Predicted Spurs XI: Mourinho makes 3 changes, first start since October for £80k-p/w man
Jose Mourinho has confirmed Tottenham Hotspur will be without defender Toby Alderweireld for Thursday night’s Europa League tie with Ludogorets Razgrad after sustaining a muscular injury against Manchester City.
The issue forced Mourinho to substitute the centre-half off in the 81st-minute of last weekend’s 2-0 win and now expects to be without him for two to four weeks, but is relieved the issue is not as bad as first feared.
Tottenham continue to wait on further news of Matt Doherty’s fitness after he was forced to miss the Premier League clash with Pep Guardiola’s Citizens after testing positive for coronavirus, while Erik Lamela will not be available to face Ludogorets or Chelsea on Sunday due to a foot issue.
Alderweireld and Doherty’s absences for the midweek UEFA affair will force Mourinho into changes from the side which beat Ludogorets 3-1 earlier this month, keeping Spurs top of Group J on goal difference to Royal Antwerp and Linz ASK in a three-way tie on six points.
So, with changes on the cards, here’s a predicted XI the Portuguese tactician could favour…
Mourinho has thus far called on summer arrival Joe Hart to start in goal for two of Tottenham’s three Europa League Group Stage ties this term, and would be expected to stick with the former England international at home to Ludogorets in order to afford Hugo Lloris a rest between key Premier League tests with Manchester City and Chelsea.
But the former Blues boss will need to turn to Davinson Sanchez to partner Eric Dier in defence without the injured Alderweireld and with Joe Rodon ineligible in Europe, offering the Colombian what Paul Robinson believes will be a “big chance” for him to impress after being frozen out this season.
Mourinho has also confirmed that Doherty will fall to the bench after only returning to training earlier this week, allowing for Serge Aurier to return to the matchday squad after being omitted from the 18-man teamsheet when Spurs visited Ludogorets.
Harry Winks will be hoping that Mourinho opts to name a repeat midfield unit from the side which beat their Bulgarian opposition at the start of the month, with the England international concerned by his lack of game time yet a 100% member of Spurs’ Europa League Group Stage efforts to date.
No player for either side registered more touches (101) of the ball in the previous meeting between Tottenham and Ludogorets than Winks, with the 24-year-old enjoying an 8.1% share of the possession and playing the highest number of accurate passes (81), per WhoScored.
Giovani Lo Celso also registered a team-high three key balls at the Huvepharma Arena and netted his side’s third before being replaced in 72nd-minute, but has not opened a Premier League match since his sole start in September’s 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur.
With Ludogorets bottom of Group J and without a point after three games, Mourinho may feel safe in rotating his starting forwards from this month’s 3-1 win and resting captain Harry Kane ahead of Sunday’s derby clash with Chelsea.
The England international had featured for just 32 minutes over Spurs’ opening two Group Stage ties, though is an integral aspect of Mourinho’s league plans with nine starts in nine and only trails Heung-Min Son (9) for goals scored (7) in the top-flight.
Mourinho has options to turn to in favour of resting Kane, though may favour a central role for Lucas Moura, having been full of praise for the winger’s previous efforts at striker and with the £80,000-per-week Brazilian boasting two goals and an assist in the Europa League this season.
“Lucas is probably one of the few players that was here the day I arrived and never stopped, apart from some extreme fatigue he had because he was playing every match,” Mourinho told the official Spurs website this summer.
“He did everything for us during the season. He played in every position. He played as a striker when we had no strikers. He had no rest, he had to play every match in every competition. It’s really amazing and shows the team player that he is a team player, a consistent player, a player who sacrifices himself for the needs of the team.”
Moving Lucas into a central position for the first time this season – and handing him his first start since October 26 – will open the door for Mourinho to hand Steven Bergwijn a second chance to impress after his struggles against Manchester City at the weekend.
The Dutch forward was invisible before his early withdrawal and would have been frustrated with himself for failing to impress, given Mourinho had only awarded the 23-year-old one Premier League and one Europa League Group Stage start prior to the visit of the Sky Blues.
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Source: Football – Football Fan Cast