Tottenham tactics: Inter vs Spurs preview

After jumping out to a 3-0 aggregate lead after the first leg of our Europa League tie, we travel to the San Siro for Inter vs Spurs in the return.

The Italians have a massive hill to climb to overturn their hapless first leg performance. Having scored four against us in our last visit and not having to face Gareth Bale, they may well think they have an outside chance of pulling off a remarkable comeback.

The last 16 clash between the two sides might seem all but over, but Andre Villas-Boas is set to a name a strong team and is not taking any chances.

So, what can we expect and what should be the Tottenham tactics for Inter vs Spurs this time?

Inter line-up and tactics

Andrea Stramaccioni has a number of players injured, ineligible or suspended for this clash. The Inter coach has said that they will “be taking to the field to win” and “We want to do well in front of our fans and win the game, and then as far as qualifying for the next round is concerned, we’ll have to see.”

After going with a defensively minded 4-2-3-1 in the first leg, we may well see them switch to a 4-3-3 this time. Stramaccioni has flirted with a back three this season, but he doesn’t appear to have enough fit defenders to play this system and is without his most dangerous weapon coming forward from a wingback position, Alvaro Pereira.

If Stramaccioni is going to be aggressive, then we may well see him deploy his full host of attacking weapons in Ricky Alvarez, Antonio Cassano, Fredy Guarin and Rodrigo Polacio. This would see Cassano up top with Polacio playing as a very attack minded number ten, with Guarin and Alvarez in the wide forward positions. Don’t rule out seeing Guarin play as a number ten either, as he did on the weekend in the loss to Bologna, but he is more effective coming inside from wide.

Fredy Guarin

The Colombian is a direct dribbler with the ball whether he is playing as a wide forward or in the number ten role.

He only came on as a sub at White Hart Lane, but when deployed wide he cuts from outside to the inside right channel, as we can see against Catania.


Fredy Gaurin dribbles, Catania vs Inter.

Whereas against Bologna at the weekend – where he was playing as a number ten – we can see how he attacks the channels, particularly the inside right.


Fredy Guarin dribbles, Inter vs Bologna.

Guarin is a threat to shoot having taken the most shots per match of any Inter player in Serie A. He can also deliver a cross from wider, as he did in setting up Ezequiel Schelotto the Milan derby.

What we can’t be sure of is whether he’ll be deployed wide or as a number ten, that decision will be based on the inclusion of Rodrigo Polacio. What we can be sure of is that wherever he plays, Fredy Guarin will be looking to take players on and shoot from the inside right channel.

The Tottenham tactics for Inter vs Spurs here could well see Benoit Assou-Ekotto having a busy day tracking Guarin from wide areas if the Colombian plays here. Benni is good at covering wide forwards who move inside, as he showed against Theo Walcott at the Lane.

The positioning of Polacio

Rodrigo Polacio was another player who was introduced when Inter were chasing a goal at the Lane and he almost provided it when through 1v1 against Brad Friedel.

The move that put him in that time sums up part of the Argentinean’s game – he looks to work the channels looking for through balls. However, there’s more to Rodrigo Polacio than that.

In the build up play he likes to drift out to the left, linking with Ricardo Alvarez and Alvaro Periera. Without the suspended Uruguayan full back, it’ll be interesting to see if he continues to do that here. Once the ball is being worked wide in to a crossing position, he likes to arrive late in the box to get on the end of crosses.

Both Catania and Milan have learnt that lesson recently. Against Catania he scored from a cross after good build-up play down the left; then he arrived late in the box to get on the end of an Esteban Cambiasso cut back. Against Milan he had several chances from headers after arriving late in the box and should have scored from at least one.

Polacio can play both as a number ten behind Antonio Cassano or as the central striker. His positioning will very much be dependent on where Fredy Guarin plays and also if Cassano is included.

Antonio Cassano

Antonio Cassano is probably more dangerous to provide goals rather than score them through continually dropping off from the front. The Italian plays almost as a false nine, coming deep to link the play and provide through balls for runners going past him.

We saw this very much at the Lane in the first leg, where he didn’t muster a shot at goal, but did create several chances for others.


Spurs 3 Inter 0: Antonio Cassano dropped deep and tried to pull the strings.

His most telling contribution was to play in Riccardo Alvarez just before half time, but the Argentinean’s shot was scuffed wide of Brad Friedel’s left hand post.

The Tottenham tactics for Inter vs Spurs here will once again see the centre backs having to decide how far they are pulled out to track Cassano. When he drops deeper in to midfield, then Scott Parker or Jake Livermore will need to pick him up. Hopefully Jake Livermore will have learnt a lesson from when he failed to track Luis Suarez for Liverpool’s opener on Sunday.

Riccardo Alvarez

Riccardo Alvarez was deployed on the right in the first leg, but is much more at home on the left. When this side, he likes to receive the ball wide and then come inside, looking to hit Alvaro Pereira on the overlap. Without the suspended Uruguayan full back here, it’ll be interesting to see if he stays wide or whether he continues to come inside to create room for his defensive partner to surge in to.

The Tottenham tactics for Inter vs Spurs against Riccardo Alvarez could well see an interesting battle down the right. Kyle Walker has had trouble against wide players who cut inside this season, as he struggles to know when to keep tracking them and when to pass them on. He’ll need plenty of help from his centre backs here and also from whoever plays in front of him, whether it is once again Moussa Dembele, or if Aaron Lennon returns.

Inter concede chances from wide

In the Tottenham tactics for the first leg of Inter vs Spurs I wrote about how they were conceding chances early in games and from wide areas. That turned out to be exactly how we raced in to a 3-0 advantage.

Gylfi Sigurdsson crossed for Gareth Bale after just 6 minutes. Aaron Lennon then put in a low-driven cutback for Jermain Defoe to shoot and Gylfi hoovered up the rebound. The third then came from a corner, as Jan Vertonghen headed home unmarked.

Whilst not a cross, Alberto Gilardino did volley home a lofted ball over the Inter defence to give Bologna a 1-0 victory at the weekend.


Gilardino volleys hom a lofted ball over the Inter defence.

After Milan also peppered the Nerazzurri box with crosses a few weeks earlier, this tactic should be used for Inter vs Spurs once more.

Inter vs Spurs outlook

Andre Villas-Boas is taking this Europa League game seriously, considering it only as a job half done. A complacent attitude would be dangerous when going to the San Siro despite Inter’s poor form and the ease with which we turned them over in the first leg.

Andrea Stramaccioni has talked about putting out a team to win this game, but the line-up he goes with will be difficult to predict. If Inter did only need a goal or two, we may well have seen Guarin, Alvarez, Cassano and Polacio. With Inter requiring four, or possibly more, he may well rest players here, focussing on Champions League qualification instead after the loss to Bologna.

They are vulnerable from crosses, whether through the air or driven cutbacks across the ground and that tactic should be adopted once again.

Inter vs Spurs prediction: Inter 1 Spurs 1

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