How Injury Hit Spurs Can Get Through In France
Tottenham's Europa Conference League group stage campaign gets under way with a hop across the English Channel to face Rennes. After surviving a scare against Portuguese outfit Pacos de Ferreira in the final qualifying round to reach this stage of UEFA’s newest competition, Nuno Espirito Santo’s men are one of the favourites to make it all the way to May’s final in Tirana. But a rising injury list could make that task more difficult than expected. Let's take a look how an injury hit Spurs can get through their opening group stage clash with Rennes.
Son Heung-min, Steven Bergwijn, Eric Dier and Ryan Sessegnon are all currently receiving treatment, whilst Cristian Romero, Davinson Sanchez and Giovani Lo Celso remain in a Croatian quarantine training camp following their South American World Cup qualifying exploits.
Spurs fans needn’t worry too much though – there are still plenty of options to call upon, as the North Londoners aim to get off to a good start on the continent.
Staking A Claim
With Chelsea lying in wait this weekend, a few of Tottenham’s big hitters will drop to the bench or not travel to France.
This will put some of their more-than-capable fringe players in the spotlight, as they bid for a starting berth in Sunday’s London derby.
Japhet Tanganga should get an immediate chance to redeem himself after losing his head in Saturday’s defeat at Crystal Palace, where he picked up two yellow cards within the space of five minutes.
He will be suspended for the Chelsea game, so will almost certainly be in from the start at Rennes.
After Dier hobbled off injured at the weekend, it’s expected that Joe Rodon will partner Tanganga at the back.
The Welsh international’s first appearance of the season came at Selhurst Park, when he replaced the stricken Dier 12 minutes in – and he will get a real opportunity to show what he is capable of, having made 12 Premier League appearances last term.
The curious case of Tanguy Ndombele’s continued absence has rumbled on this season, but the Frenchman could well make his first appearance of 2021-22 in his homeland.
His Spurs future is clouded in uncertainty, but so long as he remains at the club, expect him to play his part.
Ndombele could well provide the creative spark that was so obviously lacking in the North Londoners’ humbling at Crystal Palace.
Espirito Santo may look to bolster his squad with youth, with striker Dane Scarlett aiming for another start – as he did in the qualifying round first leg – if Harry Kane is rested.
Midfielder Alfie Devine is also in line for a shot in Europe, after the 17-year-old scored a brace for the Under-23s in a 2-1 win against Liverpool at the weekend.
He has one first team appearance to his name already, having played and scored in their FA Cup tie at Marine back in January.
Jack Clarke, who made 14 appearances on-loan at Stoke last campaign, and summer signing Bryan Gil are likely to line up on the flanks at Roazhon Park.
As well as the usual case of rotation, there are a few faces that are almost certain of a starting place in this Europa Conference League fixture.
Goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini looks to have already settled into the “cup ‘keeper” role, having featured in both matches in the competition so far.
The 26-year-old – who is on-loan from Atalanta – is no stranger to European competition, having played a key role in La Dea’s Champions League exploits over the past two seasons.
In front of the Italian, the full-back positions will be filled by Matt Doherty and Ben Davies.
After playing in both qualifying legs, the pair are more than capable of operating in the 3-4-2-1 that was deployed against Pacos de Ferreira, or the 4-3-3 that is Espirito Santo’s usual formation of choice.
With Manchester United suffering an embarrassing Champions League defeat at Young Boys on Tuesday, Tottenham will be keen to avoid a similar result, despite the selection dilemmas facing their Portuguese boss.
Mindful that all Premier League clubs go into European competition with a target on their backs, Spurs will want to get secure qualification as early as possible – minimising the burden on their big name players ahead of a hectic winter schedule.