Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Match Preview UEFA Cup

UEFA CUP Group Stages (Round 3)

Bayer 04 Leverkusen v Tottenham Hotspur

(L W D W L L ) - - - (D W W W L D)

After the champagne and caviar that were the wins over Brugge and Chelsea we’ve had to stomach the warm, flat beer of the performances and results against Reading and Blackburn.

Spurs are facing German opposition for the thirteenth time in European competition, although the official UEFA records will suggest it’s the fourteenth as they have included the farce that was the Intertoto competition. Spurs’ record of seven wins, one draw and four defeats has given them four aggregate wins in the six ties.

It will be Spurs’ first competitive match against Bayer 04 Leverkusen who drew 1-1 at Brugge in their only game in the group stages of the UEFA Cup. They qualified for this stage by defeating Sion of Switzerland 3-1 on aggregate after a scoreless draw in the first leg.

Last season Leverkusen finished in fifth place in the Bundesliga to qualify for the UEFA Cup but they have also played Champions League football and were beaten finalists in 2002, losing to Real Madrid having knocked out both Liverpool and Manchester United on the way to the final. This made them the first side to reach the final without winning their national championship.

They have played 122 European games, with 52 wins and 38 defeats but against English teams they have only won once, a 4-2 defeat of Liverpool in the quarter finals, while they neat United on away goals after two draws.

Their record against English teams is P 12 W 1 D 3 L 8.

Leverkusen are currently 12th in the eighteen team German Bundesliga, having lost their last two games 2-3 at Nurnberg last weekend and at home to Bayern Munich the previous week. In the game against Nurnberg having drawn level at 2-2 with twenty minutes to go, they conceded a goal with five minutes left. It was two late goals conceded in three minutes that led to their demise against Bayern having gone 2-1 ahead with ten minutes remaining. Their last two wins were away to two teams below them in the Bundesliga.

Their domestic record this season is: P 13 W 4 D 3 L 6 For 21 Ag 21 Pts 15

In the UEFA Cup their performance against Brugge probably merited more that a draw as the home goalkeeper put up an excellent performance.

Leverkusen are a team with great experience and probably the best known of the players is the German international midfielder Bernd Schneider who played in last summer’s World Cup and has scored twice in this season’s UEFA Cup – the goal against Brugge from over thirty yards – you’ve been warned Spurs. In their league competitions four players have each scored three goals – Ukraine striker Andrily Voronin, defenders Gonzalo Castro from seven starts and Ahmed Reda Madouni. They are also well served from midfield with Sergei Barbarez also scoring three and Carsten Ramelow two.

With squad rotation and players rested for important games it is always difficult to predict who will be playing but the Leverkusen team against Brugge was:

Butt, Stenman, Juan, Haggui, Madouni, Schneider, Barnetta, Barbarez, Rolfes, Ramelow, Kiessling

Dimitar Berbatov is the connection between the two clubs. He was the Leverkusen leading goalscorer last season with 21 goals before signing for Spurs in the summer. His quality has been most evident in the UEFA Cup and he will want to impress against his former club. Spurs go into the game knowing that a win will guarantee qualification for the knock out stages and that a draw will almost certainly secure it, so they have sufficient incentive to raise their game from the last two mundane performances. Martin Jol will be hoping that some of the injured players will recover in time to allow him to play as many as possible of what he must consider to be his strongest team with Keane as partner for Berbatov. He must find a balance in midfield which will be strong and competitive but also create opportunities for the strikers to have a chance on goal.

Are Spurs saving their best for Europe?

It has happened in previous seasons and certainly, on the evidence to date, the team have raised their game considerably for the European matches and played with a greater freedom. Hopefully they will again shake off their indifferent away League form and make the trip to Germany one to remember for all who are travelling over to support them.


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