Tottenham Hotspur begin their Europa League campaign on Thursday night when they host Norwegian outfit Tromso at White Hart Lane.
Group K—also featuring Anzhi Makhachkala and reigning Moldovan champions Sheriff Tiraspol—should be negotiated relatively comfortably by Tottenham.
Despite their obvious advantage talent-wise, Thursday's match is not one Tottenham and their manager Andre Villas-Boas will be taking lightly.
"We’ve got the squad to challenge on all fronts, but first and foremost we’ve got to focus on getting out of our group," winger Andros Townsend told TottenhamHotspur.com.
Ideally, Spurs will want to have safely progressed before they meet Anzhi in mid-December, allowing them to turn one eye to the impending Christmas fixture list.
Getting off to a winning start against Tromso is vital then. Villas-Boas has a couple of different directions he might go with regards to his starting lineup.
The first leg of the previous round against Dinamo Tbilisi saw him select a side mostly featuring those who had played in the league the previous weekend. Having established an insurmountable 5-0 lead, the Portuguese changed tact slightly in the return.
Regular starters like Jan Vertonghen and Kyle Walker were teamed with a greater number of players who had not been first choice in league play.
The latter approach should suffice for Tromso. Given the quality of the Spurs squad, it does not detract from the seriousness with which Villas-Boas takes the Europa League.
In goal it is a toss-up between Hugo Lloris and Brad Friedel. The former might be rested after recent exertions on international duty. The Frenchman might though be given the nod ahead of plans for a greater role in the European competition this season.
Younes Kaboul seems an obvious choice to start in central defense as he continues to regain match fitness following a lengthy injury layoff.
So long as his work permit issues have been resolved (at the time of writing nothing has been confirmed by Tottenham), Vlad Chiriches could be given his debut alongside Kaboul.
At full-back, Kyle Naughton should be drafted in to replace one of Kyle Walker or Danny Rose—with the other starting, but maybe replaced later by Ezekiel Fryers (as was the case against Tbilisi).
More difficult to predict is who Villas-Boas will field in midfield and attack.
Jermain Defoe will likely lead the line for Spurs. However do not be surprised if Roberto Soldado is given a further opportunity to develop an understanding with his new teammates.
Out wide, Erik Lamela is a strong bet to get his first start. Depending on his fitness, Nacer Chadli may be started on the opposite flank. The pace of Townsend has proven to be a popular go-to tool for Villas-Boas thus far though, and the young Englishman may be utilized to put Tromso under pressure early and often.
As has been the case throughout this season so far, Villas-Boas' selections in midfield will be especially intriguing.
Mousa Dembele and Paulinho seem to be first choice in the league right now, so the match seems an ideal opportunity to give Lewis Holtby and Sandro some valuable minutes.
Following his strong debut last weekend, the White Hart Lane faithful will likely be keen to see Christian Eriksen join them again.
Villas-Boas might think similar, but Gylfi Sigurdsson—the two-goal hero of the 2-0 win over Norwich City—could be rewarded with another chance to stake a claim for a regular starting place instead.
Beginning with Tromso, six matches await Tottenham in their attempts to progress to the Europa League knockout rounds.
Their manager will be taking it seriously. We will now begin to find out how focused the players are on succeeding in the tournament too.
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