‘Taxi for Maicon,’ a great night at the Lane and a Gareth Bale hat trick all spring to mind when you talk of Spurs vs Inter. Although two and half years have passed, and this time we face them in the Europa League, this match is another test against a side with proven Champions League pedigree.
Both teams are much changed since those epic encounters and have young, tactically astute managers. So, what can we expect and what should we look for in the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Inter this time?
Inter set up and playing style
Andre Stramaccioni has a versatile side. He sets them up in either a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 depending on how attack-minded he wants wide players Fredy Guarin and Ricardo Alvarez to be. He also flirts with playing three centre backs, but with so many injuries to his defenders, Stramaccioni will probably opt for a back four here.
Without the ball, Inter retreat in to a 4-4-1-1 in order to hit teams on the counter, as they transfer the ball quickly from back to front to catch opponents on the hop.
They heavily attack down the left through Riccardo Alvarez and Rodrigo Polacio drifting out to this side. Esteban Cambiasso and Walter Gargano are extremely good at moving the ball forward quickly to initiate the attacks.
Up front, Antonio Cassano should start after falling out with the manager and being left out of the squad for the Catania game. The Italian international is a threat to score goals, but also to create them, having an eye for a through ball, as we’ll look at in a minute.
Spurs vs Inter injuries
Both managers have injury concerns prior to this match that could affect their approach to the game.
Andre Villas-Boas in his team news press conference said that Moussa Dembele was fit after limping off against Arsenal, but Emmanuel Adebayor is a major doubt. With Jermain Defoe’s lack of match fitness and Clint Dempsey also out injured, don’t rule out Gareth Bale playing as the central striker tonight.
Andrea Stramaccioni has larger concerns ahead of the match, as his defence has been decimated by injuries. Walter Samuel, Yuto Nagamoto and Mathias Silvestre are all out, whilst Andrea Rannochia is struggling to be fit having missed the trip to Catania. Up front, Diego Milito is also out and Fredy Guarin is a major doubt.
Spurs vs Inter left side
Inter base their attack through moving the ball quickly to the flanks, particularly the left side where Ricardo Alvarez and Alvaro Pereira operate. The Argentinean receives the ball wide, but then comes inside, looking for the Uruguayan full back on the overlap to cross.
Pereira was particularly effective in the comeback against Catania at the weekend, assisting on one of Rodrigo Polacio’s two goals.
The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Inter here should see these two going up against Aaron Lennon and Kyle Walker. Both Tottenham players have speed, which should see them be able to out pace the Inter pair. Lennon will have to track Alvarez in-field, whilst Walker covers Pereira’s overlaps.
The dangerous Fredy Guarin
The Colombian is a major doubt, but if he plays he is a threat cutting in from the right side. Guarin is a direct dribbler with the ball, who also has an eye for a shot from distance. Nobody in the Inter team takes more efforts at goal per game in Serie A than him.
Whilst he is a threat to beat players in wider areas on the right in the midfield zone, once he gets up the pitch, his dribble-drives become more central. From there he is a threat to shoot or set up a team mate.
Antonio Cassano and Rodrigo Polacio
This pair operates as a one-two punch. With Diego Milito out, we’re likely to see Antonio Cassano named as the only striker with Rodrigo Polacio operating just behind.
Cassano likes to drop off and get involved in the build up play, being just as adept at finding a through-ball as he is at finding the back of the net. He showed this Inter’s second half comeback in the Milan derby the other week, trying to unlock the Rossoneri defence.
While the Rossoneri resisted, he had much more success in the match prior against Fiorentina.
Polacio on the other hand likes to drift out to the left side in the build up play. Then he looks for balls from Cassano slid-in down the channels, whilst also arriving late in the box to get on the end of crosses.
He demonstrated his ability to time his runs when scoring twice against Catania at the weekend. Firstly when heading home a cross from overlapping full back Alvaro Pereira. Then by arriving late and unmarked to slot home an Esteban Cambiasso cut back. In the Milan derby the weekend prior, he also spurned several good opportunities from headers after arriving late in the box unmarked.
The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Inter here need to guard against Cassano and Polacio overloading us in the advanced midfield zone. Our centre backs wont want to get drawn out too far with Cassano looking to play through balls in behind, whilst Polacio’s late runs will need to be picked up by Scott Parker.
Inter conceding goals
Inter did keep two clean sheets against Cluj in the last round of the Europa League, but have been less stable in Serie A.
Fiorentina put four past them, Milan could have been out of sight by half-time and Catania bagged two against them inside the first twenty minutes at the weekend.
Inter are slow starters and can be got at down the flanks where Alvaro Pereira can be caught forward. They have also been vulnerable through the channels between centre and full backs, as both Fiorentina and Catania have highlighted.
In their last two matches in Serie A, Milan played a 4-3-3 and destroyed them from wide. The Rossoneri really should have been three or four up by half time having dominated the opening period.
Catania went through the inside channels between centre and full backs, as they also jumped out to an early lead.
Spurs should also be looking to get off to a fast start and strike early in this one to put Inter on the back foot.
Spurs vs Inter outlook
This will be a game dictated by both managers choice of sides due to injuries. Andre Villas-Boas has fewer problems than Andrea Stramaccioni, but his biggest headache is in the forward position. The Inter coach has worries about having enough fit defenders, so could well play more negative tactically to avoid being opened up.
Coming forward, Inter will look to attack down the left, even more so if Fredy Guarin is not fit enough to start. They can be got at down this side as well, with Alvaro Pereira’s surging runs from full back sometimes seeing him caught out of position.
Up front Antonio Cassano will be the biggest danger to play balls in behind our high back line. If Brad Friedel starts, we could well be in trouble with his preference to stay on his line, rather than rush out to clear like Hugo Lloris.
Spurs vs Inter could well depend on the Italians conceding an early goal once more. If Spurs do manage to strike at the start then the game could well open up. If not, we may spend much of the evening trying to break down another stubborn Italian defence.
Spurs vs Inter prediction: Spurs 2 Inter 1