Harry Kane's Twitter announcement today - "I will be staying at Tottenham this summer and will be 100% focused on helping the team achieve success" - was brilliant news for Spurs fans. It is probably not a good idea to over-analyse the meaning of "staying at Tottenham this summer", but the statement was still a great morale booster for the fans, and surely for the squad.
There was a gag doing the rounds last week after our defeat in Portugal that Spurs became the first team to lose a match in The European Cup, Champions League, Cup-Winners Cup, UEFA Cup, Europa League and now the Europa Conference League. I am not even sure that is true, as there are familiar names participating in this tournament, such as PAOK, who lost the first leg of their Third qualifying round game in Ireland to Bohemians. They've been involved in a few of the named competitions. The bottom line is that we do have a proud European history and of course have won three European competitions. It is time for us to win again tomorrow!
Last week's game was an aberration in terms of the team selection, performance and the result. A win tomorrow is imperative in terms of pride, and of course progress to the group stage, despite the fact this is a third tier European competition. Spurs target should be to win the Europa Conference league and to gain as many coefficient points as possible from the season. The proposed format of European competition from the 2024/25 season could offer benefits to English teams with a good co-efficient who finish outside our top four. Only Roma (90) have a better coefficient than Spurs (88) of the teams potentially involved in the group phase of the Conference League. Thus, provided we win tomorrow, we would be in Pot 1 for the Group draw which takes place on Friday, and would not face Roma before the knock-out stages.
First, of course, we have to win (by more than one goal) tomorrow. Away goals no longer have any advantage and extra time and a penalty shoot-out would take place if required after the second leg. It would be a major embarrassment if we did not succeed. Our opponents played a home league game on Monday night and lost 3-1 to Estoril. Delgado gave Pacos a 30th minute lead but Estoril equalised just before half-time and scored two late goals to take the points. Thus Pacos have played three and lost two of their league games.
With no travel to worry about, and a home game on Sunday, Nuno must surely include some of the first team for this game. Nile John, who played 47 minutes last week, played 90 minutes for our victorious U-23 side at Leeds' training ground on Monday, so I am guessing he will not be involved tomorrow. Ben Davies, who captained the side last week and has now made 53 European appearances for the club, will surely play. Of our current squad, only Hugo Lloris and Harry Kane (both 63) have more European appearances for Spurs. It remains to be seen who else will join Davies in the side.
Nuno has said that Cristian Romero is fit to play, havimg trained fully yesterday. Cristian did not travel to Molineux due to a knee problem. Joe Rodon and Cameron Carter-Vickers are not fit. I fancy experience next to Romero tomorrow. There seems to have been a lot of focus upon Bryan Gil in Spurs' training publicity shots, so I am expecting him to start. Maybe Harry will also start? Who knows.
The game is being televised here in the UK on Premier Sports 2, but I will be in attendance. I shall be viewing from a lower angle as the upper tiers are closed for this game. I'll go for a 3-0 home win and a place in the Group Stages. My report, and the usual post-match survey will not be posted until Friday.
Once again we have a match referee in charge of a Spurs European game for a second time. Monsieur Ruddy Buquet and his on-field team are from France. Three of the four officials including the man in the middle were in charge of our 7-2 win last season in the play-off game of The Europa league against Maccabi Haifa. We must hope for a similar result tomorrow.
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