Let me take you back to February 26th 2009 and Redknapp’s first season in charge when despite Harry’s undisguised contempt for the competition, we were still in the Europa League at the end of February and about to take on Shakhtar Donetsk in the second leg of our last 32 tie.
He rarely picked a strong team for a Thursday night game but this time effectively surrendered before kick off (we’d conceded two late goals in Ukraine) by giving rare starts to Chris Gunter, Jon Obika, Giovani Dos Santos, Jamie O’Hara, Frazier Campbell and Gareth Bale (!). The reason? Well, as with this year, we were also in the League Cup final to be played the following weekend on March 1st. This tactic of shoving all his eggs into one basket didn’t go as well as it might have as we drew with Shakhtar and lost to Man United after a poor game and some even worse penalties. Lennon ripped Evra a new one but still couldn’t create a chance that was on a plate enough for Bent or Pav to put away. Heurelho Gomes was the only man to start both games though O’Hara and Bale came on as subs in the final.
So, what can we learn from all that? Basically, that there’s no right answer when the question revolves around Pochettino’s rotation and selection. With no guarantees about form, luck, injuries or even the weather (given that we’re staying out there for a training session rather than coming straight home) it’s a pretty much impossible task.
Personally, I think the way to go is to start with our best side in Florence. If it goes well, then that’ll give the team a lift and confidence etc. If things go against us, well then just take the key players off and tell the subs to try and play their way into the thinking for Sunday.
We need to score of course so starting in a similar fashion to last Thursday is a must. The passion and intensity pushed the Italians back and with a bit more sharpness we’d have been close to out of sight by half time. The second half was a different matter of course as they changed tactically and proceeded to set the tempo.
Kane must start, Soldado just isn’t up to setting the pace and leading the line as is needed.
Elsewhere, we have the fight and leadership needed to succeed. Assuming the manager is able to impart the right level of motivation and set the team out correctly then it’ll all become about finding opportunities for Kane and Eriksen to make the most of the extra space they’ll get compared to Premiership games.
Much as we enjoy a comeback, as I said, a good start is vital.
The match officials are from Turkey.
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