The man pictured above, Marc Janko, is one of many new faces on an FC Twente Enschede side who are working towards success and a new identity not only after Steve McLaren, but after the departure of a number of prominent players.
New manager Michel Preud'homme, a legendary goalkeeper in his playing days, has come to Twente from Gent in Belgium and done well to keep the side competing for European places domestically and to stay in Europe now that they're actually there. Inevitably, he is without some of Twente's best players for various reasons. Club legend Blaise Nkufo has decided to move on for his twilight years; the 35 year old now plays for Seattle Sounders in the United states. Attacking midfielder Miroslav Stoch scored ten goals from midfield last year on loan from Chelsea, but the Slovakian international is now with Fenerbache. Talented young large striker Marko Arnautovic has been sold to Werder Bremen. Defender Ronnie Stam has moved to Wigan. Ivorian international midfielder Cheick Tiote is now with Newcastle. Veterans Kenneth Perez and Jeroen Heubach have retired.
These key departures have proved difficult to replace, but Preud'homme is certainly doing an adequate job. From his former club, Gent, he has brought over right back Roberto Rosales to replace Stam. The aforementioned Janko has done well to replace some of Nkufo's production, along with emerging young talent Luuk de Jong. Two new arrivals, veteran Denny Landzaat and youngster Nacer Chadli, are attemping to replace Stoch. Two players who were already on the team, Theo Janssen and Wout Brama, have stepped up their game in the absence of Tiote.
Twente do not look like the team they were last season, but they are also yet to lose. Between the league, the Dutch Cup, and the UEFA Champions League, Twente have recorded four wins, five draws, and zero losses. Two of those draws came against Inter Milan and Ajax. Tottenham will be favorites at home, but this will be no easy task.
After their atrocious performance at Upton Park on the weekend, Spurs supporters have been left wondering what has gone wrong with their team. West Ham are among the worst teams in the Premier League and should be in a relegation battle all season, yet they outplayed Spurs for the majority of their match this weekend. Their goal was hardly against the run of play and after a couple of good early saves by Robert Green, Spurs never really looked like scoring. It was an absolutely shocking performance.
Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart both started on the weekend and it's unlikely that we will see both of them today for multiple reasons. One, Harry isn't going to throw caution to the wind today. Two, they weren't very good on Saturday. Three, from what we know, neither is in tip top shape. One of them will likely start on the bench.
I think that Gareth Bale will move up to left midfield and Benoit Assou-Ekotto will slot in at left back. With that happening and either Modric or VDV sitting, a defensive or box to box player like Jermaine Jenas, Sandro, or Wilson Palacios is likely to partner Tom Huddlestone. Yes, I did just list those players in order of preference.
Wait, I want Spurs to start Jermaine Jenas in Champions League? Just think about that for a minute. Spurs are actually in Champions League and I want Jermaine Jenas to start. If someone invented a time machine in 2008, took me today, and showed me this column, it would have absolutely shattered my world view. Remember when the Wilson Palacios signing was a stroke of genius and Jermaine Jenas was total rubbish? That was the truth as of August. God, I need a drink.
I expect no surprises from Harry. 4-4-1-1, Crouch up top, either VDV or Modric behind him, and a midfield four of Bale, Jenas, Huddlestone, and Lennon. What Twente does is a totally different story.
In most of their games, Twente have gone with a very attacking 4-3-3 where the wide forwards had minimal defensive responsibilities. Against Ajax and Inter, they have shifted to a basic 4-4-2 with nine men behind the ball most of the time. Against Ajax on the weekend, de Jong partnered Ruiz up top and Janko sat on the bench while Denny Landzaat played on the wing. Against Inter, Janko partnered Ruiz while de Jong played on the right at Landzaat sat. I've got a feeling that Landzaat will play on the right today, as Preud'homme will likely be weary of playing de Jong on the wing against Bale.
So, prediction time. I hate to be a negative nancy, but man, we look shaky right now. This game is huge. If we don't get three points, we won't be advancing. Period. I think Harry and the boys know this and will be motivated to lay the smackdown.
I talked to Oliver Kay this morning and he assured me that Spurs should win this game. Good enough for me.
Projected Twente Lineup (4-4-2): Mihaylov / Kuiper, Franco, Wisgerhof, Roberto / Chadli, Brama, Janssen, Landzaat / Janko, Ruiz
Projected Spurs Lineuo (4-4-1-1): Cudicini / Assou-Ekotto, Bassong, King, Hutton / Bale, Jenas, Huddlestone, Lennon / van der Vaart / Crouch
Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Twente Enschede