A thrilling game in Florence saw Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur side come away with an impressive 1-1 draw. Spurs will now look to bounce back from their disappointing FA Cup loss and complete the job against the Viola at White Hart Lane on Thursday.
Tottenham Hotspur go into the second leg of their Europa League Round of 32 clash against Fiorentina as firm favourites, having scored a valuable away goal and earned a creditable 1-1 draw in Italy courtesy of a Nacer Chadli penalty.
Coming from a recent defeat in the FA Cup, Pochettino’s men will be eager to get back to winning ways as soon as possible. With one less competition to concentrate on, the North London side will perhaps be able to refocus their efforts to a greater extent towards Europe. The Europa League title is one that has escaped from Spurs’ clutches in the recent past, and Fiorentina is the side that last ruined their chance to go ahead in the competition.
Paulo Sousa’s side, on the other hand, had better luck than their counterparts in the previous edition of the tournament. The Viola reached the semi-finals of the competition, but were knocked out by eventual winners Sevilla. The Italians have an uphill task to progress beyond the first knock-out round this season, however, and will need to score at White Hart Lane on Thursday to stand a chance of going through.
Mauricio Pochettino vs Paulo Sousa
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Mauricio Pochettino will be satisfied with his team’s performance in the previous fixture against Fiorentina. Although the goal that they conceded was a one-off incident that could have been avoided, his squad put up an excellent display against the Italian side and dominated most of the game.
At home, Pochettino is likely to stick with his customary 4-2-3-1 formation. Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris returned to training recently, but faces a late fitness test ahead of the game. As such, Michel Vorm will likely continue to be in goal, behind the back four of Toby Alderweireld, Kevin Wimmer, Keiran Trippier and Ben Davies.
With Belgian midfielder Moussa Dembele suffering a late injury, Pochettino will be forced to play young Englishman Tom Carroll alongside Eric Dier in the holding midfield role. Although lacking Dembele’s physicality, Carroll compensates with his uncanny ability to keep possession, as well as his remarkable vision.
Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Heung-Min Son will be the three attacking midfield players. Son put up an excellent performance against Crystal Palace and was unfortunate not to have scored in the game. However, with a second chance, the South Korean will look to propel his team forward to the next round of the Europa League and cement his place in the starting eleven.
Harry Kane will play as the lone striker to complete the starting eleven. With a pressing game, Pochettino will look to rush his Italian rivals and take the lead within the first half of the game so that they have a better chance of maintaining their defensive solidity in the second half. A lot depends on Tottenham’s ability to keep a clean sheet, as that would guarantee them passage into the next round regardless of how many they score themselves.
Having conceded one away goal, Paulo Sousa’s side need either a victory or any score draw other than a 1-1 result to go through. Fiorentina too will opt to play a 4-2-3-1 formation. Ciprian Tatarusanu will continue in goal, while Gonzalo Rodriguez and Davide Astori will be the chosen centre-backs, and will be flanked by Marcos Alonso and Nenad Tomovic. The two full-backs faced Spurs in their home fixture and enjoyed a rest in their weekend clash against Atalanta.
Borja Valero and Tino Costa will be the chosen central midfield players after their performance against Spurs in the first leg. The three advanced midfield roles will be occupied by Jakub Blaszczykowski, Federico Bernardeschi and Mauro Zarate. Zarate, who featured as a striker and fared well against the English side in their previous meeting, will most likely feature in one of the attacking roles behind Croatian striker Nikola Kalinic at White Hart Lane.
Sousa will look to come out attacking from the word go, as a goalless draw would ensure his team are knocked out of the tournament. With home advantage and a more positive mind-set, Tottenham will have an easier task as compared to Fiorentina. They will look to snatch a victory at home and ensure they are tight defensively.
Alli vs Astori
Dele Alli has had a remarkable season so far, bagging great assists and even greater goals. The 19-year-old seems to be in unstoppable form as he faces 29-year-old central-defender Astori, who has almost ten more years of experience. The battle between youth and experience will be interesting to watch as the two will clash directly when Alli makes his way into the box numerous times.
With Harry Kane also posing a threat and Son occasionally threatening from the edge of the box, Astori will have his hands full on a chilly North London Thursday night. Alli is sure to emerge victorious in this duel.
Dier vs Bernardeschi
Eric Dier has transformed from a young unfinished product of a central defender to an excellent defensive midfielder. His ability to slot in as a third centre-back has helped Tottenham on more than one occasion. On the other hand, Bernardeschi has had a great Europa League campaign as well.
Scoring from midfield on four occasions, the young Italian poses a threat to any goalkeeper. A lot will depend on his performance and how Dier plans to handle him in the game. Operating solely from the centre or the left, Dier will be required to keep a tab on the youngster, who will look to hurt Spurs once again.
Vorm vs Tatarusanu
Although the two will not really go head to head on the field, a battle of their abilities will hugely influence the outcome of the game. A lot will depend on their ability to keep a clean sheet, as the two sides ended the previous a game with a 1-1 draw.
Vorm — who comes in to replace Spurs captain Hugo Lloris — has been quite solid at the back for Tottenham, but has conceded twice in his last two games. Tatarusanu, on the other hand, is Fiorentina’s first-choice keeper and will have to put up his best performance to ensure his side emerge victorious. Having conceded 3 in the last two games, Tatarusanu has the poorer defensive record of the two keepers. However, a lot will also depend on how well the defenders ahead of the two shot-stoppers perform.
Blast from the Past
In this home fixture for Tottenham against Fiorentina last season, a goal from Roberto Soldado and Jose Maria Basanta saw the two sides ending the game in a 1-1 draw. Firoentina went back home with the away goal advantage and then went on to beat Spurs 2-0 in Florence to advance to the next round. This season, Tottenham have earned the upper hand. Will Spurs now be victorious?