With Dembele, Dier and Lamela all likely to return mid-week, Spurs face a pleasant selection headache ahead of a crucial Champions League encounter in Russia. The form of Heung-Min Son on the left of attacking midfield means he simply must play. Tottenham go into this contest needing all three points to avoid drifting behind the pack in their Group E as they face CSKA Moscow.
A loss at Wembley in the opening fixture and an overall poor performance makes this game critical. The difficult journey and likely hostility of the CSKA crowd must be overcome if Tottenham are to have any chance of progressing from the group. A loss is not an option for the side unbeaten in the Premier League. A draw would barely offer much by way of assistance, so three points are most certainly needed to avoid a quick Champions League exit.
Tottenham will surely field their strongest possible XI on Tuesday night. Last season that eleven was obvious, yet a few tweaks and changes in personnel over the Summer – especially in the front half of the pitch – means that selecting the best team is no longer a fait accompli.
Vincent Janssen is a certainty to start up front, but the composition of the three in-behind him is less clear. Erik Lamela was left on the bench against Middlesborough. He is a high-class player and surely must start, especially given Moussa Sissoko’s indifferent showing at the weekend. Lamela’s 3 assists and 1 goal last Wednesday were against weak opposition, but he has proven over the last 12 months just how valuable a player he is.
Son appears a lock on the left, he has delivered goals and goal scoring opportunities in spades since his return to the side. Mauricio Pochettino traditionally rewards those who perform when the chance is given, and there is no better performer this season than Son. So with Son on the left and Lamela on the right, that leaves the central position. This appears more complicated, and determined by whom is in central midfield.
Will Moussa Dembele and Eric Dier start in midfield? It appears unlikely that Pochettino would bring both back, especially given Dembele has seen limited game time of late due to suspension. Thus Christian Eriksen will fill the central attacking role, Dier the defensive midfield duties with Dele Alli holding his place between the two. It’s a very strong-looking midfield even without Dembele. Where Spurs appeared nothing like themselves when Dembele missed games in 15/16, they now appear more balanced and less reliant on him with the addition of Wanyama and Alli dropping deeper.
Danny Rose is fit again and has trained so can expect to return at left back, although Ben Davies, who was poor against Monaco, has improved since. The back four really pick themselves with Rose being joined by Vertonghen, Alderweireld and Kyle Walker.
It’s a huge test for Tottenham so early in the season. Their challenges are plentiful – the venue, crowd and opposition in Moscow. Not to mention Spurs then face Manchester City in the Premier League on Sunday. No doubt the best side will again be put out against City in the 1 v 2 clash of the undefeated sides, and Spurs receive an extra day’s break over their top of the table rivals. This is enough to allow them to get through the two games with minimal changes, before reverting to alternative personnel in games to follow.