The less said about the crushing defeat against Arsenal, the better. But while that may ease Spurs fans’ woes, Nuno Espirito Santo and his players must face the reality of another substantial loss. Tottenham Hotspur face NS Mura in the Europa Conference League, a Slovenian side who won their domestic league last year. This will be no easy feat, another tough match in Spurs’ schedule.
Chance for Redemption in Europe: Tottenham Hotspur Host NS Mura
Nuno made five changes between the Carabao Cup heroic penalty shoot-out victory and the disastrous North London Derby. Rotation is likely to be the case again against NS Mura. Spurs will no doubt be happy to be playing at home this time around rather than the trek to eastern Europe. Nevertheless, this will likely be a gruelling clash in Group G of the Conference League. NS Mura sit rock bottom and they will be hungry to put some points on the board. Tottenham’s 2-2 draw with Rennes last time out means that the group remains pretty tight. While Spurs were able to grab a point thanks to fox in the box Pierre-Emile Hojgberg, the Rennes faithful were creating a wall of sound inside Roazhon Park. It provided an exciting overture to the battle on the pitch.
A key player who could light up the Lane against NS Mura is Bryan Gil. He played 20 minutes, coming off the bench against Arsenal. Gil is a breath of fresh air with his direct running, silky skills and eye for a ball. As Nuno points out, Gil needs to do a bit more work in the gym, along with settling in a bit more in England. But even in the first glimpses of his play there is a lot of promise. When he gets on the ball he gets fans on the edge of their seats. They expect Gil to create something out of nothing. Getting him up top gear will only serve to help support the likes of Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son. What a front three that could be.
Tottenham are already four points off the top four, despite their perfect start. The curse of Premier League Manager of the Month really has hit Spurs hard. But there’s plenty of time to recover, just six games in.
That said, Nuno will be forced to think about how he wishes to prioritise the Conference League, with Spurs up against Aston Villa at the weekend. The Villans are in pretty good form, riding high after their first victory at Old Trafford for 12 years. There isn’t such an impressive record to beat at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with Villa besting Spurs 2-1 as early as May this year. In fact, the West Midlands side sit one point above the Lilywhites, part of the pack chasing West Ham United in seventh place.
Part of the decision process is evaluating how much the Conference League is actually worth to Spurs. Financially, there’s some value to the tournament. But, the maximum that Tottenham could earn from the tournament is around €15m. This is a shadow of the cool €89m on offer in the Champions League.
What’s better than money for Spurs? Easy. Trophies. Winning the Conference League won’t earn Tottenham fans any real bragging brights, but it would be another ‘first’ for the club who were the original European Champions in England back in 1963. It would mean a lot more to the fans than to the reputation of the club. But an initial taste of victory, which still has to be earned through a similar format of group stages, knockouts and finals, might be all-important for this club so desperately lacking in silverware.