APOEL v Tottenham
Years of lacklustre Spurs performances away from home in Europe gave the Tottenham following in Cyprus today some feelings of trepidation on Tuesday.
This fear effectively started on Monday with the shock news that Christian Eriksen would miss the crucial Champions League game at APOEL due to illness.
After beating Borussia Dortmund at Wembley in their first Champions League match of the 2017/2018 campaign, Spurs travelled to APOEL knowing victory would set them up nicely for the upcoming double header against Real Madrid.
Tottenham significantly weakened at APOEL
Yet for such a crucial Champions League game, this is where we would really see what the Spurs squad was made of.
Tottenham were missing through either injury or suspension: Jan Vertonghen, Danny Rose, Moussa Dembele, Victor Wanyama, Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli.
A decent 7-a-side team, by anyone’s standards!
Moussa Sissoko – a huge player for Spurs at APOEL!
As a result, when Spurs fans were putting together their side for tonight’s game against APOEL, Moussa Sissoko was one of the first name’s on the team sheet.
A simply incredible state of affairs considering Sissoko’s status at the club going into the season.
Moussa Sissoko (like Vincent Janssen) was simply a disaster in his first campaign at Tottenham.
Newcastle fans warned Tottenham supporters that Sissoko was useless and would be a blight on their first team squad.
In 2016/2017 this looked like a good assessment of a player that barely turned up for club and country.
Has Moussa Sissoko played well for Spurs in 2017/2018?
In 2016/2017, Sissoko played 901 minutes of Premier League football, he failed to score a single goal. The most notable aspect of his performances were three yellow cards.
Whilst Janssen was shipped out to Fenerbahce on loan, Sissoko’s Spurs career has taken a serious up turn in the opening weeks of the 2017/2018 campaign.
The summer transfer window ended with Sissoko telling his followers on Instagram on a live stream that they would have to deal with him remaining at Tottenham.
Moussa Sissoko: A key player for Spurs
Yet Sissoko has played a key role for Spurs so far this campaign.
The French midfielder has even been praised for his away performances against Everton and West Ham.
And, this has caused plenty of hysteria from Spurs fans. Who are simply not seeing these same sort of qualities from Sissoko that the likes of Danny Murphy is hailing on Match of the Day.
The importance of Moussa Sissoko to the current Spurs side was illustrated by the fact he started in the number 10 role at APOEL. In place of Christian Eriksen – the heartbeat and quarterback of the Tottenham side.
One other theory has emerged about Sissoko in recent weeks. He seems to have struck up a friendship with Serge Aurier, another controversial member of this Tottenham team.
Perhaps with Aurier in close proximity in a right wing back role, Sissoko could make things happen tonight?
Sissoko v APOEL 1st half
The first half in Nicosia was all about Harry Kane. The Spurs goal machine made it 1-0 before the break with a cool and composed finish.
Prior to that, APOEL had eked out the better chances in an energetic game.
As for Sissoko… Well, he did link up well with Aurier early on. And, completed simple passes, which hasn’t always been so easy for the French midfielder in his time at Spurs.
Considering the changes to the Tottenham line-up tonight (Ben Davies left centre back and Kieran Trippier left wing back) Mauricio Pochettino seems to have settled on three at the back in 2017/2018.
At APOEL, this meant Sissoko was joined in the centre of midfield by Eric Dier and Harry Winks, in theory allowing the Frenchman ample opportunity to roam and break forward with his pace.
But, Sissoko’s best moments in the first half were battling in midfield and the energy he showed in the middle of the park.
Just after APOEL hit the bar, Sissoko was there to win a crucial block in midfield.
Harry Kane makes Moussa Sissoko look good
In the second half, Harry Kane came into his own, scoring two goals and completing a hat-trick for Spurs in Cyprus.
It is now five goals in two Champions League games this season for Kane. A stunning September (after an awful August) has once again shown how brilliant Harry Kane is.
Records held by Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi look attainable for Kane the way he has started life in the Champions League.
With Kane’s goals, Tottenham had a match winner in Cyprus and a player that makes all those around him look good.
On Tuesday night, Sissoko was undoubtedly one of the beneficiaries of these goals.
Did Pochettino change to 4-4-2 to get the best out of Sissoko?
But, Sissoko was also key to the win.
On the hour, Mauricio Pochettino moved to a 4-4-2 formation which allowed Sissoko to get down the right.
It also nullified APOEL’s best player on the night: Left back Roberto Lago.
Sissoko won the ball high up in the APOEL half immediately after moving to right wing. And, then bagged the assist for Kane’s second goal.
Between Kane’s second and third, Sissoko had a rising shot palmed away by the APOEL goalkeeper.
The much maligned former Newcastle midfielder was even winning set pieces in his own box late in the half.
It was undoubtedly another night to remember for Harry Kane. But with the injury to Moussa Dembele, Sissoko is a shoo-in again to start against Huddersfield on Saturday.
Perhaps Harry Kane and Mauricio Pochettino can solve the enigma that is Moussa Sissoko?