Erik Lamela started for Tottenham Hotspur against Juventus in the Champions League because of his previous experience in Italian football, says manager Mauricio Pochettino.
Eyebrows were raised ahead of Tuesday night’s fixture when the 25-year-old was named on the left wing in place of the in-form Son Heung-min, but it was a decision that proved correct as Spurs sealed a memorable 2-2 draw at the Allianz Stadium.
The result puts the Premier League outfit in pole position to qualify for the quarter-finals ahead of the return leg at Wembley next month.
Before the game, Pochettino took the time to explain to BT Sport the call to include Lamela ahead of Son.
“Erik Lamela knows what it means to play here against Juventus and we believe this experience will help the team,” the former Southampton boss is quoted as saying by Metro.
The Argentine wide man missed over a year of action after injuring his hip in October 2016 but has quietly impressed since his comeback at the end of November.
In Turin, he was always available for the ball and played a key role in wearing Juventus down with his constant movement and sharp, incisive passing.
However, it was his work out of possession which proved equally crucial and it is likely that this was a factor in Pochettino’s thinking when he selected Lamela in the starting XI.
Whilst Son has been superb this term, contributing 11 goals and eight assists across all competitions, he does not offer as much going back towards his own goal as his Argentinian counterpart.
Lamela ran himself into the ground for 89 minutes and fully deserved the ovation he received from the Tottenham faithful when he was replaced by debutant Lucas Moura.
It was another example of Pochettino getting his tactics spot on in a big game, although it certainly did not look that way in the opening exchanges.
Spurs found themselves 2-0 down inside nine minutes after a double from Gonzalo Higuain, but replied through Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen to take a precious draw and two away goals back to North London.
On a night of high drama, both teams could have won the match but the Lilywhites will no doubt be the happier of the two and can approach the second leg with renewed confidence.