Tottenham's fringe players get chance to shine against Shamrock Rovers

Harry Redknapp will use Tottenham Hotspur's Europa League meeting with Shamrock Rovers on Thursday night to assess the fitness of several players before the home derby with Arsenal on Sunday.

Aaron Lennon will return to the starting lineup for the first time since injuring his groin in the 5-1 home defeat by Manchester City, while Steven Pienaar and Danny Rose will make their first appearances of the season. Tom Huddlestone will not play as the midfielder needs further surgery on his ankle. He will have an operation on Monday. Fringe players such as Giovani dos Santos, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Sébastien Bassong will also be given rare starts on Thursday and Redknapp urged them to use the chance to press their claims for regular games.

"It's a great opportunity for them and for us to see what they're about," said the Spurs manager. "If they're unhappy about not being in the first team, here's a chance to show me why they should be in it."

The bulk of the team to play against Arsenal will be given the night off on Thursday, with Redknapp reasoning the policy has worked well so far. "Before Liverpool I didn't play too many of the lads [in the Europa League] and it worked for us as we came out flying against Liverpool [and won 4-0]. I also did it before the Wolves game [which Spurs won 2-0] when we went to Greece. So I'm not going to throw too many of those boys in against Shamrock Rovers if I can help it."

Although the Europa League is well down Redknapp's list of priorities, he said it would be "an embarrassment" to lose to Rovers – a semi-professional side competing in this stage of the competition for the first time – and said there was no danger of him underestimating opponents who beat Partizan Belgrade to qualify for the group stages. "It's not my first team but it's an experienced side I'm putting out, with seven or eight full internationals. We don't underestimate them at all. Joe Jordan has been over to watch them and he said they're a good team."

Rovers were outplayed and beaten 3-0 at home by Rubin Kazan in their first group game but in the past two seasons their best European performances have been away. Their manager, Michael O'Neill, said: "It's a group game but we're going to approach this as if it were the away leg of a two-legged tie. We have to accept that there are going to be long periods when we don't have the ball and it's about making sure we keep our shape and then take our chances.

"We've been good away from home – last season we won in Israel and only lost 1-0 at Juventus; this season we've won in Belgrade and before that we were unlucky to lose 1-0 to FC Copenhagen [in the Champions League preliminary round]. So our guys have excelled in Europe. They enjoy the stage on which to prove themselves."

Probable teams: Tottenham Hotspur Gomes; Walker, Corluka, Bassong, Townsend; Lennon, Pienaar, Livermore, Rose; Dos Santos, Pavlyuchenko.

Shamrock Rovers Brush; Sullivan, Murray, Sives, Stevens; McCabe, Finn, Rice, McCormack, Ricketts; Twigg.

Powered by article was written by Paul Doyle, for on Wednesday 28th September 2011 22.30 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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