Tottenham travel to Italy in the Europa League this week on the back of a poor run and a harrowing defeat at archrivals Arsenal last weekend.
After a decent, if unspectacular, start to the season, Andre Villas Boas finds himself under pressure for the first time at White Hart Lane, and a loss against Lazio would jeopardise their progress from Group J if Maribor win away at Panathinaikos.
However, the fact remains that Spurs started the north London derby very brightly, and looked much the better side until striker Emmanuel Adebayor’s lunging tackle saw him sent off by Howard Webb after 18 minutes. The Togolese forward has a chequered disciplinary history, and Villas Boas had every right to feel let down by the player and not by his tactics. Even with 10 men, they continued to pose an attacking threat, primarily through flying winger Gareth Bale, who remains a handful for any backline. However, they remain a team that can concede goals when not able to control possession, and shipping 5 on Sunday cannot just be attributed to Adebayor’s dismissal.
Lazio are in better shape after a win over Roma followed by a goal-less draw on the weekend against Juventus, the same result as when they came to White Hart Lane two months ago. Solid defensively and with an experienced attack led by German legend Miroslav Klose, they present a formidable test for Tottenham. Their last meeting was a turgid affair, with the Italian side showing limited ambition, instead content to restrict Spurs to only a handful of chances. However, they are a different prospect in Rome and will test Spurs much more defensively.
Their first meeting saw a first start for Hugo Lloris in goal for Tottenham. Now having displaced the American Brad Freidel in the league, it is unclear who will start this game, and the uncertainty this can create has already caused several defensive lapses, including an embarrassing error against Maribor from the Frenchman after Kyle Walker put him under pressure. Tottenham’s ability is never in question; they possess one of the best squads in England, but there does seem to be a lack of certainty, cohesion and confidence in their work so far this season. These are traits that a team can ill afford away in Rome. There is little between the two sides, but I fancy Lazio will sneak a win here, with master finisher Klose to get on the score sheet, and Paul Gascoigne’s name to be invoked by fans and pundits alike all evening!
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