White Hart Lane, London
March 7, 2013; 20:05 GMT
Tottenham Hotspur will host Inter at the White Hart Lane in the first leg of tonight’s Europa League round of 16 clash. The last time these two sides met was in the 2010 edition of the Champions League when Gareth Bale announced his arrival on the big stage by destroying Inter wing-back Maicon. Although Maicon is no longer a part of Inter, Bale has progressed by leaps and bounds this season and could decide the outcome of this match.
Tottenham are currently third in the Premier League and are just five points behind Manchester City in the second place. The London club has been in fine run of form of late and have lost only twice in their last 22 fixtures in all competition.
Andre Villas-Boas has taken the team to another level and Tottenham are all set to feature in Champions League next season. But in their last Europa league knock-out fixture they scraped past Lyon and put up an unconvincing performance. AVB is aware that his team will have to be at their best to beat the strong Inter side and it will take a team performance rather than just Gareth Bale to progress further in this competition.
Inter on the other hand have suffered from an inconsistent season so far and currently lie fifth in the Serie A table. But they are just one point behind third placed AC Milan and a strong finish to their season could see them qualify for the Champions League.
Andrea Stramaccioni’s side will take heart from their performances in the last two matches, where they came from behind in the Milan derby and against Catania to snatch a draw and win respectively. The Italian side also made easy work of their last Europa League opponent CFR Cluj, winning the tie 5-0 on aggregate. Inter would happily take a draw in the first leg away from home with hopes of beating Tottenham at San Siro.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Andre Villas-Boas does have a few injury worries to contain with before this match. Dempsey and Huddlestone are out injured, with the American expected to be back next weekend. Both Dembele and Adebayor limped off the field against Arsenal during the North London derby and the duo faces a race against time to be fit for this fixture. Although the former Fulham midfielder has been passed fit, Adebayor is expected to miss the game tonight. Younes Kaboul and Sandro are the long-term absentees from the squad.
AVB will once again start with his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation but change in personnel is expected from the line-up that started against Arsenal. Defoe will start ahead of Adebayor who faces a late fitness test while Naughton is expected to replace Assou-Ekotto at left back for this match. Friedel will start in the goal in place of Lloris and he is more than an able replacement for the Frenchman.
Spurs will press from the top and are expected to start with much more attacking intent than they showed against Arsenal. Bale, as expected, will be the focal point in their attack as they would look to use the pace of their attackers to their advantage. But Inter are expected to sit deep and this will provide a different test for Spurs, who are more potent while playing counter attacking football. Instead, against Inter they will have to take the initiative as they desperately need to take a lead into the second leg.
They will miss Adebayor’s physical presence in the box and one can expect to see Dembele making his trademark forward runs from the midfield in order to add some muscle to the attack. The Belgium international might also have the task of keeping a close eye on Gargano, who runs Inter’s midfield.
Possible Starting Line-Up (4-2-3-1): Friedel (GK); Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Naughton; Parker, Dembele; Lennon, Bale, Sigurdsson; Defoe
Andrea Stramaccioni, like AVB, has had to deal with a lot of injury worries recently. Diego Milito is out for the rest of the season, while Walter Samuel and Andrea Ranocchia are also side-lined with injuries. The big news for Inter was the inclusion of Antonio Cassano in the squad to face Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
The enigmatic Italian forward was left out of the squad in Inter’s last match against Catania after a training ground bust-up with Stramaccioni. Although both Stramaccioni and Inter director Ausilio have revealed that the striker has realised his mistake and that the team is prepared to move forward without any further dispute, Cassano remains a potentially disrupting influence in the side and it would be interesting to see whether he starts in this match.
Rodrigo Palacio after his wonderful performance against Catania is expected to start against Tottenham. The only question that remains to be answered is whether, Cassano starts and plays in-behind him or Strammaccioni persists with Schelotto, Guarin and Alvarez in behind Palacio. In all likelihood Alvarez or Schelotto will make way for Cassano in this match.
Cambiasso, who started from the bench against Catania is expected to return to the starting line-up and will start alongside Gargano in the center of the midfield. It will be interesting to see whether Stramaccioni decides to man-mark Bale in this match, in which case Gargano might be handed over the responsibility. Similarly, Inter’s legendary skipper, Javier Zanetti will have to do the ‘job’ on Bale if and when he moves to a wide role.
In attack, Inter will be looking towards Cassano to provide the magic and with an in-form Palacio alongside him, the Italian side will stretch the Spurs defence. Inter will sit deep and will look to use Alvarez and Guarin out wide to hit Spurs on the Counter.
Possible Starting Line-Up (4-2-3-1): Handanovic; Zanetti, Chivu, Juan, Pereira; Gargano, Cambiasso; Alvarez, Cassano, Guarin; Palacio
- Tottenham’s André Villas-Boas is bidding to become the first coach to win the UEFA Europa League twice, having captured it with FC Porto in 2010/11.
- Inter have conceded nine goals in their last eight Europa League fixtures, while Tottenham have conceded six in their last eight.
- Palacio is the second highest scorer in Europa League this season with five goals and one head of Tottenham’s Defoe.
- Guarin has made the most number of assists in Europa League this season – 5.
- 11 goals were by Inter and Tottenham when they last met in 2010 over two legs. Eto and Bale scored three each.
- Stramaccioni was in charge of Inter’s youth side in their triumphant campaign in the previous edition of the next-gen series. During the group stages, they were handed a 7-1 mauling by Spurs.
Player(s) To Watch Out For
Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur)
Gareth Bale is currently one of the hottest property in Europe. The Welshman’s future might be in doubt at White Hart Lane, but this season he has seemingly carried Spurs on his shoulders single-handedly. Most of the Inter players would remember his performance against them the last time they visited London and to make matters worse for Inter, he has improved a lot as a player since then. Although Zanetti is way more experienced than Maicon, Inter will find it hard to contain Tottenham’s talisman. Bale’s performance and the Italian’s ability to deal with him might decide the fate of this match.
Tottenham Hotspur 1 – 0 Inter
It will be a very tight match with Inter sitting deep and Tottenham finding it hard to open up their opponents. Inter’s priority in this match will be be to take a clean sheet back home, but Spurs ,with their home advantage, will eventually scrape past their opponents, but not by much.