WILL DYER (@w2Dyer) has been in fine Champions League form this season. This time he previews the Europa League decider between Spurs and CSK Moscow.
Tottenham v CSKA Moscow | Wednesday 19:45 | BT Sport 2
Bayer Leverkusen and Monaco have both already qualified for the knockout stage, thanks largely to victories over Tottenham at Wednesday’s venue, Wembley.
That means that this bout between Spurs and CSKA Moscow will decide who qualifies for the Europa League. Only an away win will do for the Russians if they are to secure that ambition.
The key issue when trying to predict the outcome of this game is deciphering whether or not either of these teams actually wants to play in Europe’s secondary continental club competition. Spurs have arguably had enough of the Europa League.
Ins and outs
Toby Alderweireld should make his much awaited return from injury. The Belgian lynchpin has been sorely missed in the Tottenham backline, with Spurs clean sheet chances dropping from 60% with him to just 33% of games without him this season.
On the other side of the ball, Roman Eremenko is a key loss to the visitors. Only Lacina Traore (7) has been involved in more goals than the Finnish midfielder (6) in 2016/17. He’s sidelined by a suspension issued to him by UEFA for testing positive for cocaine use.
Mauricio Pochettino has announced that “It’s important for the club to be involved in the Europa League” citing it as their duty after a poor Champions League campaign but it doesn’t exactly sound like anyone at the club is particularly keen on the thought of ‘Spursday night football’ for the remainder of the season.
Tottenham had real claims for the Premier League title coming into this season and those are not completely diminished yet, though there is a clear top-four competing for that in my opinion. The Europa League would just be an obstacle for them.
End of an era
As for CSKA, they are already eight points off Spartak Moscow in the Russian Premier League. I believe they may be a little more interested. They won the competition in 2005 and since then have reached the quarter final and Last 16 on two other occasions.
The Koni are unbeaten in six games in all competitions now, which includes a home draw against Bayer Leverkusen, a game in which they were the better side. They also drew away in Leverkusen and at home to Monaco.
Leonid Slutsky’s men have been competitive throughout but what makes supporting them tricky is the fact that they lost the reverse of this fixture 1-0 and Spurs were dominant in that one; even though they were without Danny Rose, Harry Kane, Moussa Dembele and Eric Dier.
Another big problem is that Slutsky has been linked with the Vitesse Arnhem job and is rumoured by some outlets to be leaving after this Champions League tie. That puts their players in a strange position.
Spurs to let off steam
I’m expecting Spurs to release some anger on CSKA in this one. Whether or not they want to play in the Europa League this is still a Champions League tie at Wembley and they owe the fans something from this UCL campaign.
In both of Moscow’s two away games against Leverkusen and Monaco they’ve had 40% possession or less and allowed 20 or more attempts at their goal. A drab performance here and they should be put away by Spurs and with Alderweireld returning too they shouldn’t get much joy in Tottenham’s final third.
The bet for me is Tottenham on the standard handicap line, for once. Against Swansea at the weekend they were excellent after some questionable performances.
Spurs -1 is 29/20 with Betfair. Win by two or more goals and we have a winner, anything less and it’s a losing selection.
Tottenham v CSKA Moscow – Tottenham -1 handicap (29/20 Betfair)