Tottenham Hotspur’s progression through this Europa League campaign depends entirely on them. Despite yet more impressive Premier League form this season, they struggled in Europe before Christmas by getting knocked out of the Champions League.
Playing at Wembley may have proven a hindrance so far, with the stadium adding to the spectacle for the opposition, possibly adding an extra spark to their performances. An away game may just suit them better in this instance, and facing a team like Gent, who aren’t filled with household names, could relax Mauricio Pochettino’s men. The Belgians are not without their own threats, though, having reached the Champions League knockout stages last season.
Despite being away from home, Spurs may be forced to keep possession of the ball against a team who will look to play on the counter. Without anyone intheir squad who is particularly adept at tempo control, this will not be the way Spurs want to play, so the likelihood is Pochettino demanding the ball be won high up the pitch, in positions for the likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli to strike. Spurs must be wary of leaving gaps in behind, but if they play to their full potential, there should be no problems taking a good result back to London.
Such is the expansive formation that Pochettino employs with Spurs, one which allows both Alli and Christian Eriksen room in the number 10 role, the game will naturally be played on the edge of the Gent box. This system works so well because both players offer something different. Alli is at his best with the ball at his feet, while Eriksen can pick a key pass. Sticking to this formation would be sensible, because if they attempt to play deeper, they allow Gent more opportunity to get into the game.
As mentioned, Spurs’ success in the Europa League depends entirely on their own mentality. This game depends on how tough a night Victor Wanyama has in defensive midfield. With Alli, Kane, Eriksen, Heung-Min Son and Mousa Dembele on the pitch, there is enough energy and guile to take the game and tie away from Gent early.