Soldado should fire Spurs past Limassol in Cyrpus Europa outing
Roberto Soldado has averaged two goals for every three games played (22 in 34) in European matches over the last four seasons.
The presence of this penalty box poacher – plus the absence of Emmanuel Adebayor, who has not travelled, from Spurs coach Mauricio Pochettino’s squad – bodes well for the north London outfit in their Europa League play-off tie with Cypriot side AEL Limassol.
Tottenham are strong odds-on favourites at 4/9 to win the first leg, which is away from home. Soldado, meanwhile, looks a snip at 10/11 to score anytime, and a more attractive 7/2 to net the opener. Creative midfield force Christian Eriksen has been left behind by Pochettino too, along with Aaron Lennon and summer signing Michel Vorm, who was not registered for this round.
It will be interesting to see how Spurs cope without their top scorer and Player of the Season from last term on an away day in the Mediterranean, then. Pochettino may give another run-out to fellow Argentine Erik Lamela, especially as senior wide options in his squad for this game are limited.
Lamela’s best display in Tottenham colours came in this competition last season, so odds of 7/4 say he will score against Limassol here. Andros Townsend, meanwhile, is competing with Belgium World Cup flop Nacer Chadli for the other wide berth.
Players that featured in the knockout phase in Brazil are set to return here, meaning starts for Jan Vertonghen at the back, and Paulinho and Mousa Dembele in midfield. All have something to prove, so back Spurs box-to-box player Paulinho to put his nightmare for the World Cup host nation behind him by netting here at 2/1.
Defence remains the main concern for Pochettino. First-choice Tottenham right back Kyle Walker is still sidelined by a pelvis problem, while Romania centre half Vlad Chiriches is out with a back injury. Kyle Naughton is available despite a domestic ban, however.
Pochettino has pledged to take this competition seriously, because of the added incentive the overall winners will receive. “The Europa League is now a different competition,” he said. “Why? Well, if you won it last year you basically got nothing. Just a trophy. Now the Europa League gives you the opportunity to play in the Champions League. That is a big challenge for us.”
Spurs skipper Michael Dawson or new boy Eric Dier, who scored the winner at West Ham United on the opening day at the Premier League season, is one of two selection choices at the back. The other for Pochettino is who gets the nod at left back. Wales international Ben Davies may make his debut, but Danny Rose played at Upton Park.
Odds of 16/1 say Dier can net in Cyprus anytime. Whoever lines up in defence, Pochettino can be confident about Tottenham’s clean sheet record in Europe. They have lost just one of their last seven matches, sealing shut-outs in four of those. Odds of 6/5 have Spurs winning to nil.