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Evolving Tottenham out to avoid PAOK peril

Tottenham Hotspur FC will continue to walk the UEFA Europa League tightrope by rotating their starting lineup against PAOK FC as they seek to maintain a quest for glory on multiple fronts.

Harry Redknapp oversees training ahead of PAOK's visit
Harry Redknapp oversees training ahead of PAOK's visit ©Getty Images

Manager Harry Redknapp will continue his delicate balancing act as Tottenham Hotspur FC seek to combine their outstanding domestic form with progress into the knockout stage of the UEFA Europa League.

Tottenham have taken 28 Premier League points from the last 30 available and have made their best start in the championship since the 1960/61 season – when the club completed the league and FA Cup double. Redknapp has kept his players fresh by rotating his squad for European outings, and with his third-placed side and FC Rubin Kazan only a point adrift of PAOK FC the policy could reap its reward if the London team overcome their Greek visitors on Wednesday.

"It's a must-win game as we're a point behind and you can see Rubin beating Shamrock," said the 64-year-old. "I would have made 11 changes from Saturday but Roman Pavlyuchenko tweaked his knee yesterday so is struggling and Giovani dos Santos has a groin strain. It's worked so far – the league form is great and that's because I've not played people on Thursday then Sunday.

"Other lads need to play so we will go with the same sort of group as in the other European games. We've got a good squad and we'll make changes, we've got a lot of high-quality players. We will carry on with our own plan and do what we have to but it will be difficult as they are a good team."

Goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini has been one of the beneficiaries of Redknapp's selection tinkering, appearing in three of their four Group A matches to date. "This trophy is worth winning, we have a big squad and probably rotation is the key," said the 38-year-old. "We want to go through for many reasons. I want to keep playing, these games allow the manager to play people who are not always involved in the first team and the young players get fantastic experience of playing in Europe in front of full stadiums."

Lino failed to beat Cudicini from the penalty spot as László Bölöni's charges were held to a goalless draw by Tottenham on matchday one, yet that Salonika stalemate convinced the custodian that this contest will be similarly challenging. "PAOK are a very well-organised team," added the former Chelsea FC No1. "They are good tactically and normally play counterattacking football. They take advantage of the space opponents leave for their strikers, who are very quick and good players. It won't be easy."

PAOK will go through with a victory, but with a home game against Rubin remaining any sort of result with be valuable to the section leaders. "If it's possible to control the rhythm of the game then it's possible to get the result," said striker Stefanos Athanasiadis. "A draw is a good result. All Tottenham players are good and it doesn't matter what team they play, we will try to get the result." Coach Bölöni added: "We know Tottenham very well but my players are special too. I am thinking more what we can do than what Tottenham can do to us."

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