EUROPA LEAGUE: Top five talking points
1) Lamela is the ultimate confidence player
Erik Lamela has not exactly enjoyed the adoration of the White Hart Lane faithful since his club record move from Roma in 2013.
Lilywhite fans were ready for another Messi in the making after watching YouTube clips of his star-studded turns at River Plate and the Serie A side, while he had also locked down a regular place in the Argentine side.
Injury hampered his first season in England and inconsistency his second, however there are signs that he could finally explode into the maverick hero the Spurs supporters crave.
Last night’s performance was not his best, let’s be brutally honest about this.
His touch was often poor, his passing errant and his composure in front of goal lacking. His face when new signing Son Heung-min bagged his second goal was a picture of envy.
His finish, though, to cap off the 3-1 victory over Qarabag was taken beautifully and the sharp work he produced off the bench in last weekend’s Sunderland win also suggests he could finally have enough confidence to step up a gear.
He declared afterwards, “I give the maximum I can in training and then try to give the maximum again in the games.”
Here’s hoping for more of the same, Erik.
2) Celtic face tough ask to escape Group A
It’s not often you come away from an established European force disappointed with a draw, but that’s exactly what Celtic will be feeling today.
They twice had the Dutch giants on the rack, but Frank de Boer’s side are nothing if not plucky and they fought back both times to sneak a point.
Celtic were solid, something that boss Ronny Delia will be especially pleased with considering the fact he had to sell his star defender Virgil van Dijk to Southampton before the transfer window slammed shut.
With Ajax becoming ever more frustrated, Emilio Izaguirre’s red card gave the home side a lifeline and late equaliser.
Winger Kris Commons claimed that “to come away with a point from Amsterdam is a good result”, but with dangerous opponents Fenerbahce and Molde also lurking in future fixtures you feel that the draw might come back to haunt Celtic at the business end of this group.
3) This could be a long, arduous season for Liverpool
As Tottenham have found out repeatedly in recent years, the Europa League is a double-edged sword. It keeps your big squad happy with regular appearances, but it leaves you knackered for domestic competition.
Liverpool have struggled to hit the ground running this season, however they looked set for a morale boosting win last night until Jussie intervened late on to hand Bordeaux a point on home turf.
Let’s be clear, the Reds appeared far from tight as a unit either side of Adam Lallana’s goal but a smash and grab three points could have lifted the Anfield support ahead of Norwich’s visit on Sunday.
As it is, the uncertainty surrounding Brendan Rodgers continues with injuries to key players robbing him of a settled side that can start to replicate the form shown by the Suarez fuelled side of yesteryear.
A fit front three of Sturridge, Benteke and Coutinho will cause no end of problems for defences home and abroad, nevertheless squads are packed full of quality players these days and time is running out for the former Swansea boss to make his mark.
4) Prolific Napoli set to boss Group D
One of the more interesting sides style wise in the last few years, Serie A outfit Napoli look bang up for business in the Europa League based on last night.
José Callejon scored the first goal of the group stage after just five minutes with four more goals condemning Club Brugge to a humiliating 5-0 reverse.
Well travelled manager Maurizio Sarri has a post many would envy what with the likes of Callejon, Lorenzo Insigne, Manolo Gabbiadini, Gonzalo Higuaín, Dries Mertens and club captain Marek Hamšík to call upon.
Much like Spurs back in England, though, they often threaten to become a consistent major force without actually breaking through properly with regular silverware.
If we’re basing their 2015/2016 aspirations on yesterday evening’s dazzling display however, then they might finally be on the verge of something special.
Callejon added another 13 minutes from time, while Mertens also bagged a brace and Hamsik dictated play in his usual nonchalant way.
They will not be massively scared of fellow Group D teams FC Midtjylland and Legia Warsaw, therefore expect a deep run from Sarri’s side in this year’s competition.
5) Monaco might miss Martial more than they’d feared
Manchester United appear to have a new hero to hail from the Old Trafford seats after Anthony Martial dazzled with a goal on his debut last weekend against Liverpool.
Monaco might well have received a ridiculous fee from the United coffers for his deaprture, however it could derail any ambitions the French side have of taking on the big guns at home and abroad this season.
Substitute Lacina Traoré levelled things up last night in Belgium to take a precious point away from hosts Anderlecht, but Monaco fans can’t exactly be full of confidence with him, Guido Carrillo, Ivan Cavaleiro and on-loan Stephan El Shaarawy up front long term.
After all, if coach Leonardo Jardim wants to prosper in Europe this season he will have to find a way to get points off Spurs in Group J competition.
With Mauricio Pochettino’s side starting to tighten things up at the back, Monaco might rue letting Martial go so soon whatever the price tag.
Join me on 2nd October for the next round of reflection.