MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 24: Heung-Min Son of Tottenham Hotspur shoots during the Premier League match between Middlesbrough and Tottenham Hotspur at the Riverside Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Middlesbrough, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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Tottenham must earn three points at CSKA Moscow
Tottenham travel to Moscow on Tuesday in an intriguing Champions League tie. Spurs will be looking to erase memories of their opening match failure against Monaco. Three points against the Russian League club would go a long way towards improving the club’s standing in the Group Stage.
The challenging thing for Mauricio Pochettino is the reality that a huge Premier League match against Manchester City is looming on the weekend. The Spurs boss will have to carefully select his Champions League team with an eye towards the contest against Pep Guardiola’s club.
My guess is that Pochettino is going to put out his strongest XI on Tuesday and then see where things stand when the weekend arrives. Tottenham are going to need a road win in the Champions League to make up for the home loss to Monaco. They can’t afford to let an opportunity slip away by fielding anything less than a top squad.
Of course injuries are still a factor for Tottenham too. Harry Kane certainly won’t be available, but there’s hope that Danny Rose and Eric Dier can return. Moussa Dembele seems to be a little further away from his return. Read on to discover the 11 Spurs who Pochettino will choose to start the match against CSKA Moscow.
MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 24: George Friend of Middlesbrough (L) puts pressure on Toby Alderweireld of Tottenham Hotspur (R) during the Premier League match between Middlesbrough and Tottenham Hotspur at the Riverside Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Middlesbrough, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
There isn’t a ton of drama in Pochettino’s defensive selections. He has a clear preference for his starting five at the back. Expect to see those five start the match in Russia.
Captain Hugo Lloris will get the start in goal. He’ll be desperate to help his club get the three points they failed to capture against Monaco.
The central defensive partnership is just as easy to pick. With all due respect to Cameron Carter-Vickers and Kevin Wimmer, they aren’t going to factor into the starting XI here. Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld will start in front of Lloris as usual.
At right back, Kyle Walker will look to continue his excellent start to the 2016-17 campaign. He’s arguably been Spurs’ most consistent performer on the young season.
Left back is the only spot up for grabs and it’s a huge call for Pochettino. As much as I think the club would benefit from Danny Rose’s return in such a crucial match, I think the manager will err on the side of caution. Ben Davies should get yet another start in relief of the England international.
MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 24: Jordan Rhodes of Middlesbrough (L) and Victor Wanyama of Tottenham Hotspur (R) battle for possession during the Premier League match between Middlesbrough and Tottenham Hotspur at the Riverside Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Middlesbrough, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
The Defensive Midfield
Victor Wanyama isn’t the most dynamic midfielder in North London, but he’s a steady presence in the middle of the Spurs’ midfield. He’ll be expected to provide another solid performance in Pochettino’s double-pivot.
He should be particularly well suited to play against the physicality of CSKA Moscow. The Russian club will want to establish their toughness early and often on Tuesday, but Wanyama isn’t the type to back down. He might be the perfect Spurs response to what CSKA want to do.
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The other defensive midfield spot here is the question mark. I’m going to go ahead and assert that Moussa Dembele isn’t going to make the trip. Pochettino hasn’t made any definitive comments about his availability, which I think is telling. That leaves the choice to come down to Eric Dier or Dele Alli.
If Tottenham want to really put forth an offensive lineup, they can choose to deploy Alli in the deep midfield again. He started alongside Wanyama against Middlesbrough on Saturday, and did an adequate job.
However, playing at Middlesbrough is a lot different than traveling to CSKA Moscow for a Champions League affair. Spurs will want to play a safer lineup. That means that Eric Dier will get the starting nod in an effort to provide the maximum support possible to the Tottenham back four.
MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 24: Christian Eriksen of Tottenham Hotspur in action during the Premier League match between Middlesbrough and Tottenham Hotspur at the Riverside Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Middlesbrough, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
The Attacking Midfield
Here’s where the real drama in the Tottenham starting XI lies. Pochettino has some great choices in the attacking midfield, but will be under pressure to choose the right three players to put CSKA under pressure.
Son Heung-Min simply has to continue to start until he stops scoring goals. He may not have played well against Monaco, but his last several Premier League appearances have been excellent. Look for him to continue that hot run of form on Tuesday.
Another Spurs midfielder who’s playing really well at the moment is Christian Eriksen. His excellent play hasn’t been as obvious as Son’s as of late, but it’s been crucial for Tottenham’s success. Eriksen will also be desperate to improve upon his weak performance against Monaco.
The third spot in the attacking trio is really up for grabs. It should come down to a choice between Dele Alli and Erik Lamela. Remember that Moussa Sissoko sustained a concussion last weekend which removes him from the equation. Honestly, his poor play prior to the knock probably did that anyway.
My guess is that Pochettino goes with Lamela. Alli hasn’t been at his best lately, whereas Lamela has looked pretty steady all year-long. In a tough away day like this, Lamela’s toughness on both ends of the pitch will be very helpful for Spurs.
MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 24: Vincent Janssen of Tottenham Hotspur (L) is tackled by Cristhian Stuani of Middlesbrough (R) during the Premier League match between Middlesbrough and Tottenham Hotspur at the Riverside Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Middlesbrough, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Striker and Bench
Despite what certain commentators thought of Vincent Janssen’s start against Middlesbrough, the Dutch striker did his job well. His hold up play was crucial for Tottenham’s attacking midfield to assert their control on the match.
Besides, there isn’t another senior striker to choose from. With Kane out, Spurs are left short of options. I suppose it’s possible that Son could start up top, but this doesn’t seem like the fixture to roll the dice like that. In truth, there’s something poetic about the physical centre forward getting the start in what should be a rugged Russian fixture.
The bench selections will be pretty interesting as well. One spot is sure to go to the midfielder who doesn’t make it into the starting XI. Either Dier or Alli will be left out and as such, will be an early bench options.
After that, there aren’t going to be a ton of credible attacking options on the bench. Pochettino will likely bring Georges-Kevin N’Koudou and Josh Onomah on the trip. He’ll hope that he can bring them on to help protect a lead as opposed to pushing for a much-needed goal.
Pochettino faces a ton of interesting choices for Tuesday. If you disagree with my predictions, let me know in the comments field below.