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Key Battle: Nico Claesen on Chadli v Alderweireld and Vertonghen

Posted on 14 October 2016  - 13:54

It’s the return of Premier League football this weekend and our ‘key battle’ feature is also back. With Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld set to come up against fellow countryman and ex-Spurs team-mate Nacer Chadli at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, we spoke to our former Belgian international striker Nico Claesen to get his views on this clash of his compatriots.

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battle_nicoNico Claesen

63 appearances, 23 goals for Spurs between 1986-88
Played as a substitute in our 1987 FA Cup Final defeat to Coventry City
Scored three goals for Belgium at 1986 FIFA World Cup as they reached the semi-finals
Also in national squad for 1984 European Championship and 1990 FIFA World Cup
36 caps, 12 goals in total for Belgium

Our defensive double-act

Nico: “The partnership between Alderweireld and Vertonghen is very good, especially with Spurs. In the Belgium national team they sometimes play on the left and right side and they are not so much playing together in the centre but in the latest games, with the injury to Vincent Kompany, they played as the two in the middle. Vertonghen sometimes goes to the left side or when we have problems, Alderweireld goes to the right side because he has a very good long ball and can cross it. They are very disciplined players and when they played together at Ajax they also did very well. Alderweireld is a player that is very consistent and Vertonghen, for me, is really a leader. At the beginning when he played at Spurs, he spoke his mind with everybody. He can say the things that he thinks you have to do on the pitch. Everybody in Belgium, me as well, was very impressed with this.”

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Chadli’s talents shining through with Baggies

Nico: “He is a player that has a lot of potential. He was struggling a little bit with injuries previously but also he has to work on his consistency. For me, he is a good player and when he plays five, six or seven times in a row in the team, he will always get better and better. He will stay in the team if he’s not injured.”

Chadli now operating as a number 10

Nico: “When you ask him which position he likes to play, I think he will tell you it’s more in the centre of the game – not really deep, but when he can touch the ball a lot so he can make a difference. When he played at Spurs he played a lot on the left or the right wing and I think that was more difficult for him.”

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How does Chadli break down Jan and Toby’s shield?

Nico: “I would imagine that he must not play too high because when he plays too high, against these two Belgian players he will have a lot of problems. It’s when he can manage to get the ball a little bit further away from them that maybe he can do something for West Brom.”

Who has the advantage because of the players’ familiarity with each other?

Nico: “I think when you speak about two players against one, the advantage will be for Alderweireld and Vertonghen because they know Chadli well, they know what he has to do when he has the ball and he has to go up against two players who are really high-pressing him. One of them might wait a little bit and the other puts the pressure on, so then he has to do something very special. Maybe he has to shoot on goal from long distance.”

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A catch-up with Nico

Nico: “I’m the manager for my home-town team in Belgium where I started. It’s Patro Eisden Maasmechelen, a second division team. I’m there for the third time now – I was there 10 years ago for three years, then I went to another team, I came back for two years and now I have been there again for one year. I am also a housing entrepreneur. It’s a business I got from my father-in-law and my wife is now the boss. I always follow the Premier League and I manage to see most games.”