Europa League: 4 Expectations as Tottenham Hotspur Welcome Limassol
Thursday sees Tottenham Hotspur welcome AEL Limassol to White Hart Lane for the second leg of their Europa League qualifier.
And with their entry to the group stage now all but confirmed following a helpful 2-1 win in Cyprus, Spurs will view this clash as somewhat of a bonus.
It gives them another opportunity to fuse as a group, and an extra chance to continue to iron out a few of the creases in their play.
No doubt, Mauricio Pochettino and his backroom staff will expect to put Limassol to the sword in front of the home fans, but whether or not they can do it with some swagger and verve remains to be seen.
So, let's take a look at a few expectations ahead of their home tie.
Spurs to Spice Things Up
Easily dispatching Queens Park Rangers on Sunday afternoon, Spurs emerged victorious on a scoreline of 4-0.
Firing on all cylinders, the Lilywhites showed no mercy in front of goal as they treated their fans to some clinical football.
Of course, they would have expected to win the game. After all, QPR are a newly promoted side, and despite their wealth and capable squad of players, they've found it tough to adjust so far.
Nonetheless, Tottenham did what was asked of them and continued their unbeaten start to the season. And they managed to do so with a bit of style, as well as substance.
The next task for them is to show continuity. With qualification to the Europa League proper pretty much wrapped up, it will be interesting to see how they react on the pitch against AEL Limassol.
The likelihood is, though, that we will see them come out looking for a big win, because now that the results are falling their way, the priority will be to capitalise on their good start—to perpetuate the pep in their step.
After all, sitting back looking for a draw with a weakened side will only serve to send out the wrong signal.
Another genuine positive from the weekend win over their London rivals that the fans will hope to see replicated during the week was their desire to put inferior sides to the sword.
Against Harry Redknapp's men, they continued to look for more goals and were audacious in their attempts, typified by Christian Eriksen's quality free-kick that cannoned off the crossbar. But they were also eager and willing—a trait that should serve them well in the long run.
Pochettino Will Continue Search for Captain
One of the golden rules to a good season, provided you've got a large enough squad, is the ability to rotate your starters regularly.
And while this can provide a few headaches and cause a disruptive stir among the players when they're not getting the game time they feel they deserve, it's a skill Pochettino already seems intent on getting right.
As reported by the Mirror's Darren Lewis, the Argentine coach also wants to have as many leaders in the group as possible, and he's chosen to wait until Monday before revealing the team's new captain.
It is important that we have many leaders in the group, in the squad. Only, you need to wait a few days to know the new captain. In the last game against Limassol it was Lloris. In the two Premier League games it was Younes Kaboul. For tomorrow, maybe we repeat with Hugo - or another.
In essence, he's made a smart move in delaying the captaincy, because it gives him more room to examine which players are already the true leaders in the set-up.
His decision to look for several leaders has earmarked one of his greatest managerial strengths—the capacity to look beyond the immediate goals and to think ahead, something that will definitely stand the club in good stead should their future captain suffer injury in the coming months.
Because it's always good to have options, and the former Southampton boss can see that.
Feel-Good Factor Will Increase
More than happy with the way results have gone for them so far, fans will be glad with the way the new regime is going.
Mind you, they'll also be wary of the threats they face in the coming weeks.
After all, Pochettino's honeymoon period isn't going to last forever because in their next six league matches, they face a number of tricky assignments, starting with Liverpool at home (this Sunday) as well as both Arsenal and Manchester City away.
A really detrimental feature of their fortunes last season was an inability to stick it to the big guns, something they'll feel a little more confident about if they also learn to fully dominate the weaker sides they face.
So, Tottenham have a number of difficult matches on the horizon, but with Limassol visiting, they'll be provided the opportunity to build up a head of steam coming into a potentially turbulent period, something that could genuinely fortify them as a unit.
And if they grab a few goals on Thursday night, they'll be one step closer to transforming their home turf into a veritable fortress, a weapon that will come in handy as they progress further and further in Europe, which they really should do.
Key Man Lamela May Well Be Rested
Erik Lamela looks a totally different footballer since coming back into the fold at the club, already putting in a couple of great shifts both domestically and in Europe.
Their saviour against Ivaylo Petev's charges the last time around when he set up both goals to clinch the win on a torn-up field of play, it's clear that the man from Buenos Aires is a pivotal player in a still-developing side.
But it remains to be seen whether he'll be needed against the Cypriots again as he may well be rested for the big clash with Liverpool.
Nevertheless, he'll always be an excellent option for Spurs to bring in off the bench.
Should the hosts struggle to conjure up something impressive without him, while it would be rash to start ringing the alarm bells, fans would be right to worry.
Of course that's a debate for another day. But it would be interesting to see, if Lamela is indeed omitted from the starting line-up, whether or not their lacklustre first-half performance in the first leg was merely a flash in the pan or not.
Because it's clear he's been their star man, a realisation that holds both positive and negative repercussions.