Pochettino set to shuffle pack and aim for top spot

Ross McLean
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TOTTENHAM boss Mauricio Pochettino has acknowledged the significance of securing top spot as his side bid to land a knockout blow to closest rivals Besiktas in their final Europa League group-stage clash at the Ataurk Olympic Stadium tonight.

Spurs qualified for the knockout phase after beating Partizan last month and will be seeded in the draw for the last 32 if they avoid defeat against Besiktas and maintain their position at the summit of Group C. Defeat will see the Turkish side steal that mantle.

Pochettino intends to shuffle his pack having left a number of first-team players at home, while Togo striker Emmanual Adebayor has been granted indefinite compassionate leave after a close relative fell seriously ill.

“It’s an important game and it’s important to finish top,” said Pochettino. “It is also a chance for players who haven’t played in the last few games to show their quality. They are a good side and we’re expecting a tough game.

“Ade [Adebayor] is back home, a personal matter. We have a strong squad so other players have stayed in London.”

Full-back Kyle Walker is set to make a long-awaited return to action having been sidelined since March with an abdominal injury and centre-half Federico Fazio is available following European suspension.

Jan Vertonghen, Harry Kane, Ryan Mason, Nabil Bentaleb, Christian Eriksen and Kyle Naughton have not travelled, while youngsters Harry Winks and Josh Onomah could feature after being named in the matchday squad.

Besiktas manager Slaven Bilic will have to contend with the loss of former Chelsea forward Demba Ba, who converted a late penalty in the reverse fixture at White Hart Lane in October, due to a broken toe.