Pitchside Europe

Europa League goals not enough for Defoe


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Jermain Defoe’s brace in Spurs’s opening Group K match of the Europa League helped Tottenham ease past Tromso - but the goals are unlikely to assure the England striker of a place in Andre Villas-Boas's starting XI.

In truth, the North London side barely had to get out of second gear as they cruised to a 3-0 victory over a distinctly poor Tromso outfit, with substitute Christian Eriksen coming off the bench late on to score the game’s finest goal.

Yet Defoe wreaked havoc amongst the Tromso defence in the opening half; his movement both with and without the ball proving too hot for the Norwegians to handle. The striker’s first goal came as Erik Lamela, who showed glimpses of promise without setting the world alight, found the well-timed run of Defoe with an incisive pass. Tromso’s keeper Marcus Sahlman rushed off his line to thwart the Spurs No 18 but could do nothing as Defoe cleverly clipped the ball over his head and into the back of the net from a tight angle.

The second goal was almost a carbon copy of the first – this time the impressive Lewis Holtby spotting the movement of his team-mate to allow Defoe his second of the match.

Spurs’ lone striker failed to emulate his first half performance during the second 45 minutes but did enough to earn his status of man of the match.

Now, ordinarily, two goals in Europe would be enough to warrant a place in the starting XI for the next fixture. This won’t be the case for Defoe, however.

Regardless of how many goals he scores for Spurs in the Europa League, Villas-Boas will not select him for the upcoming Premier League fixture as long as Roberto Soldado is fit and ready.

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Soldado joined Tottenham from Valencia in the summer for a club-record fee of £26 million and has since played in each of Spurs’ four league games this campaign. Scoring from the penalty spot in the first two fixtures, he ensured his side a maximum six points and instant cult hero status.

Wherever the 28-year-old has played, he has scored. During his 332 league appearances playing for Real Madrid Castilla, Real Madrid, Osasuna, Getafe, Valencia and now Tottenham, Soldado has found the net an incredible 167 times. That, give or take, is one goal every two games. Just last season the 28-year-old found the net 24 times in 35 La Liga appearances.

In comparison to the ever-dependable Defoe, the Spaniard is a far more volatile player - collecting nine yellow cards throughout last season’s La Liga campaign, just two fewer than Valencia’s midfield henchman David Albelda – but his temperament will always be masked by his ability to find the back of the net and his goals per game ratio beats Defoe’s 0.36.

Defoe was given a fair crack of AVB’s whip last season, featuring 34 times in the league and only appearing as a substitute eight times. Yet all he could muster a distinctly average 11 goals which was the 17th highest goal tally in the league, one behind relegated Reading’s Adam Le Fondre.

It seems that, with extra firepower at AVB’s disposal, Defoe may well have to get used to life on the bench at Spurs. But every cloud does have a silver lining, and if Defoe continues to score in Europe's second most prestigious cup competition then he could well make a case for a spot in Roy Hodgson’s England squad for the 2014 World Cup.

Who wouldn’t want to sit on the subs’ bench in Rio?

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