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Spurs vs. Werder Bremen Preview

Today, Tottenham Hotspur kick off their first UEFA Champions League group stage campaign with a difficult fixture in Bremen. Werder may have sold Mesut Özil and lost Claudio Pizzaro and Per Mertesacker to injury, but they will still provide a stiff test for Spurs. The Weserstadion is always a difficult place to play.

Whoever Harry Redknapp chooses in his holding midfield and fullback positions will have their hands full with Wesley, Marko Marin, and Aaron Hunt. Werder does not have a direct replacement for Özil, but those two players, along with the way Philipp Bargfrede makes runs from a deeper midfield position, will cause some problems for Spurs. Hunt has not been given the start, but he's likely to get plenty of time to make an impact as a substitute. Young target man Marko Arnautovic could be a bit of an x-factor. Surprisingly, he starts alongside Hugo Almeida. Werder has frequently played 4-4-2 variations, but many expected them to go 4-3-2-1 with Pizzaro out of the lineup and both Hunt and Marin behind Almeida.

Of course, as good as Werder is, they do have their deficiencies. Torsten Frings is now 33 years old. While still a quality player, he's beginning to show his age and can't quite cover as much ground as he used to. That combined with Per Mertesacker's injury and Bargfrede's tendency to get forward means that Werder is possibly susceptible on the counter attack, as evidenced by a good chunk of their qualifying tie against Sampdoria and their week one loss to Hoffenheim.

The question looms for both teams: Which Werder/Spurs side will we see? Both of these teams have immense talent and immense collapse potential. It wouldn't be that surprising to see a 0-0 draw, a 2-2 draw, or for either team to win 3-0. These are two of Europe's ultimate Jekyll and Hyde teams. When they're on, they're on. When they're off, they suck.

Werder's backline, in particular, is very guilty of this. They played brilliantly against Bayern Munich on the weekend, but have every capability of committing numerous mental errors and allowing Spurs to score in buckets.

Despite saying last season that tactics are only about 10% of the game with the other 90% being just how players perform on the day, Harry Redknapp has now made comments that he doesn't think 4-4-2 is a viable option on the road in Europe for Spurs. Unfortunately for him, there are concerns about the fitness of Rafael van der Vaart and Luka Modric. Both are able to play and traveled with the team, but neither is expected to be 90 minutes fit.

Rafael van der Vaart is in the starting lineup, but I don't expect him to go the full 90. Both Modric and Krancjar are available off the bench and one, if not both of them should enter the match at some point. Jermaine Jenas has been handed a start due to concerns about the fitness of Modric and the form of Palacios. Jenas has had a wildly inconsistent career, but he's a superb athlete who produces occasional flashes of brilliance, so he could make Harry look like a genius or a donkey.

Tactically, this match could get interesting, but I think that both teams will play similar styles that cancel each other out, leaving this one up to individual performances. Based on Spurs' recent form and the way Marin played against Bayern, I'm not sure if that benefits us. The good news is that Ekotto is starting, meaning Bale has been moved up to left midfield and will have more freedom to bomb forward with reckless abandon.

Mental errors should make more of a difference in this game than most. Both of these teams are very prone to awful mental mistakes, but both teams also occasionally put in spectacular, flawless performances. I've got a hard time believing both teams will keep complete focus. It could get sloppy.

Tottenham Hotspur lineup (4-4-1-1, left to right): Cudicini/Ekotto, King, Kaboul, Corluka/Bale, Jenas, Huddlestone, Lennon/van der Vaart/Crouch

Werder Bremen lineup (4-4-2, left to right): Weise/Pasanen, Silvestre, Proedl, Fritz/Wesley, Frings, Bargfrede, Marin/Arnautovic, Almeida

Prediction: Werder Bremen 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur