OPPONENTS Fiorentina
COMPETITION Europa League Round of 32 First Leg
DATE Thursday 19th February 2015
VENUE White Hart Lane






Fiorentina will prove a stern test for Tottenham, with some familiar names in their squad and they are currently performing well in their home league (fourth at the time of writing), not having lost since the 6th January, they can provide a match for anyone on their day.

Former Sunderland defender Marcos Alonso, ex-West Ham forward Alessandro Diamanti, former Man City defenders Stefan Savic and Micah Richards and forward David Pizarro, Chelsea loanee Mohamed Salah, another ex-CHelsea man in German Marko Marin, Borja Valero who was at WBA, former Liverpool flop Alberto Aquilani and ex-Man U youngster Giuseppe Rossi are all at Fiorentina now.  An ex-Spurs player is among their ranks too and striker Mounir El Hamdaoui will be looking to prove someone at Tottenham wrong.

As it is, Diamanti has been left out of the Europa League squad, as has Marin, while Rossi's injury hit career has followed him to Fiorentina.  One fortuitous piece of transfer activity deprived the Viola of attacking midfielder Juan Cuadrado, as Chelsea signed him, but part of the deal saw Salah move the other way on loan with a view to a permanent deal.  The winger scored on his first start for Fiorentina against Sassuaolo in a routine 3-0 win

A large percentage of their goals come from defenders, so Spurs players will need to pick up runners from deep and at set pieces, with striker Mario Gomez, who joined from Bayern Munich, is still dangerous and tops their scoring charts.  Players such as Juan Vargas and Salah may pose problems with their movement away from positions they are expected to be in and they are inventive and can both finish well, as well as provide good service for the front man.  Aquilani was a little hard done by at Anfield and is a stylish player, but he can be put off his game by being closed down quickly and having players get in his face.

Savic and Richards will know each other from the Man City back four, but Savic was never as impressive in England while Richards blew hot and cold, before being shut out at the Etihad and having to move abroad to start his season anew.

Italian national manager Antonio Conte said this week that Fiorentina are better than Spurs technically, although that may be changing under Pochettino, with players like Mason, Bentaleb, Eriksen and Lamela in the side, but that Spurs are playing really well at the moment and in Harry Kane, they have a forward who might be singled out for some special Italian defensive treatment.

With the games Spurs have coming up, I would think that Poch will try and put out a strong XI for this leg to try and establish an advantage to take to Italy next week, where a side that is more practical would try and see the plan through.  A narrow win for Spurs should be the minimum and if we can keep a clean sheet even better, but I will go for 2-1.

PREDICTION Tottenham Hotspur    2         Fiorentina    1
Spurs have a fully fit squad to choose from.

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Tottenham Hotspur  1 (1)                                                                      Fiorentina  1 (1)
Europa League Round of 32 First Leg
Thursday 19th February 2015                                                                                                            Kick off 20:05
White Hart Lane
Soldado 5m 23s Basanta  35m 46s
Soldado (foul on Pasqual)  36  


Gonzalo (foul on Townsend)  5 
Savic (foul on Chadli)  51


Crowd :   , Weather :  Rainy.
Referee :  Carlos Velasco Carballo (ESP) Assistant Referees :  Roberto Alonso (ESP); Juan Yuste (ESP)
Fourth Official : Javier Rodriguez (ESP) Additional Assistant Referees :  Carlos Del Cerro (ESP); Jesús Gil Manzano (ESP)
UEFA Delegate :  Rudolf Zavri (SLV) UEFA Referee Observer : - Zoran Petrovic (SER)
Fiorentina kicked off and played towards the Paxton Road end in the first half.
Game time : -  90 + 4 minutes.
Tottenham Hotspur : kit Fiorentina : kit
  1  Hugo LLORIS (c)

  2  Kyle WALKER
21  Federico FAZIO
33  Ben DAVIES

42  Nabil BENTALEB
  8  PAULINHO  (38  Ryan MASON 84)

17  Andros TOWNSEND  (11  Erik LAMELA 73)
23  Christian ERIKSEN
22  Nacer CHADLI  (18  Harry KANE 66)

  9  Roberto SOLDADO       

Unused subs:
13  Michel VORM
  3  Danny ROSE
19  Mousa DEMBELE


  12  Ciprian TATARUSANU

  2  GONZALO Rodriguez     
15  Stefan SAVIC     
19  Jose Maria BASANTA 
23  Manuel PASQUAL (c)  (28  Marcos ALONSO 66)


20  Borja VALERO
14  Matias FERNANDEZ

  7  David PIZARRO

74  Mohamed SALAH

33  Mario GOMEZ  (72  Josip ILICIC 85)

Unused subs: 
  1  Murara NETO
  4  Micah RICHARDS
  5  Milan BADELJ
10  Alberto AQUILANI
30  Elhadji BABACAR

