Kane and Eriksen can give Spurs a first-leg advantage against Fiorentina
Impressive as Tottenham were against Arsenal two weeks ago, the post-match analysis of a “North London power shift” once again looks premature. Three days later and a 3-2 defeat to Liverpool – coupled with an Arsenal victory against Leicester – saw the Gunners overtake their rivals again in the table. The continuing form of Harry Kane and the establishment of Nabil Bentaleb and Ryan Mason in midfield are both important factors in Spurs’ recent form but as the table proves, they are up against some decent sides with a track record of finishing in the top four.
With this is mind, it is imperative that they maintain their Europa League run as this year’s winner will receive a place next season’s Champions League. Bar Liverpool, they are perhaps the best side still in the competition and their tie against Fiorentina presents a viable opportunity of reaching the last 16.
Tottenham win 11/10
Fiorentina win 47/20
(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)
Indeed, the Europa League has already proved to be a blessing in disguise for Spurs. Leaving to one side the FA Cup exit to Leicester, the large number of fixtures this season has allowed Mauricio Pochettino to experiment with line-ups and eventually find a strong system. European football has also allowed Kane to cut his teeth, giving him the playing time he needed to find his feet as a first team player at Tottenham. 7 of his first 10 goals this season came in the Europa League, the sort of form he has translated to the Premier League in emphatic fashion.
The most interesting question concerning Kane now is no longer whether he is good enough, but what will happen once the goals inevitably dry up. So much of being a top class striker goes on in the head and he can’t keep running on adrenaline forever. There is a real talent there, as shown by the variety of goals he has scored this season. However, a large part of what makes Kane so effective is his work rate and enthusiasm. He’s never had to deal with a goal drought before and when it comes, that will be Kane’s real mental test. In this instance, the other strikers at the club may not serve as the best mentors. Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor have just six goals between them this season.
As such, Spurs’ other star performer has come from midfield – Christian Eriksen. His transfer fee of 12 million euros looks by far and away the best use of the Gareth Bale money, his appetite for a late goal proving key in his side’s success so far. He continues to be a threat from freekicks from the most unlikely of angles and after Kane is the club’s second top goalscorer this season with 11 goals, although he is yet to score in the Europa League.
Kane and Eriksen can now launch their attacks from a more solid foundation, with Bentaleb and Mason helping to shore up the midfield. While the pair were a little off the pace against Liverpool, no doubt overexerted after their Derby Day performances, they will have over a week’s preparation for the Fiorentina game. With all four of these players in their early twenties, it’s important for Pochettino to manage their youthful effervescence as he did so effectively with his young charges at Southampton.
Thursday night’s Italian opponents Fiorentina are currently 4th in Serie A and earlier this month claimed a 2-0 win at Roma in the Coppa Italia. Their manager Vincenzo Montella had a brief foray into English football when he joined Fulham on loan in 2007; incidentally, his first goal was a penalty against Spurs. Having lost Juan Cuadrado to Chelsea in January, Montella will be looking to strikers Mario Gomez and Khouma Babacar to replicate his feat.
With the opening leg taking place at White Hart Lane, it is vital for Spurs to establish a grip on the tie. Tottenham don’t travel particularly well in Europe – they haven’t won a knockout game away since February 2011, when Peter Crouch’s goal earned a 1-0 win against Milan at the San Siro. Four years on and it appears the pressure falls on another Englishman, Harry Kane, to deliver the goods for Spurs.
Betting Instinct tip – Spurs to qualify over the two legs is 3/4 with Intertops.eu
HUGO GREENHALGH is co-founder and editor of The False Nine and a contributor to Eurosport and When Saturday Comes. He can be found following his favourite clubs: Arsenal and Dulwich Hamlet. Follow Hugo on Twitter.