Pochettino really does not like Cup competitions
When you look at the Spurs squad that travelled to Gent for the first leg of their Round of 32 clash, you would think that a defeat to the Belgians would be the last possible result, let alone a blank in front of goal.
Packed with international attacking talent such as Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Son Heung-min, who have all shined at various stages this season, Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino had all the tools at his disposal.
Sadly for the travelling faithful, he chose to keep the infectious Son on the bench preferring the enigma that is Moussa Sissoko on one flank and a central midfielder in Harry Winks on the other.
The fact that Pochettino left it until the 68th minute to introduce Son, already one goal to the bad, left many Lilywhite fans scratching their heads and even more were left bemused when Christian Eriksen was only introduced 10 minutes from time.
Kane may have hit the post early in the second half, but it was a rare dangerous shot against a side languishing down in eighth place in their home division. Spurs need to turn this around in the second leg otherwise you fear another season collapse is on the cards around White Hart Lane way.
Roma are playing out of their skins
Roma have only lost six matches this season across all competitions, their latest performance underlining why they can be classed as one of the most destructive teams currently plying their trade in Europe.
Emerson Palmieri put them in the driving seat just after the half-hour mark, former Manchester City striker Edin Džeko ensuring a comfortable return back in Rome next week with a classy second-half hat-trick.
With dangerous winger Mohamed Salah back from Africa Cup of Nations duty, where his Egypt side agonisingly lost out to Cameroon in the final, the future looks even brighter for Luciano Spalletti’s side.
Champions League football next season looks on track with their second place standing in Serie A, so expect Spalletti to name a strong Round of 16 team in an effort to bring home silverware to the Rome club.
FC Rostov can keep their powder dry for last 16
Not many football fans outside of Russia will know too much about FC Rostov, but this looks set to change based on their form of the last year or so at home and abroad.
Their surprise runners-up finish last season in the Russian Premier League propelled them into the Champions League where they managed to cause all sorts of problems for Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and PSV Eindhoven.
Rewarded with a spot in the Europa League for their efforts, they have come out of the traps intent on putting their stamp on the competition.
Czech side Sparta Prague may not be the scariest opposition based on their middling domestic form this season, nevertheless they can still frustrate on their day.
Sadly for them, Rostov surged into an early lead with Tiémoko Konaté’s second yellow just after the half-hour mark for the visitors opening the floodgates with a 4-0 romp all but gifting them a place in the next round.
Borussia Mönchengladbach face a stiff task
The odds were against Fiorentina in Germany last night with Borussia Mönchengladbach tipped to take a lead back to Italy next week.
Dieter Hecking’s side, though, came up short when it came down to the crunch without a goal to show for their efforts on the night.
They have not won in four European home games now but this latest reverse is especially puzzling after they put a dismal November and December behind them by winning their last four German league and cup games.
Skipper Lars Stindl and Eden Hazard’s younger brother Thorgan have been amongst the goals of late, but neither could penetrate a resolute Viola backline who kept it tight throughout the 90 minutes.
Federico Bernardeschi’s free-kick proved the difference on the night with Paulo Sousa’s outfit now favourites to win through next week at home.
Schalke are peaking at the right time
While Gladbach struggled to get anything out of their Europa clash at home in Germany, Schalke put PAOK to the sword in Greece.
Austrian striker Guido Burgstaller has enjoyed a superb spell in front of goal recently, the former Cardiff City frontman banging in the opener to continue the prolific form that prompted his January move from FC Nürnberg.
German international Max Meyer added a second and late substitute Klaas-Jan Huntelaar bagged a third, his 50th in UEFA club competition, to all but seal their progress into the Round of 16.
A tricky trip to Cologne awaits them in the Bundesliga this weekend with manager Markus Weinzierl certain to play a strong side to try and lift them further away from the relegation zone.
With the likes of former Spurs midfielders Nabil Bentaleb and Benjamin Stambouli shining recently, the Europa League could provide a welcome chance to get back into the Champions League next season.
Join me on 23rd February for the next round of reflection.
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- Sports & Recreation
- Harry Kane
- Son Heung-min
- Moussa Sissoko
- Christian Eriksen