Getting the Balance right, Europa v Premier League

Tomorrow sees the second leg of the qualifying round for a place in the Group stages of the UEFA Europa League.

Getting the Balance right, Europa v Premier League

We are 2-1 up from the first leg in Cyprus where the second string were woeful and showed why we are happy to let some of them go if we receive the right offers. Andros Townsend, Lewis Holtby and Roberto Soldado are all available if teams stump up the cash, if not then Pochettino is equally happy to keep them, but he doesn't feel they are essential to the future. And before I get complaints I'm not suggesting those three in particular were woeful in the first leg tie but the team as a whole.

It's only because Erik Lamela came on and made an impact on the game that we now sit with two away goals and a one goal advantage. There will be no place for complacency tomorrow, a job needs to be done and then the UEFA Europa League can be put on the back burner for a little while.

The competition is deemed to affect Premier League performance and the excuse was used last year that Liverpool had no European competition which is why they did so well. In fact they had Louis Suarez, he was the reason they did well together with the right mental approach to each game, win it before half-time.

Mauricio Pochettino has not coached in Europe before and doesn't yet know first hand the physical affect it has on players. It can affect Premier League performance if you let it, but it didn't do Stoke City any harm when they were in it and they haven't exactly got a large squad. He will have to devise a strategy and largely stick to it.

Does he take the first few Group ties, assuming we make it through this tie, and put a first team out to secure qualification and then play youngsters, does he rest as many first team players as possible and play the shadow squad, those back up players who need games but are not going to get Premier League starts unless there are injuries.

Harry Redknapp threw kids at the competition, laced with first team squad players, he got us to the Champions League. Andre Villas-Boas threw the first team at it and we threw away Champions League qualification late in the season, when the players were tired.

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Should Pochettino take either of those approaches or simply get the squad members playing the same high energy, high pressing game so they are ready for the Premier League should they be needed. Isn't our squad good enough to take that approach but it only takes a couple of players not totally motivated and mentally switched on for the system to collapse.

Look at Andros Townsend, given 30 minutes in the Premier League and he is interested, yet give him 90 minutes in a UEFA Europa League tie and he was very poor. The latest ITK suggests he doesn't take on board instructions of what to do whereas Aaron Lennon does. A player you can't trust or who is just going to do what he wants is no good if you are playing a system and explains why we are not too fussed if he is sold.

When he does learn to take direction he'll be a super player, until then he'll be frustrating. He was last season when without regular starts his head was not switched on as a substitute and therefore have no impact when he did come on. Time will tell.

Players like Townsend are key for the UEFA Europa League, if you can keep them motivated. Finding the right mix to keep everyone happy will be a test of Pochettino's management.

This is how we fared after UEFA Europa League ties last season, if you'd like a more detailed look, result before and after UEFA Europa League games, home away breakdown, half time full time click here:
Spurs Results Before & After UEFA Europa League ties

Results after UEFA Euroa League ties 2013/14

Played: 12
Won: 5
Drawn: 1
Lost: 6
Goals For: 9
Goals Against: 16
Goal Difference: -7
Potential Points: 36
Actual Points: 16

Fixtures after UEFA Europa League ties 2014/15

QPR (h) - WON 4-0
Liverpool (h)
WBA (h)
Southampton (h)
Newcastle United (h)
Stoke City (h)
Everton (h)
Swansea City (a)

Six home games and one away game after UEFA Europa League ties. We must be winning those home games if we are to do anything in the Premier League and that means keeping players fresh throughout the season. We can't have fatigue late in the season affecting performances, causing injuries and costing us valuable points in a Champions League race.

Shuffling the pack looks absolutely essential. For instance, if Emmanuel Adebayor is playing in the Premier League then Roberto Soldado has to play in the UEFA Europa League and he will be needed to perform.

Getting the Balance right, Europa v Premier League

Erik Lamela needs to be kept under wraps for the Premier League if possible, at least until the later rounds, so Andros Townsend or Aaron Lennon should play them all instead.

We wait to see Pochettino's approach, it was a second XI effectively in the first leg, will we see the same in the second and beyond?

Fixtures after UEFA Europa League 2014/15 later rounds

If we make it out the group then after the Round of 32 it would be:
West Ham United (h)
QPR (a)

After the Round of 16 it would be:
Manchester United (a)
Leicester City (h)

If we make it to the quarter-finals it would be:
Newcastle United (a)
Southampton (a)

If we made it to the semi-finals it would be:
Stoke City (a)
Hull City (h)

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