The Europa League has often been dismissed as an unwanted distraction since it replaced the UEFA Cup and introduced its new, longer format.
Spurs have been amongst the first to lament their participation in Europe’s ‘second’ competition, having gained something of a reputation for struggling through Thursday Europa League hangovers and subsequently dropping points on a Sunday.
Chance of glory
Different managers have placed varying emphasis on the importance of playing in Europe. Their greatest manager, Bill Nicholson, was famously quoted: “a club like Tottenham Hotspur – if we’re not in Europe, we’re nothing”, but that mantra is not necessarily accepted at the club today.
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Juande Ramos, having won the competition with Sevilla, was keen to emulate that glory with Spurs, while his successor Harry Redknapp was forced to shelve those plans in order to focus on the Premier League.
Now, Mauricio Pochettino finds himself in the fortunate position whereby he does not have to make an active decision to ‘sacrifice’ the Europa League, as his squad have the strength-in-depth to cope with a battle on two fronts – and possibly three if they are able to fit in an FA Cup run.
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Spurs will face Fiorentina in the next round of the Europa League, in a repeat of last season’s tie which saw the Lilywhites exit the competition at the hands of the Serie A side. This year’s tie will give Spurs a chance to show just how far they have come.
A significant push for European silverware will require some of Pochettino’s second-string to play as though they are his first choice, in the same way as they did in the 2-0 FA Cup win over Leicester.
While many of their fringe players are youngsters, Spurs would not have to put out a side completely lacking in experience if they do keep rotating for cup games. For example, Nacer Chadli is still in the process of coming back from injury, and could benefit from game time. In goal, Michel Vorm can also provide leadership for the defence.
Should they progress in the competition, there is every chance Pochettino may bring his key players back into the side, but until the latter stages, Spurs have the talent in their squad to alternate without forfeiting their chances of success.
Should Pochettino give his fringe stars a chance in the Europa League? Have YOUR say in the comment box below!