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Tottenham Hotspur vs. Vitesse Conference League Preview: Nuno gives way to new life

Daniel Levy decided enough was enough.

Vitesse v Tottenham Hotspur - Group D - UEFA Europa Conference League Photo by Peter Lous/BSR Agency/Getty Images comes at you fast. Out goes Nuno Espirito Santo after 17 total matches, and in comes Antonio Conte, the latest gamble to right the ship in North London. The Italian’s track record speaks for itself, and his appointment comes with heavy implication of a large transfer budget ahead, so expectations will not be mild despite the current state of the club.

That state, of course, is a mid-table team with a shocking -7 goal differential and an uphill climb in the Europa Conference League. After a lifeless 1-0 loss against Vitesse by the reserve team, Tottenham Hotspur will need to string together a few wins to continue its European campaign. Revenge against the Dutch side on Thursday would bump Spurs back into the top two with two matches remaining.

Conte’s influence will be minimal at best heading into this match (this post assumes he will be available for it), but both his personnel selection and formation implementation will be interesting. Surely he was brought to Spurs to get back into the top four chase, but the Conference League is a competition that can be won even without going all-in. Losing to Vitesse again may end that chance, though.

Tottenham Hotspur (3rd, 4 pts) vs. Vitesse (2nd, 6 pts)

Date: Thursday, November 4
Time: 4:00 pm ET, 8:00 pm UK
Location: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, England
TV: Paramount+ (USA), (UK)

The fixture in the Netherlands was not the final straw for Nuno, but it likely accelerated his ousting. The former manager boldly opted to not only swap out all 11 players from the weekend, but also leave all of them at home in London. A loss midweek could be justified with the bigger picture in mind, but the fully rested starters then went out and limped to a 1-0 defeat against West Ham, proving his gambit worthless.

Vitesse sit fifth in the Eredivisie and are the type of club Spurs should be able to handle, especially at home. The pressure is on after taking just one total point against Vitesse and Rennes on the road, but the return fixtures offer the opportunity to get back on track and lock up a place in the next round. Finishing first does offer direct placement into the Round of 16, but Thursday must end in three points for that to even be a consideration.

Three themes

  1. Conte’s team selection will give a glimpse into how he views this competition, and it also might indicate what he plans for Sunday’s trip to Everton. There is an international break after the weekend, however, giving Spurs a full two weeks until their next match, with the Conference League not resuming until Thanksgiving (in America).
  2. Tottenham has infamously not won any league contest this season by more than one goal, with only the conquests over lowly Paços de Ferreira and Mura breaking this barrier. Vitesse may not be the strongest side, but a multi-goal victory would feel like a real achievement and could breathe some life into the club.
  3. New managers generally have fared well on the onset. Nuno won his first three league matches and beat Paços on aggregate to start his Spurs tenure. Jose Mourinho also won his first three matches across all competitions before falling to Manchester United. Meanwhile, interim manager Ryan Mason won his first two in the league but of course dropped the League Cup final in between last spring.