Andre Villas-Boas is targeting a victory for his Tottenham side away at Anzhi Makhachkala as he looks to get their Europa League progress secured as early as possible. In a tough group last year that also featured Lazio, Panathinaikos and Maribor, Tottenham’s qualification for the knockout stages was not sealed until the final day. But having already gotten a comfortable win over Tromso and with a match against Anzhi in Russia proceeding a double header with Moldovan minnows FC Sheriff Tiraspol, Villas-Boas will hope for a smoother passage and doubtless the chance to rest players later on.
“A win would put us in a very good position going into the games against Sheriff,” he explained, according to Tottenham’s website. “That’s our idea,” stated Andre after training on Wednesday night. We’re in a good position after the win in the first game and now we focus on getting a win away from home.
“We had some very competitive games last season in a difficult group. The group was tight until the end and we want to avoid that late drama.”
Despite having substantially strengthened the squad over the summer, Villas-Boas appears wary of the dip in form that afflicted his side late last season when fixtures piled up. The Portuguese coach has revealed that Jan Vertonghen and Paulinho have not made the trip to Russia in order to give the duo a breather.
A trip to take on Anzhi is not nearly as daunting as it will have been a couple of months ago. The club’s billionaire owner Suleyman Kerimov made the decision to dramatically cut their budget, with coach Rene Meulensteen departing just 16 days after replacing Guus Hiddink. A rapid dismantling of a squad that had been so lavishly assembled in the past two years quickly followed with the likes of Samuel Eto’o, Willian, Christopher Samba, Lassana Diarra, Igor Denisov, Yuri Zhirkov, Mbark Boussouffa and Aleksandr Kokorin among those moving on for considerable sums.
Not entirely unexpectedly then, Anzhi have endured a less than successful start to the season. Indeed the team that reached the last 16 of the Europa League and finished third in the Russian league last season have yet to win any of their 12 matches in all competitions this season and lie bottom of their domestic table. They did at least manage a draw in their opening Europa League match away at FC Sheriff.
To make matters worse for new coach Gadzhi Gadzhiev, the biggest name remaining at the club, striker Lacina Traore, has been ruled out of the match with Tottenham with a shoulder injury.
Anzhi Makhachkala (confirmed)
D: Angbwa, Adeleye, Ewerton, Tagirbekov
M: Jucilei, Ahmedov
Serderov, Razak, Solomatin
D: Walker, Chiriches, Kaboul, Fryers
M: Sandro, Dembele
Lamela, Holtby, Chadli
Prediction: Tottenham are still not that strong defensively, especially in the full-back positions, but going forward there is now tremendous depth. Being able to bring in Erik Lamela, Lewis Holtby and Nacer Chadli, who all started on the bench against Chelsea, is mightily impressive. Up front Jermain Defoe may have his limitations but has shown on his limited opportunities this season that he is still a fearsome predator in front of goal.
Anzhi’s troubles mean that Tottenham head into the contest as considerable favorites. The Dagestan-based club, of course, don’t have the advantage of playing at home in Europe and, indeed, on this occasion the match will be played at the small Saturn Stadium in the town of Ramsenskoye, outside of Moscow. Having drawn five of their last six matches, Anzhi will hope to emerge with a point, but Tottenham should be looking to take all three.
Anzhi Makhachkala 0-2 Tottenham
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.