Tottenham Hotspur can secure progress to the second round of the Europa League with a win over Sheriff Tirspol in White Hart Lane and keep up their excellent run of only two losses in the last 22 home European matches.
Andre Villas Boas’s lack of clinical finishing in the Premier League has come under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks as they have depended on penalties for four of their nine goals in the league so far this season but in Europe they’ve already netted seven in three and Jermain Defoe is joint top scorer in the competition with six.
Their perfect record in their three opening fixtures means that progress is almost secured but Villas Boas has said he will not rest senior players just yet as he uses the competition as a means of evaluating his bench players.
“I don’t want to step too far ahead because we need to push the boys for that deserved start, but, as soon as we achieve it, we can look at it as an opportunity to throw them in to a senior game,” he said.
Defoe is likely to start again while Nacer Chadli, Christian Eriksen and Etienne Capoue will also be hoping to get some game time as they look to fight their way back into the first team.
The exclusion of Eriksen for Lewis Holtby has been viewed as one way Spurs can make the most of their attacking possession with the Danish summer signing seen as more of a natural playmaker than the industrious Holtby.
Villas Boas is also likely to use the game to give club record signing Erik Lamela a start and another chance to show the form that saw him so highly rated at Roma last season as the Argentine has struggled since making the move to London, though Aaron Lennon may see some time on the pitch as he continues his return from injury.
Sheriff meanwhile have no injury concerns and are likely to play the same team as in Moldova where they pushed Spurs into a hard fought 2-0 win thanks to goals from Jan Vertonghen and Defoe.
Their manager Veaceslav Rusnac has warned Spurs that they can expect another battle as he looks to keep up the chance on Anzhi Makhachkala for second place in the group – the Moldovans are currently on two points to Anzhi’s four.
“We are not going to London just to have a regular game on the field. We are coming to get points because we want to play in Europa League in spring.”