Tottenham continue their Europa League journey with the visit of Greek side Asteras Tripolis to White Hart Lane. Although Mauricio Pochettino’s side have enjoyed overwhelming victories in this tournament, the group stage has presented the club with more challenging opposition than in former campaigns. With the stubborn performance of Partizan Belgrade ending in a 0-0 draw, and the visit of Group C heavyweights, Besiktas concluding in a rather disappointing 1-1 finale, the North London side will hope that the clash with group leaders Tripolis will result in a victory.
Who are Asteras Tripolis?
The Greek side came into their element during the 2012-13 campaign, dubbed their most successful. Achieving third place in the Greek Super League, the club were able to qualify for the UEFA Europa League for the first time in their history. This special season also saw the club achieve runners-up in the Greek Cup final, losing to heavyweights Olympiakos, 3-1. Their manager, Staikos Vergetis has been in charge since October 2013. The Asteras squad has many new faces, with captain Fernando Usero one of the longest serving players currently in the side. A staggering twelve members of the squad signed in 2014 alone.
Asteras completed their first ever win against Panathanikos, a team that Tottenham played in the 2012 Europa League, defeating them 3-1 at White Hart Lane, with a 1-1 draw in Greece. Tottenham faced Greek opposition in competitive form in 1972, winning 4-0 at home versus Olympiakos, whilst being defeated 1-0 on the road. Tottenham played Olympiakos once again in August 2009, with the pre-season friendly finishing 3-0 to Spurs.
The fixture will be the first recorded meeting of the two sides. Although the world may not be familiar with this hidden Greek gem, their position on top of group C makes for interesting reading, with the famous Tottenham Hotspur in third. So far, the ‘Lilywhites’ have managed two draws against Partizan Belgrade (0-0), and Besiktas (1-1). Tripolis managing a 1-1 draw at Besiktas, and a 2-0 victory over Partizan.
This will not be an easy game for Spurs. They picked up a good result against Partizan in a rather hostile environment, however the late penalty conceded against Besiktas will have frustrated the side. They need a win to re-gain control of the group. Mauricio Pochettino is especially eager to succeed in the competition this season, with the winners gaining a place in the 2015/16 UEFA Champions League. With the battle for top-four hotter than ever in the Premier League, this may be their best route to glory.
Vlad Chiriches missed the weekend defeat to Manchester City through injury but will return to the squad, with Kyle Walker still on the sidelines. Pochettino confirmed that Kyle Naughton’s injury persists, whilst Nabil Bentaleb picked up an ankle injury on international duty.
Starting XI – Lloris, Naughton, Vertonghen, Fazio, Davies, Dembélé, Paulinho, Lennon, Townsend, Kane, Soldado
Score – Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 Asteras Tripolis