Tottenham Hotspur will once again be under the microscope as they play hosts to surprise package Crvena Zvezda on Tuesday.
Mauricio Pochettino’s job is under tight scrutiny following a dismal start to the campaign that saw them already drop as many as 15 points in just nine games. They also drew to Olympiacos in their opening Champions League and most importantly, suffered a humiliating 7-2 defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich.
Those performances were followed by a 3-0 defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion and most recently, a lucky 1-1 draw with Watford. Therefore, confidence will be low in the Tottenham camp prior to their game against Crvena, who have emerged as one of the most surprising teams in the Champions League this season.
Indeed, the Serbian giants, also known as Red Star Belgrade, played well in the 3-0 defeat to Bayern Munich and deservedly secured a comprehensive 3-1 victory over Olympiacos in the last game. They have impressed in the domestic league as well, dropping only three points in their eleven matches so far.
It is also fair to point out that Crvena have netted as many as 11 goals in their last three competitive matches. Hence, they will be confident of their chances against Spurs and in this article, we will take a look at both the teams ahead of this crucial match-up in the Champions League this midweek.
Tactics & Team News
Pochettino is expected to make quite a lot of changes from the side that drew with Watford in the last game. Star playmaker Christian Eriksen is a doubt due to a dead leg, but we expect him to return to full fitness this midweek. He is a guaranteed starter in the number ten slot, just behind the two centre forwards in Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min.
Son was rested against Watford but was forced to feature after half-time due to Spurs’ struggles in breaking apart opponent’s defensive line. His performance in attack could go a long way in shaping Tottenham’s fate in this game while Kane will be looking for his first goal from open play in the Champions League this season.
Juan Foyth, meanwhile, is poised to make his first appearance of the campaign after a long injury-off. The Argentine featured for his country during the international break and should be fresh. He is likely to replace Serge Aurier at right-back while Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld will combine in central defence.
Eric Dier may return to the starting lineup, at the expense of Harry Winks. The English international will feature in the holding midfield role and will be partnered by Tanguy Ndombele and Moussa Sissoko. As for Erik Lamela, he is Eriksen’s designated alternative, should the Dane fail to return to full fitness.
Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): Gazzaniga; Foyth, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose; Sissoko, Dier, Ndombele; Eriksen; Kane, Son
Crvena boss Vladan Milojevic is expected to make only a few changes to the side that secured a comfortable 3-1 win over FK Rad. Milan Pavkov is likely to get the nod ahead of Tomane as leader of the Red Star attack, with Richmond Boakye ruled out with an injury.
The 25-year-old will be partnered by the creative trio of Mateo Garcia, Marko Marin and Rajiv van La Parra. Club captain Marin, however, is expected to operate in a deeper role while the likes of Garcia and La Parra will look to add more bite in the attack.
Marin dropping back means the duo of Jose Canas and Dusan Jovancic will receive additional support in the centre of the park. They will look to neutralise the threat provided by the likes of Eriksen and Ndombele. Their turnovers are likely to result in Crvena’s counter-attacks, meaning they will be the most important part of Crvena’s system this week.
Minimal changes are expected in defence, with Radovan Pankov being the only one to return to the bench. He will make way for Milos Degenek.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Borjan; Gobeljic, Milunovic, Degenek, Rodic; Canas, Jovancic; Garcia, Marin, la Parra; Pavkov
- Spurs met Crvena Zvezda in the last 16 of the 1972-73 UEFA Cup, winning 2-0 at White Hart Lane and losing 1-0 away but progressing 2-1 on aggregate.
- Crvena Zvezda have won just one of their ten away UEFA European games in England, winning 2-1 against Liverpool back in November 1973 in the European Cup.
- Spurs lost their last Champions League match 7-2 at home to Bayern Munich, the first time an English team has lost by five goals in a European home match.
- Crvena have lost all four away Champions League matches, scoring twice and conceding 16.
- Only Celtic in 2016-17 have conceded more goals than Spurs this season in their first two Champions League group stages of a campaign.
Player to Watch
It will be an emotional game for Crvena Zvezda captain Marin, who will finally return to London. He used to play for Chelsea and was considered one of the most promising midfielders in Europe. However, he ended up becoming a victim of their notorious loan policy. He only made 16 competitive appearances for the Blues.
Marin, therefore, will have a point to prove and a good display against Spurs could be an ideal way to redeem himself in London. The 30-year-old has already become a key member of the Crvena side and his technical prowess coupled with his ability to carry the ball across the half-spaces, could serve the visitors really well.
Fans should also keep an eye on Foyth as it will be interesting as to whether or not his return will solve Tottenham’s defensive woes.
Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Crvena Zvezda
Despite Tottenham’s poor form heading into this encounter, they are huge favourites to seal all three points in this encounter. However, they must remain alert to the turnovers in the middle of the park, but in hindsight, the combination between Kane and Son could prove to be too much for the Serbian outfit to defend against.