Thursday night sees us up against Lazio at White Hart Lane in what looks to be a very intriguing opening (for us) Europa League fixture. If both teams put out strong teams, and the signs are that they will, then there’ll be a lot of quality on display and we could be in for a much more keenly fought affair than we’re used to at this stage of the competition.
Redknapp’s, irritating in my view, standpoint that the former UEFA Cup was an inferior affair and a nuisance meant that we were more often than not treated to mediocre displays from a selection that was generally not quite good enough to win some fairly drab games. It always seemed a slap in the face of the tradition and history of Glory Glory Nights at Spurs. It’s a trophy we can win for one thing. Last year we were amongst the favourites at the start of the season but ended up not getting out of the group. I don’t quite get Villas-Boas’s assertion that it is somehow a gateway to Champions League football but I’m glad he appears to take it more seriously than Harry.
After finishing fourth last season and two points out of the Champions League positions Lazio’s coach, Edy Reja, surprisingly resigned with Vladimir Petkovic taking over. Petkovic was in charge of Young Boys of Bern when they gave us a huge scare in the CL Qualifying Round a couple of seasons ago.
Despite a shocking pre-season when there was talk that the new coach might not even make it to the start of the Serie A campaign proper, Lazio have had their best start since 1974/75 with three league wins in a row, two of them away from home. They also won both their Europa League Qualifying round games. Well known names include Klose, Zarate and Mauri but the South American midfielders Ledesma and Hernanes appear to be where most of their main threat lies. Hernanes was one of the two million players we apparently made a late bid for in the last transfer window if you believe what you read. The keeper Marchetti seems highly thought of.
AVB will no doubt try to balance giving some players ‘game time’ with giving others sleep time. Adebayor, Dempsey, Huddlestone, Lloris & Caulker may well all come in but that won’t weaken the side much (if at all). The fitness state of the remainder will no doubt be assessed and analysed using the latest whizz-bang technology before decisions are made over Sandro, Bale, Lennon etc etc.
A good result will set us up nicely for the group and give us some momentum before QPR on Sunday. We can expect organised noise and colour from the Italian fans as well as banners and flares. It’s got potential for a top night out! The ref and other officials are from Rumania. COYS.
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