Under-fire Soldado to end drought
David John reckons Tottenham's Roberto Soldado can end a barren spell in front of goal in the Europa League on Thursday.
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There were some interesting encounters - and outcomes - to say the least in the first-leg affairs of the Europa League's opening knockout round and latching on to a bet for the reverse fixtures on Thursday night is not easy.
All three of our outright picks are seemingly alive and kicking with Red Bull Salzburg and AZ Alkmaar taking advantages back home against Ajax and Liberec respectively, while Napoli are favourites to progress at the expense of Swansea following a 0-0 draw in Wales.
At first glance, I was tempted to go for a speculative bet on Real Betis on the road against odds-on opposition in the shape of Rubin Khazan.
The Spaniards prop up the Primera Liga and it looked like being a classic case of their minds being taken off their dreary domestic situation when they took an early 1-0 lead last week.
It got better as Rubin were then reduced to 10 men but a late penalty saw them get back on level terms and return to the driving seat.
Freezing conditions and an artificial pitch now face Betis and although coach Gabriel Calderon is hopeful his side can adjust to conditions, they still look to have rather a lot of factors to overcome, even with the prospect of a Seville derby next on the agenda in the competition.
So I am going to sidestep that game and head to north London where Tottenham are rather behind the eight-ball when they host Dnipro.
Spurs succumbed to a late penalty in Ukraine last week as I am sure former boss Juande Ramos gained a certain amount of satisfication getting one over his old employers.
Spurs were far from second best on the pitch though and had a number of chances to poach an away goal at the very least with Roberto Soldado guilty of one horrible miss as he skied the ball over the bar from close range.
The Spaniard has suffered an untimely slump in form - he has not scored this year - since his £26million switch to the Premier League but I am actually inclined to agree with boss Tim Sherwood that one goal could get him right back in the groove.
The Spaniard continues to find himself in the right sort of situations and the law of averages says that a player of his undoubted quality should not have long to wait.
He had another couple of good opportunities in the 1-0 loss at Norwich last weekend after coming off the bench and perhaps there are those who will argue that his search for the back of the net is destined to drag on.
But Soldado does have a hat-trick in the Europa League this season while Thursday night sees the hosts bid farewell to Jermain Defoe before he heads off the Canada.
The diminutive frontman is injured but will make an appearance on the pitch at half-time so hopefully Soldado can do his bit in terms of the festivities and show the faithful that the future is in reasonably safe hands.
- The Spurs game kicks off at 2005 GMT.