Tottenham Hotspur's run for continental silverware begins in earnest this Thursday, as they open Europa League Group Stage play, hosting fourth-placed Norwegian club Tromso IL at White Hart Lane.
Thursday's match will be another chance for Andre Villas-Boas to showcase some of the club's new signings, a group of players some have taken to calling the "Baldini Seven," after newly appointed technical director Franco Baldini.
I have one question on my mind: What kind of starting XI will AVB put out against the Norwegian club? This is a crucial time in the Premier League for Tottenham, as they have secured nine points in their first four matches, and it's possible that sitting a few starters could keep them fresh for this weekend's clash away to Cardiff City.
Who: Tottenham Hotspur vs Tromso IL
When: Thursday, 19 September 2013, 12:05 p.m. PT/3:05 p.m. ET/8:05 p.m. BST
Where: White Hart Lane, Tottenham, United Kingdom
Watch (US): Fox Sports 1
Stream: ESPN3.com, Fox Soccer 2Go
Big Storyline: The Baldini Seven, and Spurs' Quest For Silverware
Tottenham Hotspur signed seven players for a combined £103,700,000, but it's possible that their signing of the summer was the addition of Technical Director Franco Baldini from AS Roma. The italian seems to have gotten Chairman Daniel Levy and owner Joe Lewis to loosen Spurs' traditionally tight purse strings in an attempt to go for the glory. "To Dare is To Do," as the saying goes.
As it stands, Tottenham have not won any trophy since 2008, have not won a major trophy since 1991, and have not won a European trophy since 1984. The club is hoping all this changes this season, and the Baldini Seven will have a lot to do with that.
Six of the seven players—Paulinho, Nacer Chadli, Etienne Capoue, Roberto Soldado, Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela—have already made their Spurs debut. I'd expect the seventh man, Vlad Chiriches, to see time and perhaps even start against Tromso.
Regardless of whether we see Chiriches make his debut, the likelihood is high that several of the seven players will appear.
Christian Eriksen began proving that he is the No. 10 Tottenham have searched for in the match against Norwich City, and Erik Lamela figures to feature as Nacer Chadli may not be available following the knock he picked up on international duty.
Villas-Boas will likely want to rest Gylfi Sigurdsson after his brace against Norwich and ahead of Sunday's match with Cardiff.
Tromso Player to Watch: No. 13, Zdenek Ondrasek (Striker)
Ondrasek is the main attacking force for Tromso IL, as the 24-year-old Czech striker tied for most goals in the Norwegian top flight last season, with 14 in 29 matches. The Tottenham back four will have their hands full with this quick, accurate goalscorer.
My Predicted Starting XI
Goalkeeper: Brad Friedel
Defense: Kyle Naughton, Vlad Chiriches, Younes Kaboul, Danny Rose
Defensive Midfield: Sandro, Lewis Holtby
Attacking Midfield: Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen, Aaron Lennon
Forward: Jermain Defoe
My Predicted Outcome
Tromso may have finished fourth in the Norwegian top flight last season, but they find themselves near the drop zone, at fourth from the bottom, this year. They're off their form, with a record of one win, two draws and three losses in their last six league matches.
Spurs, on the other hand, find themselves third in the Premiership table, and behind second place Arsenal not by points or goal difference, but by goals scored. They are in good form, as well, having won five of their last six in all competitions, and every win a clean sheet.
This match, especially as it will be played in London, should not be a challenge for Tottenham.
Result: Tottenham 3-0 Tromso
Update 18 Sep, 12:41pm PT: Lennon has been ruled out for the match, and Vlad Chiriches is still waiting on a work permit, so look for Andros Townsend and Michael Dawson to probably fill those roles.
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