After battling their way to the Europa League last-16, Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino made the downright bizarre decision to send a semi-second-string side to the slaughter at Borussia Dortmund.
The esteemed Argentine left star striker Harry Kane on the Westfalenstadion bench, where Mousa Dembele and Erik Lamela joined him.
If preservation for a Premier League pursuit was the motive behind Pochettino’s call, his motion was contradicted emphatically by the selection of king conjurer Christian Eriksen, only-fit senior stopper Toby Alderweireld and skipper Hugo Lloris.
Based on this evidence, it seems they weren’t interested in winning the match, but didn’t want to get obliterated either, so a 3-0 defeat looks like a job well done.
With a three-point gimmie at Aston Villa on the horizon – a team they’ve not lost away to since 2008 – the decision to rest several key men and essentially forgo their place in the Europa League seems an entirely unnecessary one.
It’s even more confusing when the exertions made to reach this stage are considered.
If Kane, for instance, is shattered, it’s probably because he played some part in all bar one of Spurs’ group stage fixtures. Similarly, Eric Dier, who was omitted entirely for the Dortmund trip, started every non-knockout match.
It appears the Europa League was taken seriously, until a difficult game came around, at which point Pochettino has opted to throw in the towel as opposed to risking his players’ fitness attempting to overcome a challenge perceived insurmountable.
Should Spurs win the title, his continental surrender will be vindicated, but the manager’s attitude exemplified against Die Schwarzgelben has the potential to knock the bottom out of the entire campaign.
The north Londoners clearly had designs on winning the competition; both admissions from key personnel and team selections in earlier rounds indicate as much.
But obviously, Pochettino can’t have expected the XI he fielded in Dortmund to do anything but lose, which, as stated, suggests the Bundesliga titans were deemed too strong a side for his first-choice team to overcome.
Keeping players fit to help achieve domestic goals is a reasonable argument against that notion, but this is quickly dismissed by the fact Spurs face their second-easiest fixture of the season this weekend (the only simpler challenge being the corresponding clash with Villa at home).
Self-doubt must prevail in the Tottenham ranks following Pochettino basically deciding his troops aren’t good enough to compete with the Bundesliga’s second best team. This being the case, it’s probably best to leave their 11/4 title odds alone.