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Europa League: How Tottenham Hotspur Will Line Up Against Dnipro

NORWICH, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23:  Spurs team huddle during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Tottenham Hotspur at Carrow Road on February 23, 2014 in Norwich, England.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
Thomas CooperFeatured Columnist IVNovember 25, 2016

Given his multi-decade involvement in professional football, Tottenham Hotspur boss Tim Sherwood will not need reminding of how the game's highs can swiftly turn into lows.

That much has been reiterated in his first term as a top-flight manager. Impressive wins over Everton and Newcastle United gave way to losses to Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk and Norwich City last week.

Fortunately for Tottenham's Europa League aspirations, they have the opportunity to overturn their 1-0 first-leg deficit to the Ukrainian outfit on Thursday night.

Former Spurs manager Juande Ramos' return to White Hart Lane will add extra spice to an encounter that is already finely, and potentially, dramatically poised.

While getting back on track in the Premier League will certainly be on Sherwood's mind, an expectant crowd in North London will not want to see their team leave European competition with a whimper.

Speaking to Spurs' official website on Tuesday, Sherwood issued the expected rallying cry to his team.

"Good players and good teams come back when they're down and that's what we've got to do straight away," Sherwood said. "We certainly need to have character now to play in front of our home fans after the disappointment of losing to a team around the bottom of the league. That happens, what can you do? You can't crawl into a corner and hide. You have to confront it and have a go."

Informed though it may have been by tiredness from the trip to Ukraine, Spurs' lack of desire against Norwich was disconcerting. Sherwood is correct to highlight the need for his team to show "character" in their response.

He is likely to also look at one or two of his own decisions in relation to that performance—though changes were likely for this second leg anyway. (At the time of writing, team news had not been confirmed.)

Sherwood deployed the central midfield trio of Nabil Bentaleb, Etienne Capoue and Paulinho for Spurs' last three games. Against Newcastle, they were combative off the ball, incisive and imaginative. For whatever reasons, the same potent mix was not as effective last week.

The logic of sticking with those three was understandable, but a different strategy is needed now. Paulinho's ability to pop up on the box should see him start again this week. But Bentaleb is in need of a game off after starting every game since coming on against Manchester United on New Year's Day. Capoue misses out with the ankle knock he hobbled off with against Norwich anyway.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15: Sandro of Tottenham Hotspur heads the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at White Hart Lane on December 15, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

In Capoue's place could come the return of Sandro. Out since prior to Christmas with calf problems, he has yet to play a game for his new manager.

"We have to be cautious with him because he’s broken down before but he’s done more training than he’s done previously and we believe he’s ready," Sherwood told the team's official website.

That they made an effort to note the Brazilian's return to contention suggests there is a good chance of his involvement. With big games coming up in March, this is as good a game as any to get the defensive midfielder back in action.

Sherwood's selections out wide and up front will be similarly noteworthy. While I'm not ruling out the lone striker setup favoured in recent games, a switch to a two-man attack seems a distinct possibility, as Spurs will want to get back into this contest as quickly as possible.

With that in mind, completing the midfield line-up could be Christian Eriksen and Andros Townsend. The former has not started since early February, but his selection as an auxiliary wide-man deployed from the left would allow his manager to retain a favoured flexibility in midfield.

Townsend has not yet found form since returning from injury, but his pace offers a counter to the threat posed by Yevhen Konoplyanka. The Dnipro winger had noticeably more joy down that flank after the England international departed last week. Townsend has his flaws, but he certainly cannot be left unchecked.

The aforementioned two-man attack would likely feature Roberto Soldado getting back on the horse that continues to throw him off of late. The Spaniard cannot buy a goal right now, but only perseverance on will correct that.

ENFIELD, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 26:  Roberto Soldado of Tottenham Hotspur warms up during a Tottenham Hotspur training session on February 26, 2014 in Enfield, England.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

This writer is going to suggest it would be Emmanuel Adebayor partnering him in this scenario, with the hope being that he could help his team establish a lead before being removed. However, with no confirmation that Jermain Defoe has yet headed off to Canada ahead of his Major League Soccer move on February 28, do not rule out one last start for him.

In goal, Brad Friedel was Spurs' standout performer against Dnipro last week, and he should resume European duties. With Kyle Walker and Danny Rose confirmed out by Tottenham's official Twitter page, Kyle Naughton and Zeki Fryers seem likely to start at right and left-back. With Younes Kaboul also absent, the pair of Michael Dawson and Jan Vertonghen should be tasked with holding firm against an attack that caused their defence some problems last week.

Whether or not you believe Tottenham should be taking the Europa League seriously, this game is a vital opportunity for the North Londoners to get back to winning ways. With the difficulty of their upcoming fixture list, any boost to their confidence should be embraced.


Predicted Tottenham line-up versus Dnipro: Friedel; Naughton, Dawson (c), Vertonghen, Fryers; Townsend, Paulinho, Sandro, Eriksen; Adebayor, Soldado.

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