Spurs vs Maribor
Three matches in the Europa League have resulted in three draws, leaving us almost in a must win situation in the return leg of Spurs vs Maribor.
Team news is not good as Andre Villas-Boas and the lads go in to the game carrying several injuries, especially impacting the centre of the park. Sandro was the latest victim, having to leave the action early against Wigan, which means the gaffer has a real selection headache in this area.
Jake Livermore may be ready to return to the line-up, as he trained for the first time since recovering from an ankle injury on Wednesday. However, with such a big match with Man City upcoming at the weekend and our other ball winners, Sandro, Dembele and Parker all out, will AVB risk Livermore here?
The Slovenians put up a spirited display in the first match, as it finished Maribor 1 Spurs 1, but this game will be played on a much better pitch at White Hart Lane.
Here are my 5 keys to Spurs vs Maribor in the Europa League.
1. Spurs vs Maribor approach
Maribor have been aggressive so far in this season’s Europa League.
At home they attacked Panathinaikos early and often, beating the Greek outfit 3-0. Away to Lazio, they pressed the Italians looking to create turnovers and were quite successful. They generated 12 shots, but also left the back door open as the men from Rome took 22 themselves in a narrow 1-0 victory.
Against us, they were looking to press through their attacking players whilst the defenders sat back, having been vulnerable to the long ball over the top against Lazio. Once they took the lead, they dropped right off and looked to play on the counter in the second half. We had plenty of possession, but had to break down a congested defence, which was typified by the goal line scramble for our equaliser.
Spurs vs Maribor will depend very much on the Slovenian side’s approach. Will they come out and be aggressive, pressing up the pitch as they did at Lazio and in the first half of our match in Maribor? Or will they sit back and play on the counter as they did in the second half of our game in Slovenia?
2. Goran Cvijanovic pulling the strings
Robert Beric took the headlines for scoring Maribor’s goal and has been subsequently linked with us, but Goran Cvijanovic pulls the strings behind the scenes. We identified him before the first match in our 5 keys to that game and he leads the Slovenians in chances created in the Europa League this season.
For Beric’s goal, Cvijanovic played a nice pass in to Dejan Mezga who chipped the ball over a sliding Hugo Lloris for the striker to tap in.
Cvijanovic was looking to play through balls all evening when he had the chance, most of which we were able to snuff out.
While the likes of Beric, Tavares, Mezga and Ibraimi will be the more noticeable players looking to attack, Cvijanovic is the main key to supplying them. Keep him in check and we’ll go a long way to stopping the Slovenians at the source of their creativity.
3. Marcos Tavares and Robert Beric
Marcos Tavares and Robert Beric are a classic one-two punch. We looked at the two before the first game in our 5 keys to Maribor vs Spurs and they lived up to their billing.
Robert Beric is a classic number nine who is the focus for long balls forward from the back and plays on the shoulder of the last defender. He gets caught offside often, but as we saw for his strike against us and also for his goal at home to Panathinaikos, he is a threat to get in behind at any point.
Marcos Tavares plays more of a number ten role, dropping off of Beric and working in between the lines of defence and midfield. He is a busy player who is looking to slip balls in to Beric or take shots on himself.
4. Agim Ibraimi cutting inside
Agim Ibraimi starts out on the right, but is always looking to come inside and get a shot away. He is Maribor’s most frequent shooter with 3.7 shots per game so far in the Europa League and most of them come from the right corner of the box after he has moved inside from the wing.
5. Spurs midfield balance and movement
From the first match, as highlighted in the Maribor 1 Spurs 1 match report, we need to get our midfield balance right.
In that match, Tom Huddlestone was sitting far too deep and forcing Sandro in to advanced positions, an area where the Brazilian is not the greatest creator or shooter.
At home, against this calibre of opposition, Huddlestone needs to be in the opposition half of the field, moving the ball and looking for more incisive passes. He also has a cannon of a shot when given time to unleash it and needs to be more offensively minded here.
Movement was the other factor from the first match. With Maribor clogging the middle, Jermain Defoe was forced out in to wider areas where he was less effective. If Emmanuel Adebayor gets the nod to start in this game, he should have much more joy than Defoe with his greater degree of movement.
We also attempted 28 crosses in that first match, completing 6 of them, which is a decent return for us this season. Adebayor, with his great aerial power, should be able to capitalise on anything in to the box this evening.
Spurs vs Maribor outlook
Depending on how Maribor approach the game could see us in for an attacking feast from both sides, or a long wait to open them up if they sit back.
If they do look to drop off and play on the counter, then Spurs need to get the balance in midfield right this time and that means Tom Huddlestone has to move further up the field. Playing as a deep lying playmaker here won’t get the job done.
Spurs will have to be wary of Goran Cvijanovic, cutting his passing off at source should be the way to stop any Maribor attacks before they get going.
For us, Emmanuel Adebayor could be the biggest factor; his movement and ability to get on the end of crosses will hopefully see him get off the mark this season.