Tottenham Hotspur v PAOK: Preview, Predicted Team & Score
Tottenham welcome PAOK Salonika TO White Hart Lane in the Europa League tonight, here is a preview, with predicted team and final score.
So, Tottenham Hotspur play a European tie on a Wednesday once again, in what all Spurs fans hope will be a prelude of things to come next season.
However, the fantastic current league run – nine wins and a draw since the Manchester City defeat – is put to one side this week with the return fixture against the Greek outfit PAOK Salonika, current Group A leaders. Spurs sit third, a point behind PAOK and Rubin Kazan after the 1-0 loss last time out in Russia.
The group is finely poised heading into the penultimate round of games – but a home win should virtually guarantee Spurs safe passage into the last 32, with the away game versus Shamrock Rovers to come. A draw could well spell the end of the road though, while a defeat almost certainly would, so it will be intriguing to see Harry Redknapp’s line-up.
So what kind of team can we expect? In the away match which kick-started our Europa League campaign, Redknapp made ten changes from the previous league match, and with several injury worries in the first team squad it is likely to be another young side, although we could well see a little more experience, at least on the bench, this time.
Following the heroics in his last match and the virtual disappearance of former number one Huerelho Gomes, Carlo Cudicini is likely to start between the sticks. I can see no reason why William Gallas and Sebastien Bassong won’t again be the centre-back pairing, alongside at least one younger full-back, as in previous ties. The seemingly disgruntled Vedran Corluka needs a run out and should play at right-back, with Ryan Fredericks on standby. Exciting-looking left-winger Andros Townsend is again likely to play out of position at left-back.
In midfield, young duo Jake Livermore and Tom Carroll should take up the central challenge again, with Steven Pienaar on the left and Iago Falque given another opportunity from the other flank (in the probable absence of Gio Dos Santos with a groin strain).
Up front, we would normally expect to see Jermaine Defoe and Roman Pavlyuchenko, but the latest team news this afternoon suggests both Pavlyuchenko (knee) and Dos Santos are extremely doubtful. This opens the door for young Harry Kane, who was on the bench on Saturday – and had a clear penalty wrongly denied him in Salonkia – to play, possibly alongside Defoe, his groin problem is seemingly not deemed a risk.
As for the Greeks, their league form is patchy to say the least, with just one victory in their last four league outings and a 0-0 draw at home to third-bottom Kerkyra last weekend, which sees them lie in fifth position in the Greek super league. They certainly do not concede many goals though – just ten in 11 games this season – and Spurs will have to play well to win this one.
While Spurs were toiling at Rubin Kazan, PAOK won 1-3 at Shamrock Rovers, where two goals from striker Dimitris Salpingidis helped seal a rather more convincing three points than the narrow 2-1 home win PAOK had over the Irish minnows – who admittedly put up a spirited showing at White Hart Lane, were they led early in the second half.
I usually predict cautiously in an effort not to tempt fate, and tonight I fancy a narrow Spurs victory, 1-0 or 2-1, particularly with a few more experienced players likely to be on the bench – possibly Luka Modric for example, now recovered from illness after missing the weekend’s game, and perhaps Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale, to add some thrust down the wide areas, if required.
It’s possible that one or more of the first-team players could start this time, given the group situation and the fact it’s a home tie, but I would expect a starting line-up something like the below, with reinforcements at the ready:
Possilbe line-up: Cudicini; Corluka, Gallas, Bassong, Townsend; Falque, Livermore, Carroll, Pienaar; Defoe, Kane.
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