Tottenham Hotspur vs. AEL: How Spurs Will Line Up in Europa League Clash

Thomas CooperFeatured ColumnistAugust 27, 2014

Tottenham Hotspur host AEL Limassol on Thursday in the second leg of their Europa League qualifying clash.

Mauricio Pochettino's side hold a 2-1 lead thanks to late Roberto Soldado and Harry Kane goals out in Cyprus. Adrian Sardinero's opener from a decidedly underwhelming first-half in that game will be a reminder for Tottenham not to take their opponents lightly.

With Zenit St. Petersburg comfortably dispatching the Cypriots 3-0 in their own return leg in the Champions League earlier this month, the north Londoners themselves should have enough on home-turf to progress.

With a test of Tottenham's top four credentials against Liverpool following on Sunday, Pochettino will again be looking to balance his resources.

He confirmed at his Wednesday afternoon press conference that Roberto Soldado will be out with back/neck problems, while Kyle Walker is still injured. Vlad Chiriches is fit again, however, and he is part of Thursday's squad.

Hugo Lloris was something of a surprise selection in the first-leg. Brad Friedel is available but Michel Vorm is still returning to full fitness, so it would not be a surprise now to see Lloris called on to finish the job he started.

With Kyle Walker still out, Kyle Naughton should be back in action after he was suspended for Queens Park Rangers. He will be needed there if Pochettino intends to rest a couple of his defenders ahead of this Sunday's meeting with Liverpool.

Michael Dawson has been sold to Hull City—as announced on Tottenham's official website—but now he is fit again Chiriches could well start for the first time this summer.

Depending on whether Pochettino decides to preserve aging or youthful legs, any one of Younes Kaboul, Eric Dier and Jan Vertonghen could start alongside the Romanian (Zeki Fryers' recent lack of involvement suggests he is not trusted so much at centre-back). On this occasion this writer will suggest the older Kaboul and the younger Dier getting the night off, with Vertonghen making his second start.

At left-back, Ben Davies should come in for his first start at White Hart Lane. For the time being Danny Rose appears to be the manager's first-choice for the Premier League.

With plenty of players to call on in midfield, changes will almost certainly be made there.

Nabil Bentaleb will surely be rested for this one having started the last three, while Etienne Capoue will likely be reserved for Liverpool.

Mousa Dembele has come off the bench in each of Spurs' last two games and is likely to get a start here. Lewis Holtby and Paulinho could both get further chances to impress, too.

The former played in a more advanced role last week at Limassol, with the Brazilian in central midfield proper. Neither impressed a great deal—though Paulinho's rustiness might have accounted for his part—so a switch in roles might be worth a look in attempting to get more out of both. 

Neither Aaron Lennon or Andros Townsend were involved in Sunday's win over QPR. With Harry Kane likely to deputise for the injured Soldado upfront, the two wingers could both be back in for two of Sunday's star men, Nacer Chadli and Erik Lamela.

Lennon has not played since opening day, though Townsend did start in Cyprus prior to being replaced by the impressive Lamela. Despite his own game-altering cameo versus West Ham, Townsend could already be on the back-foot in regard to a starting place after others performed so well against the Hoops.

With ongoing speculation relating to a move to Southampton—as reported by ESPN FC's Kevin Palmer—it will be an important opportunity for him, and Lennon for that matter, to reassert their qualities in attacking midfield.

On the issue of who will be skipper following Dawson's departure, Pochettino stated "we have many leaders and will decide in the next few days."

Be it in leadership duties or just performances themselves, Thursday is another chance for Tottenham's big squad to stake a claim for a more regular spot moving forward. Failure to progress to the Europa League group stage is not advisable.

 

Predicted Tottenham line-up vs. AEL Limassol: Lloris (c); Naughton, Chiriches, Vertonghen, Davies; Dembele, Holtby, Paulinho; Lennon, Kane, Soldado.

Quotes and team news obtained first-hand.

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