Manager :  Mauricio Pochettino Manager :  Vincenzo Montella
Sponsor :   AIA Shirt sponsor :  -
Kit Supplier :  Under Armour Kit Supplier :   Joma
Match report

A cracking start by Spurs saw them pressure the Fiorentina goal for the first half an hour, playing some incisive, urgent football, but the Italian's equaliser brought a halt to that and the remainder of the game saw the visitors re-structured to keep Tottenham at bay and earn a 1-1 draw to take back to Florence for next week's second leg.

While I expected a strong team to be put out in this first leg, with no travelling back after a Europa League game and a lead needed to take into the second leg, some notable names were missing from the starting line-up.  Danny Rose, Harry Kane and Ryan Mason on the bench.  It seemed to matter littler with the way Tottenham started the match, with a pace and intensity about their play which was what we want to see at the kick off more often.

While Fiorentina looked to get Gomez away almost straight after the game kicked off, he was flagged offside, with Fernandez also beyond the last Spurs defender.  But the closing down started to put pressure on the Fiorentina players, who were rushed into playing the ball and either put it off or straight to a white shirt.   Resorting to going down every time they were quickly shut down, the Italian side won a few free kicks, but Spurs soon had one of their own when Rodriguez whacked Townsend after he jinked past him easily.   The free kick was headed away but in the next attack, Soldado played in Nacer Chadli, who drew a good save from the keeper Tatarusanu, who kept it out with his foot and the the loose ball was seized on by Townsend, who fed Kyle Walker, but his shot was blocked for a corner.  Paulinho took it from the right wing and swung the ball out towards the edge oft he box, where Roberto Soldado watched the ball drop over Nacer Chadli's head and swung a calculated boot at the ball to send a low volley skidding through the bodies in front of him and wide to the left of the keeper to ripple the net.  It was a controlled effort and one that shows that Soldado is a master goal-scorer if given the ammunition.

It looked as though Spurs realised that being quick off the mark might disrupt the methodical passing of the Italian team and it looked a good plan.  Snapping into tackles, the Fiorentina players were not happy about it, especially the former West Brom midfielder Borja Valero, who spent a lot of time in the first half sitting on the floor begging for a free-kick from the referee.  It didn't work.  Fiorentina did get forward in the 13th minute, when Gomez tried a shot, but Fazio got something on it that took the pace off it and Hugo Lloris took the deflection simply.  Spurs had a bit of luck when Pasqual put in a cross from their left wing and Joaquin missed his kick and the ball ran through to Gomez, but as it pooped up he handled it and conceded a free kick.

Tottenham were wary of the pace of Chelsea loan winger Mohamed Salah, but the space they allowed him to run into nearly led to a goal, as he got a rebound off Eriksen in the box and he had a clear shooting chance that was superbly shut down by Jan Vertonghen's block.  The Dane was involved at the other end, when a good passing move saw Townsend cross deep for Chadli to take the ball down and played into the path of Eriksen about 15 yards out.  Unlike him, he failed to find the target and struck the ball over the bar, when he should have made the keeper make a save.  Tottenham came even closer to grabbing a second when Christian was on the right wing and his cross was deflected up in the air into the area and Roberto Soldado was underneath it with an overhead kick that was unfortunately straight at Tatarusanu from a couple of yards.

Fiorentina were looking to get forward a bit more and Fazio did well to dispossess Gomez on the edge of the area, before play switched to the other end and Paulinho brought a good save out of the keeper with a fierce dipping shot from outside the area.  Andros was finding a lot of space to run into and his more direct style was causing problems down the Fiorentina left and the final ball was more threatening than usual, although many times, both he and Walker had few targets in the box to aim at or found a purple shirt getting the ball away.  Townsend went close on the half hour, when he cut in from the wing and hit a shot that flicked off Basanta before going wide. 

Pasqual was the danger man up their left and another low cross to the near post saw Fazio slide in with Gomez and the ball came off the German for a goal-kick.  The game had become a bit more open and Spurs broke away from the halfway line with Bentaleb keeping going and hitting a shot form outside the area, but it deflected comfortably for Tatarusanu.

When Soldado came back to help out the defence, he was booked for a foul just outside the left hand side of the penalty area a couple of yards in from the dead ball line.   He got a booking and when Fernandez lined up to bend a shot on goal, even though it was at a narrow angle, it looked like it might cause problems ... and it did.  While Hugo was able to get to his near post to beat it out and stop it going in, the ball bounced down and Basanta was on hand to knock the ball into the net from close range, just to the left of the near post.  It was a blow and their real first threat on goal, but how would Tottenham respond ?

