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With Dembele, Eriksen, Alli and Vertonghen out, how will Spurs line up against APOEL?

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Thanks to injuries and suspensions, Mauricio Pochettino has a tactical conundrum for Tuesday’s Champions League match.

Tottenham Hotspur v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League
Spurs will be without both of these guys in Cyprus.
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur released team news for tomorrow’s Champions League match against APOEL, and it’s not great news. As feared, Mousa Dembele was ruled out for the trip to Cyprus and will be “evaluated” prior to Spurs’ next league match against Huddersfield. But even worse, Christian Eriksen has been ruled out of the match due to illness.

In addition to the above players whom are out, Dele Alli and Jan Vertonghen will both miss the match due to suspension. Vertonghen picked up two yellow cards in Spurs’ win over Dortmund, and Dele is serving the second of his three-match European ban after a straight red last season against Gent.

We touched on this in an earlier article, but let’s dive a bit deeper, because without Eriksen, the situation is now infinitely worse. Without Dele, Vertonghen, Eriksen, and Wanyama, just how in tarnation are Spurs going to line up tomorrow evening?!

Option One: 4-2-3-1

Perhaps the easiest solution would be to abandon the three at the back formation altogether and revert to the tried-and-tested 4-2-3-1 formation. That would most likely mean a CB pairing of Davinson Sanchez and Toby Alderweireld, with Eric Dier partnering Harry Winks in midfield. Georges-Kevin N’Koudou, Moussa Sissoko, and Son Heung-Min make up the forward attacking midfield band behind Harry Kane.

There are, of course, some variations here: Marcus Edwards could come in for N’Koudou, Sissoko and Winks could hypothetically swap, but this would seem, at least at first glance, to be the most logical choice.

Option Two: three at the back

But what if Pochettino opts to roll with the tactical formation that he’s used the past number of games? Well, there’d be some positional jiggery-pokery going on, but it’s a legitimate choice. Here’s one version, with some caveats.

A lot of that would depend on what Poch wants to do with Eric Dier. If he wants him the back three, that pretty much means a midfield of Sissoko-Winks, which frankly scares me a bit. If Dier is in the midfield, Poch could either throw young Juan Foyth into the fire of an away Champions League match, or he could decide to move Ben Davies central and bring in Kyle Walker-Peters at left back. That wouldn’t be the craziest thing, though we’ve only ever talked about Davies as a CB under Pochettino in the abstract. (He’s played there for Wales, but never under Poch.)

Option Three: RUN THE DANG 4-4-2

Oh hey, you want a balls-to-the-wall crazy formation? Here’s one, and it involves using both Harry Kane and Fernando Llorente in the same lineup. I KNOW!

Part of me would really like to see this in action. We have rarely gotten to see Kane play with a true strike partner (though Alli kind of serves as one in most circumstances), and it’d be interesting to see how Harry and Fernando would play together. Kane is used to dropping deep so I’d expect to see him used as a deep lying playmaker, and Fernando as a sort of target man. But, y’know, running this out for a critical away match in the Champions League probably isn’t the best idea.

The pro of this formation is that we don’t use Moussa Sissoko at all! The con is that... well, this is a completely new formation that to my recollection we have never EVER seen Poch use at Tottenham.

Do I really think we’re going to see this formation tomorrow in Cyprus? Hell no. But if you want a total YOLO formation based on the available personnel, here you go.

Conclusion

This is really pretty emphatically bad. Having to play an away match in the Champions League without four of the players in your beginning-of-the-season starting 11 isn’t great. APOEL isn’t a very good team, but they will be playing against a wounded Spurs side in their home stadium, and it’s never wise to look past a Champions League team.

Put a gun to my head and I suspect we’ll see something closer to option 1 than option 2 or 3, but Poch has been known to throw in some tactical surprises now and then, and I really don’t know what he’ll do. Spurs will be minus a lot of beef and a lot of creativity in their midfield, but however Spurs line up tomorrow, a win in Cyprus is critical if Spurs are to escape the Group of Death.

Poll

How will Spurs line up tomorrow against APOEL?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    4-2-3-1
    (422 votes)
  • 18%
    3-4-2-1
    (190 votes)
  • 24%
    RUN THE DANG 4-4-2
    (252 votes)
  • 16%
    FRAAB/bacon sandwich
    (169 votes)
1033 votes total Vote Now