Crunch time in Europe as Spurs prepare for crucial home clash with Maribor
Tottenham will be anxious to secure their first victory in the Europa League tonight as they host the Slovenian champions at White Hart Lane.
Andre Villas-Boas’ commitment to the Europa League has been abundantly clear ever since his first press conference at Spurs.
The Portuguese arrived stating that it had been too long since Tottenham won a trophy, and that he intended to change that.
But, having been eliminated from the Capital One Cup at Norwich last week, their best chance of a trophy this season has probably disappeared.
That would seem to add even more importance to Europe – although Villas-Boas has denied that suggestion.
“It doesn’t shift anything,” he said. “Europe was always important, as the Capital One Cup was always important. We lost one but we move on from there.”
Tottenham will certainly be keen to move on into the knock-out stages, but they are making hard work of it and are arguably fortunate to still be within sight of group leaders Lazio, who conceded a costly late equaliser against Panathinaikos two weeks ago.
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That leaves the top two spots up for grabs at the halfway stage, and Spurs are yet to host Maribor (tonight) and the Greeks at White Hart Lane.
Two home wins may be enough, but Lazio also have two of their remaining three games in Rome – including their clash with Spurs – and they must be favourites for the top spot.
Meanwhile, Spurs are hardly swatting weaker teams aside at the Lane – as they proved against Wigan on Saturday – and anything less than six points at home will leave them vulnerable to an embarrassing early exit.
Whatever happens, there is little prospect of them sailing comfortably over the horizon with a game or two to spare and being able to rest their biggest players for a meaningless game.
Instead, Villas-Boas will have to rely on a good number of his first-team stars to ensure that his side get the necessary points – and that will put extra pressure on a group of players who are rarely getting a rest.
Like a home win, attacking every competition is easier said than done.
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs