Inside Lane: It’s time for Spurs to prioritise as Europa League returns
Tottenham blogger Henry Tribe discusses Spurs’ upcoming fixtures as the Lilywhites face two European ties with Fiorentina, a Premier League clash with West Ham and the Capital One Cup final in the next 11 days.
It’s the ultimate dilemma for Spurs fans in recent years – would you rather win the Europa League or finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League?
For me, Champions League qualification has always trumped a second-rate European trophy. But this season, for the first time, we don’t have to choose – win the Europa League and entry to the promised land, complete with it’s inspiring music and more glamorous destinations, is secured. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Except it’s not.
As we approach the first Europa League knockout round on Thursday, the harsh reality of this ludicrous competition is we’re not even half way through it yet.
Spurs have played eight games and there are still another nine to go until Younes Kaboul (?!) gets his hands on the trophy in Warsaw.
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And there are some strong teams still in the competition – negotiate our way past Fiorentina, who are fourth in the Italian league, and sides like Roma, Napoli and Liverpool potentially lurk in future rounds.
Meanwhile there’s the passage to the Champions League offered through the league. Two places are up for grabs, and it’s wide open amongst five teams with 13 games to play. We currently lie three points off Southampton in fourth and have a kind fixture list ahead, with only trips to Southampton, Manchester United and a home game against Manchester City that should hold any real fear.
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So the strategy for the next couple of weeks? For me the West Ham and Chelsea cup final have to take priority over the Fiorentina double-header. Play Michel Vorm, Federico Fazio, Ben Davies, Paulinho and Roberto Soldado in these games and save Hugo Lloris, Christian Eriksen, Ryan Mason and Harry Kane for the weekends.
In fact, I wouldn’t even bother taking our key players all the way to Italy to sit on the bench on the eve of a cup final, while Chelsea enjoy a clear week. If we go through to the next round in Europe, fantastic. And if we don’t, hopefully we’ll have a trophy and three points against the Hammers to show for it.
And in the longer term? We can’t let Manchester United and Southampton have the advantage of no European distractions. Save our best players for league games, and play the second string in the Europa League. The squad should be big enough to cope, and if it’s not then we’ll have prioritised what’s important – getting into the Premier League’s top four.
Follow me on Twitter @TribalSpurs