Tottenham Hotspur have traveled to Georgia to face Dinamo Tbilisi in their Europa League play-off fixture tonight. We bring you the preview of this important clash.
Georgia as a nation have come a long way since Britain had to intervene to stop the Georgian-Armenian war back in 1918. Tonight a Georgian club will meet a British side in the battle field, but this time as an opponents. The last time Tottenham faced Dinamo Tbilisi was back in 1973-74 season. Spurs, who won the inaugural edition of the UEFA cup in 1972, faced Dinamo in the third round of the competition. The first leg of that fixture ended in a draw as Kakhi Asatiani cancelled out Ralph Coates’ opener in the first half. But in the return leg at White Hart Lane, Tottenham won the tie comfortably with 5-1 victory. This two sides will now face each other once again after 30 years and this time, a place in the Europa League group stages is on the line.
Tottenham are coming into this game on the back of a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace in their opening league match. Spurs have had a very busy summer, and they have strengthened their squad considerably with a host of new additions. One of their new signings Roberto Soldado scored winner from the spot in the match against Palace. Now with the possible arrival of Willian and Lamela, big things are expected of Andre Villas Boas’ side this season – even as Gareth Bale edges towards completing his move to Real Madrid.
Meanwhile Dinamo Tbilisi are heading towards this fixture after being defeated by Steaua Bucuresti in their third round Champions League qualification fixture. Dinamo failed to overturn the 2-0 defeat they suffered at the hands of Bucuresti in the first leg as Ustaritz’s equalizer in the 2nd half turned out to be a consolation goal. They kicked off their domestic campaign with a draw against Dila at the weekend. But there should be no place for complacency for Spurs, as Dinamo are currently unbeaten in their last 18 home matches in the Umaglesi Liga and have won 17 of those games.
Gareth Bale and Lewis Holtby remain Andre Villas Boas’ only injury concerns ahead of this fixture. Although the Portuguese manager might look to rotate his squad and rest some key players ahead of their upcoming fixture against Swansea at home.
Brad Friedel is expected to replace Hugo Lloris in goal, while the complete back-line is expected to be reshuffled ahead of this fixture. Naughton, Kaboul, Zeki Fryers and Benoit Assou-Ekotto will back the back four. It will be a debut for Fryers after he completed his move from Standard Liege this summer. Another new signing, Capoue, who came off the bench against Crystal Palace, is expected to get his first start in a competitive fixture in this game. He will partner Paulinho in the midfield, In place of Dembele.
No changes are expected in the attacking trio that was fielded behind Roberto Soldado, although the Spaniard is likely to be rested as Jermain Defoe may start upfront. There is also a possibility of Townsend start on the right side of the midfield, ahead of Lennon.
Expected Starting Line-Up (4-2-3-1) – Friedel (GK); Naughton, Kaboul, Fryers, Assou-Ekotto; Capoue, Paulinho; Lennon, Sigurdsson, Chadli; Defoe
Dinamo Manager Dusan Uhrin doesn’t have any major injury concern ahead of this game. They are expected to start with the same eleven that took to the field against Steaua Bucharest. Georgian international Loria will start in the goal, and his performances will be the key in Dinamo’s hopes of keeping this tie alive in the first leg.
The defence will come under considerable pressure, and the home side will hope that the Tottenham players will show signs of fatigue after their long journey to Georgia. Uhrin will use a classical 4-4-2 formation with Xisco and Dvali leading the line upfront. Xisco, who has been the top scorer in the Georgian league for the last two seasons, will be represent Dinamo’s best chances of scoring past this Tottenham side.
Tottenham will have most of the possession, but Dinamo will look to drop deep and place two banks of four in front of the goal. Organisation in defense and midfield will be key for them. It must be noted that, with all the attacking talent on the field, Tottenham failed to score a goal from open play against an organised Crystal Palace – Dinamo must have noted that. Perhaps this is where the wingers – Chadli and Lennon – could be the key for the visiting side in unlocking the Georgian defence.
Expected Starting Line-Up (4-4-2) – Loria[GK]; Kvirkvelia, Ustaritz, Kvaratskhelia, Seturidze; Merebashvili, Grigalashvili, Papava, Khmaladze; Xisco, Dvali
Dinamo Tbilisi 0-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham will find it hard to break down the Dinamo defence, specially without Bale in the side. With the help of their home support, Dinamo will manage to keep this down to a respectable score line, but expect Tottenham to win this narrowly by a single goal in the end.