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Meet the Rivals: A Q&A with Cartilage Free Captain

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With the big Europa League tie with Tottenham nearly upon us, we talked to Bryan from the SB Nation Tottenham blog for some inside information.

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With excitement building before the big tie away to Spurs, we thought we would increase the anticipation just that little bit more by talking to Bryan from Tottenham blog Cartilage Free Captain.

Viola Nation: What would you say was Spurs' biggest strength and biggest weakness this season?

Bryan A: Heading into the season, I would have said our biggest strength was our midfield and that our biggest weakness was our lack of quality up front. Now, those two things are pretty much reversed. Spurs came into the season with a number of midfielders that looked capable of contributing to new manager Mauricio Pochettino's system, and it was just a matter of time before the manager figured out how to effectively use them. Of course, this was sabatoged by injury, poor performances, and, if you believe ITK sources on the internet, a dressing room revolt. This has left Spurs with only three midfielders that the manager really trusts and we often play all three at the same time.

As far as strikers go, we were banking on a big leap from Harry Kane or a return to form for Emmanuel Adebayor or Roberto Soldao. The former seemed fairly likely based on late season performances, but none of us anticipated Kane making the leap from good young player to one of the best strikers in the league in just a couple of months.

VN: If you had to choose right now between qualifying for the Champion's league via finishing in 4th place in the Premier League or by winning the Europa League, which would you choose and why?
BA:
Even in an imaginary world where we have a chance to finish fourth (we don't, I don't care what anyone says), I'd still rather win the Europa League. We've long made jokes at Arsenal's expense about 4th place not counting as a trophy, so we should probably try to avoid having those jokes turned around on us.


VN: In the last 20 years, Fiorentina have played at White Hart Lane 3 times, with two victories for Fiorentina and one for Tottenham. Do you have a prediction for Thursday's match?
BA:
Knowing as little as I do about Fiorentina, but knowing Spurs, I'd imagine this game will be more difficult than Tottenham would like. I'd expect Fiorentina to go ahead within the first 20 minutes, but then Spurs claw back for a 2-1 win. Unfortunately, that means Fiorentina get that all important away goal.


VN: After a fairly slow start, Mauricio Pochettino has started to find success with Tottenham in his first season, his faith in youth has paid off spectacularly with the huge impact that Harry Kane has had on the Premier League this season. What is your opinion of Pochettino and what do you think will be the best way to try and contain Harry Kane?
BA:
Honestly, and I say this in complete sincerity, I don't think there is a way to contain Kane. He's shown himself to be so versatile in finding ways to score and adept at understanding how defenses are trying to play him. That said, try to keep him out of the left channel where he can cut in on his right foot and shoot from the top of the box. That's his spot.
With respect to Pochettino, I was probably the least enthusiastic person on our site about his hire, but I've come around. For a long time it seemed like Poche wasn't getting the performances we expected out of his players, but then news came to light that some veterans were actively attempting to undermine him and it took a dust-up between some of those veterans and young players like Harry Kane before Poche started really getting the results we expected (allegedly, obviously). Poche has done really well with the resources at his disposal and the scheme is coming together. He's probably one really good central midfielder away from making everything click at Spurs.


VN: After breaking their transfer record with the acquisition of Erik Lamela from AS Roma, Tottenham have not yet seen the kind of form that he showed in Serie A. Why do you think that he has struggled since his move?
BA:
Is it rude if I say it's because Serie A is garbage? Seriously though, I think Lamela, in his first season, was hampered by cultural transition, injury, and adapting to the pace and physicality of the Premier League. When he plays in the Europa League he looks a lot like the player we saw at Roma, in the Premier League, he looks like he's pressing.
That said, Lamela's all-around game has really improved of late. He's an integral part to Pochettino's press and he's a willing runner. He tracks back, makes tackles (not always good ones) and helps spring the counterattack. His passing hasn't been as incisive and the goals haven't been there, but he's still very good. If he keeps going this way, he'll be the Argentine Dirk Kuyt, which isn't exactly a bad thing.

VN: Finally, which player do you think will provide the biggest threat for Fiorentina against Tottenham?
BA:
After 8 days of rest following a game he didn't play all that well in (though he did score), I'd have to imagine it's Harry Kane. He's scored 10 goals in his last 10 matches and I have serious doubts about whether Stefan Savic and Gonzalo Rodriguez can contain him.


Thanks very much to Bryan for chatting with us. If you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms from the banter, head on back to us reminding you of how awful Spurs are instead of reading more level-headed commentary where I fill Bryan in on Fiorentina. If you want to give Bryan a follow on Twitter he is @BryanTHFC and the Tottenham blog is @cartilagefree