Tottenham have already qualified for the knock-out stages of the Europa League, but they are fighting with Besiktas for top spot in Group C.
A win or draw for Spurs will see them finish in first place, but, should their Turkish opponents claim a victory at the Ataturk Stadium, the Black Eagles will top the group making their round of 32 tie much easier.
Winning the group means that the club is seeded for the round of 32 draw, which is a significant advantage considering the strength of some of the teams relegated from the Champions League into the lesser European Competition. Finishing second in the group could pair Spurs with the likes of Roma, Liverpool or Ajax, a task that even the best Europa League sides may struggle to overcome.
For all intents and purpose, Mauricio Pochettino must enter the game looking to avoid defeat, and although the Turkish side are missing Demba Ba through injury, if he fields a weak side with no focus upon the result, it could prove that the Argentine coach is not focusing upon the Europa League as Tottenham’s greatest chance of silverware.
Considering the North Londoners’ Premier League form, it would appear wise for the club to take the Europa League seriously for the benefit of their Champions League chances, with the winners immediately claiming a place in the following year’s tournament. In this instance, Pochettino should field his strongest possible side to claim the victory, thus making their passage to the latter stages of the tournament easier.
However, if a strong Premier League finish is his main aim, the coach will likely rest a number of key players for the intense run of fixtures awaiting over the festive period. It has been rumoured that academy players Josh Onomah and Harry Winks will make it onto the field in Turkey, a risky move considering the incendiary atmosphere associated with the Ataturk Stadium. Kyle Walker is due on his recovery from injury, and Pochettino could look to rotate his back-line which has featured so frequently in recent weeks. The midfield duo of Nabil Bentaleb and Ryan Mason could use some respite, and Benjamin Stambouli is sure to get another chance to prove his worth.
Spurs are favourites to top their group considering their points advantage, but facing Besiktas in Turkey has proven to be a tough game for many opponents. The result could prove to be vital in Tottenham making it through to the latter stages of the tournament, and Pochettino’s team selection may just show whether he values the Europa League as a tournament that Tottenham have real aspirations to succeed in.