Tottenham face Twente test in latest Champions League fixture

Tottenham Hotspur’s Champions League campaign continues tonight as they welcome Eredivisie side and champions of the Netherlands FC Twente to White Hart Lane. A Different League asked Dan Richardson of European football blog Britski Belasi for more information on the side formerly led by ex-England Head Coach Steve McClaren.

According to Richardson, there have been many changes at Twente since McClaren left for Wolfsburg in the summer, but the majority of them were not down to the Englishman’s exit: “A lot of Dutch squads had to reduce numbers last summer due to strict new financial regulations being applied by the KNVB. Twente were no different: 14 players out and just six coming in,” Richardson said, adding: “Big name departures were Marko Arnautovic (12 goals last season), Blaise N’Kufo (also 12 last season), Kenneth Perez and Miroslav Stoch. All four were attacking players who played key roles in Twente winning the Championship last season. In return Twente got the Austrian Marc Janko from Salzburg and the relatively unknown Emir Bajrami from Elfsborg. Clearly their attacking options were reduced.

Former Belgium goalkeeper Michel Preud’homme replaced McClaren and has led the team to concede only three goals in seven league games this season. Richardson believes that while the Enschede club’s backline is strong, there may be another reason for such a stingy record: “Two of the goals Twente conceded were against Ajax so this possibly says more about the strength of the Eredivisie than anything else. You would however expect Tottenham to have a bit more attacking-wise than the sides Twente have faced so far this season, perhaps with the exception of Ajax.” Richardson continues: “The stats do tell the story and the Twente defence is definitely their strength, but don’t necessarily read into this that Twente will go out to play 11-man defence. I generally find them quite an entertaining team to watch, although with Stoch leaving that element of flair is perhaps lacking and somewhat reduced.

Richardson does not expect Twente to reach the next stage of the Champions League – rather, they will just enjoy it while it lasts: “They’re loving the Champions League experience and obviously will be hoping for third place to continue in the Europa League which is probably more their level. In this group though I’d be very surprised if they make it, and the home result against Inter (a 2-2 draw) was probably largely down to the sheer scale of the occasion.” Richardson adds there is the danger the toil of the Champions League will distract from the routine of the Eredivisie. He said: “I wouldn’t be surprised to see Groningen get a result against Twente next weekend, and if Twente lose at Spurs, they’ve got a big hill to climb to get the season back on track. I do however expect them to hang around for European qualification again next season. There is not enough strength in the Eredivisie to challenge the new top three at the moment – Ajax, PSV Eindhoven and Twente.

In tonight’s game, Richardson says he can see only one winner. “I’d expect Tottenham to win easily at White Hart Lane. I’d be very surprised if they don’t and surely they’ll be disappointed with anything less than a victory.

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