Tottenham Hotspur begin their quest for glory in Europe with a trip to Nuno Santo’s home country to face Liga Primeira outfit Pacos de Ferreira in a UEFA Europa Conference League qualifier later this evening.
In order to make the group stage of the competition, the north Londoners must see off the Portuguese outfit over two legs, with the return fixture scheduled for next week.
Pacos, who are nicknamed ‘The Beavers’, played as recently as Monday when they recorded their first defeat of the season. Meanwhile, Spurs got off to the perfect start, defeating defending Premier League champions Manchester City on Sunday.
However, none of the 11 that started the 1-0 victory are expected to start at the Estadio Capital do Movel Stadium, as the Lilywhites head coach confirmed during his pre-game press conference. He’ll also be without Harry Kane, who continues to ramp up his preparations following his late return to training.
In fact, Spurs are expected to travel with a relatively young crop of players and with some that are lacking game time. It leaves the 47-year-old with some interesting thoughts over his team selection but there’s one name he must start – to benefit the squad on the night, and for the remainder of the 20201/22 campaign.
Summer signing Cristian Romero made his brief debut from the bench on Sunday, replacing Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in the final minute of the game to help shore up the defence to guarantee three points.
In the absence of Joe Rodon, who is out through injury, and of course, the expected exclusion of Davinson Sanchez and Eric Dier, who started at the weekend, Nuno will need someone to step up in defence and lead the side.
After all, that’s kind of why the Argentina international has been brought in. A lack of cohesion and individual mistakes let the club down last season, so they cannot afford to continue that trend in a competition that could be there for the taking.
Romero led the Serie A for interceptions per game (3.1) in 2020/21, whilst his overall performance on the pitch saw him clinch the ‘Defender of the Year’ award in the competition.
“He has been phenomenal as he won the MVP award for the best defender in Serie A,” claimed Italian football expert Conor Clancy to This is Futbol. “When he has the ball, his distribution and passing is so, so good. Romero can pick out a 50-yard pass onto the foot of a striker perfectly but it’s something that goes a little bit unnoticed because his defensive work is so good and he is a top, top defender.”
A further game average of 3.6 aerial duels won, two tackles and a 86.2% passing accuracy, via WhoScored, makes the £31.5m-rated colossus a scary prospect for any side and this time on the pitch could be valuable towards his chances of becoming Nuno’s regular starter in the coming weeks.
Furthermore, the 6 foot 1 beast’s presence alone should be enough to strike fear into the Pacos frontline, one that has found the net six times in their last two home outings.
The 23-year-old must be unleashed from the off this evening. It could be the difference-maker for Spurs, who should be targeting silverware in this very tournament.
AND in other news, Spurs make “complete” £36m-rated beast their “top” target, Nuno would love him…