Well, just before half-time, Spurs could have had the lead back, with Townsend getting away on the right before playing the ball back for Kyle to put in a pacy, first time cross that Soldado got to ahead of his marker at the near post.  The Spaniard's header brought a full stretch save out of the goalie and the ball dropped just behind Chadli, who had been following in.  The winger managed to get a boot on it, but was unable to control his shot and the ball came up, off the bar, down and was cleared away.  So close to 2-1, but still a long way to go.

In the second half, it was Fiorentina who started quickly and Salah curled a shot just past Lloris' post, then the keeper came through a crowd of players to get to a free-kick and failed, but the ball was hacked away before Vertonghen tackled Valero to stop him getting through.   When Roberto took the ball down in the Fiorentina half, he found Christian Eriksen and his first shot was blocked, but the loose ball was played back to him by Soldado before the Dane's cross was blocked too.  As the hour mark was approaching, Ben Davies did well to break down the left and his low ball across the box dissected Eriksen and Soldado, then Chadli's ball in missed both Soldado and Townsend.  Bentaleb had a crack from outside the box, but the ball went just over the top, Pizarro was well wide from 25 yards out and then Townsend tried one from five yards outside the box but it went wide of the mark.

Harry Kane made his entrance at the expense of Chadli.  Fiorentina had done their homework on him, making sure someone got one him as soon as he received the ball and getting into him to let him know they were there.  The Italian side had changed their set-up at the break to stop the ball reaching Townsend and had organised to turn the tables on Spurs by closing them down on the ball and making them hurry their passes. 

Gomez made tracks in from the left to hit a low shot that skimmed wide, while a ball intended for the striker from Valero was chested back to Lloris by Kyle Walker.  When Spurs did make a chance, they found Tatarusanu in the way.  Eriksen cleverly found Paulinho and the Brazilian's drive was blocked by the keeper's body for a corner.  When it came in, Soldado got his head to it, but not with enough power to give the goalie any problems in saving it.  Erik Lamela came on for Townsend and almost made an immediate impact, with a corner dropping to Bentaleb and his shot was blocked, only to go to Erik, who hit a first time shot just wide of the post.

Fiorentina might have caused Tottenham a few more moments of concern but for poor decision making in their passing.  A couple of times they could have got players away, but opted for a different ball.  Salah tried to take the ball through a ruck of players when Kane headed out a corner, but just ran into Jan.  The same player chose top shoot when running at goal on the left hand corner of the box, slicing it high and wide and then Fernandez blazed wide with a shot from 25 yards out.

The game ended with Spurs on the attack, but in the second half they lacked the tempo and that might have been partly due to the change in tactics employed by Montella, which obviously did the trick for his side.  Tottenham failed to find the space and urgency they had in the first half and as such, a few players (Townsend, Chadli, Paulinho, Eriksen) were less effective.  However, Fiorentina are a good side and they didn't field play-maker Alberto Aquilani, who might feature in the return, so the side Pochettino puts out there will be interesting with the League Cup final a few days away.

Not the worst result in the world (although those who were day-trippers expected us to trounce them with every attack), but a lead to defend might have been a better one.  With a lot of games in a short time, the use of the squad comes into play and those chosen next Thursday will need to perform to their best ability.

Gavin Neale



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Other scores during this round :
AaB Copenhagen (DEN) 1 Club Brugge (BEL) 3 Thursday
Ajax (HOL) 1 Legia Warsaw (POL) 0 Thursday
Anderlecht (BEL) 0 Dinamo Moscow (RUS) 0 Thursday
AS Roma (ITA) 1 Feyenoord (HOL) 1 Thursday
Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (UKR) 2 Olympiakos (GRE) 0 Thursday
Glasgow Celtic 3 Internazionale (ITA) 3 Thursday
Guingamp (FRA) 2 Dinamo Kiev (UKR) 1 Thursday
Liverpool 1 Besiktas (TUR) 0 Thursday
PSV Eindhoven (HOL) 0 Zenit St. Petersburg (RUS) 1 Thursday
Seville (SPA) 1 Borussia Moenchengladbach (GER) 0 Thursday
Torino (ITA) 2 Atletico Madrid (SPA) 2 Thursday
Trabzonspor (TUR) 0 Napoli (ITA) 4 Thursday
Villarreal (SPA) 2 Red Bull Salzburg (AUS) 1 Thursday
Wolfsburg (GER) 2 Sporting Lisbon (POR) 0 Thursday
Young Boys (SWI) 1 Everton 4 Thursday



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