What Andre Villas-Boas Wants to See from Tottenham vs. Dynamo Tbilisi
With the Gareth Bale saga nearing an ugly conclusion, Andre Villas-Boas will be relieved to get back on the field, make a statement and banish the ghosts of the soon-to-be departed Welshman.
Holding a comfortable 5-0 lead after the first leg, the tie as a spectacle is all but over. However, there are plenty of players whom the manager will be eager to see perform.
Spurs maybe the second-biggest spenders this season, but established names such as Jermaine Defoe, Brad Friedel and Gylfi Sigurdsson will be determined to make an impression.
Here are five things Andre Villas-Boas will be looking for…
5. Clean Sheet Led by Brad
Marco Luzzani/Getty Images
Brad Friedel seems a certainty to start the game in order to give Hugo Lloris plenty of rest ahead of this weekend’s huge North London derby with Arsenal.
And Spurs will be in excellent hands, despite the USA international turning 42 this year.
With all due respect to Dynamo Tbilisi, Friedel should have one of his quieter nights between the sticks.
Nevertheless, it will be a worthwhile run-out for the veteran, who will probably also be given the captain’s armband.
Should Lloris pick up an injury during the season, Friedel is as good a backup as you’re going to get.
4. Naughton Waiting in the Wings
Marco Luzzani/Getty Images
Kyle Naughton made his season debut in the first leg and is almost assured a starting spot for the return fixture.
The 24-year-old full-back was one of the big positives to come out of the game in Georgia, and Villas-Boas will want to see more from the versatile defender.
Naughton worked well with Paulinho down the right hand side and was a positive attacking threat throughout the game.
But first-team opportunities appear to be limited at the moment, despite the youngster’s break-out season last year.
However, with success comes a congested fixture list meaning Naughton could still have a big part to play this season.
3. Sigurdsson to Dictate the Game
Michael Regan/Getty Images
Remember when Gylfi Sigurdsson was one of the most-feared attacking midfielders in the Premier League?
It seems a long time ago that the Icelandic international was a must-start for every avid fantasy manager—in fact, it was only 12 months ago.
But the transfer to Spurs has hindered rather than helped the talented 23-year-old’s development.
Three goals in 32 appearances is not what Andre Villas-Boas would have hoped for, when paying £8.8 million to Hoffenheim for his services.
However, it’s not all the youngster’s fault with the constant squad rotation that often happens at White Hart Lane these days.
And with Erik Lamela, via BBC News, braced to join an already congested squad, don’t be surprised if Sigurdsson’s name is heavily mentioned on transfer deadline day.
2. Jermain Defoe Goals
Robert Cianflone/Getty Images
Goals in the plural will definitely be the aim for Jermain Defoe as he attempts to start his season with a bang.
The arrival of Roberto Soldado has been a huge positive to the team but an even bigger negative to the England striker.
Defoe has had to make do with fleeting substitute appearances with no real indication of consistent game time in the near future.
But the forward is the sort of person who doesn’t sulk for long and if anyone can score a hat-trick tomorrow night, it’s Defoe.
And with a World Cup on the horizon, the 30-year-old will be desperate for as much playing time as possible.
A move to Stoke has been speculated with Mark Hughes, via The Sun, hoping to combine the striker with his ex-partner in crime, Peter Crouch—watch this space.
1. Win, Win and Continue to Win
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
With a Champions League spot soon to be given to the winners of the Europa League, the future incentives are way beyond lifting another trophy.
Spurs are spending like a Champions League club but have to cope with another season of second-tier European football.
Villas-Boas will have been devastated after Arsenal beat them yet again to fourth place last season.
Only a win in the competition will be deemed a success with the quality of squad they have assembled.