.  The lineup gave some youngsters a run out in a high level competition (more than Spurs friendly matches against Leyton Orient’s reserves), but I think we lacked some strength in the center of midfield.

Livermore has had quality performances for the first team earlier this year, but he didn’t bring his top game to Kazan.  Tom Carroll is a tremendous prospect and was just included in Stuart Pearce’s England u21 squad, but he lacks the size (or position and passing prominence) to dominated the center of the park.  I would have loved to see Sandro get the start today and I think he could have made the difference.  I was happy to see Gallas and Pienaar make starts on their recovery from injury.  I was subsequently disappointed when Gallas left the game with a knock in the second half.

Early in the second half, perpetual disappointment Sebastien Bassong needlessly gave away a foul when he decided to dawdle on the ball instead of clearing his lines.  The resulting free kick from 20 yards out beat Carlo Cudicini who had an otherwise spectacular game.  That shot was the only bit of excitement in the match and neither team created much of anything for the whole game besides that a minute spell.

The kids, Fredericks, Townsend, Falque and Carroll, all looked decent in what was truly a boring game of football.  Falque surprised me with his tenacity to win back possession when he lost the ball.  I prefer to see Townsend playing up on the wing, but Danny Rose was unavailable with a slight ankle injury , so he had to play as a left back.

There are some positives to take away from the game, however.  Because none of the first team even made the trip to Russia, the whole squad should be fresh as a spring daisy for the weekend match at Fulham.  Kyle Walker and Benny Assou-Ekotto finally got a full week’s rest and van der Vaart might be able to go another full 90 on Sunday.

Beyond this weekend, looking ahead Tottenham didn’t need this match to qualify.  Despite sitting in third place in the group, by virtue of a 1 goal differential to Rubin Kazan, Spurs next two matches in Europa League are very winnable.  On the 30th, we play PAOK at home sandwiched by matches away to WBA and home to Bolton.  We then go away to Shamrock Rovers on December 15th, after a match at home against Stoke and away to Sunderland.  All four of these English teams are sitting in the bottom half of the table, with Bolton only taking 6 points from 10 games, so look to one or two first team players taking part in the home match to ensure maximum points.

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