Tottenham travel to Belgrade without first-team quintet
Emmanuel Adebayor, Younes Kaboul, Mousa Dembele, Nacer Chadli and Danny Rose will miss Europa League tie
Tottenham Hotspur’s Emmanuel Adebayor (left) will miss the Europa League tie with Partizan Belgrade. Photograph: Adam Davy / PA Wire
Tottenham left-back Danny Rose has been spared an uncomfortable return to Serbia after being left out of the Europa League squad to take on Partizan Belgrade, just two years on from being subjected to racial abuse in the Serbian capital with England Under-21s.
Spurs kick off their Group C campaign in the Serbian capital on Thursday evening with emotions still raw from the European Championship play-off 120 miles south in Krusevac. A mass confrontation on the pitch marred England Under-21s’ progress to the finals in October 2012, when Rose, at the time on loan to Sunderland, was sent off for his reaction to racist abuse.
Nikola Ninkovic was banned for a year by the Serbian Football Association for his part in the melée and claimed in the immediate aftermath that Rose provoked home supporters with “inappropriate gestures”.
Two years on, the winger is set to start for Partizan as Spurs are welcomed to Belgrade for on Thursday evening — a match Rose will not feature in having been left in London.
Recently-appointed captain Younes Kaboul, Emmanuel Adebayor, Mousa Dembele and Nacer Chadli have also stayed at home, but Tottenham head coach Mauricio Pochettino insists Rose’s absence has nothing to do with the disturbing scenes of two years ago.
“No, it’s not for that reason that he did not come,” the Argentinian said. “I know about the problems two years ago but they are not the reason he is not here now. We know the situation but it is not the reason. He didn’t ask to be left out.
“The decision was based on football only. All my selection decisions are based on football always. I think two years ago is a long time. My decision was simply to give him a rest because down to him being tired after Sunderland.
“Before that he was with the national team for two weeks. It’s always a stress to go with the national team. We also have a big squad and it allows other players to play and for me to see another player.”
Rose’s absence will mean summer signing Ben Davies will instead start at left-back, like he did in both of play-off legs with AEL Limassol. Michel Vorm, another addition from Swansea, may make his Spurs debut at Partizan Stadium, as could Federico Fazio after winning the Europa League with Sevilla last season.
Roberto Soldado is in line to start after returning from injury, while Milos Veljkovic will also be hoping to play some minutes against his countrymen.
The 18-year-old defender represented Serbia Under-21s last week and has played a part in Spurs’ preparation for the match in Belgrade.
“We used his information to our benefit,” Pochettino said with a smile. “Milos is a young and very good player and maybe he will have the chance to play tomorrow. It is normal that he has information about Belgrade from his team-mates in the national team, he knows about the club and history. We use it — not too much - but we use it.”
Pochettino’s knowledge of Thursday’s opponents has also been aided by former Espanyol team-mate Branko Brnovic — a former Partizan player, now manager of Montenegro — and the Spurs boss is expecting an intimidating atmosphere.
Such conditions makes the decision to leave recently-appointed captain Kaboul at home somewhat surprising.
Monday’s announcement that the experienced French defender would be skipper was not met by overwhelming support by Spurs fans, yet Pochettino does not care.
“I don’t read, I don’t take a decision for the feeling from outside the club,” he said. “Always I take a decision always with my reason and from my point of view to provide to the squad and the club the better condition. If we pick Kaboul or Adebayor, it is because we have information from inside that this is better for the squad. Maybe not everyone is happy with all my decisions, but in the end I am the manager and I need to choose.”
Provisional squad: Lloris, Vorm, McGee, Naughton, Dier, Chiriches, Fazio, Vertonghen, Davies, Capoue, Stambouli, Veljkovic, Bentaleb, Mason, Paulinho, Eriksen, Lennon, Lamela, Townsend, Kane, Soldado.