DAVID SMITH - Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Brad Friedel will resume his place in Tottenham's goal on Thursday night as the team faces Inter Milan in the marquee matchup of the Europa League round of 16.
Clint Dempsey is still struggling with a calf injury that has kept him out for several weeks, and will watch from the stands at White Hart Lane.
Since the start of the new year, Spurs have been been a tough nut to crack, with their only loss of 2013 being a relatively harmless defeat in FA Cup play in January.
During this run, they have shown their strength of balance on both sides of the ball, giving up more than a single goal on just two occasions, and failing to score only once.
The weekend's win over arch-rivals Arsenal gave them a major leg-up in the race for a third-place finish in the Premier League and the resulting automatic qualification for next season's Champions League, and a first-leg win over Inter would keep their spirits high ahead of the weekend's clash with Liverpool.
The team reached the round of 16 with a gritty 3-2 aggregate win over French team Lyon, while the Italians cruised through their previous matchup with a 5-0 edge over Romanians Cluj.
The last time these two teams met was in the 2010-11 edition of the Champions League, where each won their respective home game in the group stage. Those two games saw a total of 11 goals scored - including a spectacular hat-trick from budding superstar Gareth Bale.
This incarnation of Inter is far from the defensive juggernaut that won the Champions League final in May 2010, so a high-scoring affair could once again be in the cards.
Tottenham coach Andre Villas-Boas will almost certainly continue his policy of starting the ageless Brad Friedel in cup play, allowing usual starter Hugo Lloris to watch from the bench.
Inter showed a good deal of grit in their last outing, coming back from a 2-0 halftime deficit to beat Catania in league play by a 3-2 margin. They will be severely short-handed, however, with a number of key absences forcing head coach Andrea Stramaccioni to dip into his youth ranks to fill out the bench.
Defenders Andre Ranocchia, Walter Samuel, Mathias Silvestre and Yuto Nagatomo are all out injured, as is midfielder Fredy Guarin and leading team scorer Diego Milito.
In addition to Dempsey, Villas-Boas will be lacking several options in his available lineup. Emmanuel Adebayor is recovering from a knee injury whilei Younes Kaboul, Sandro and Tom Huddlestone are also sidelined.
Fortunately for the Portuguese coach, Mousa Dembele will be available after returning to training following a slight knock.