Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Match Preview - UEFA Cup Tottenham Hotspur v SC Braga

UEFA Cup (Round of 16) (2nd Leg)

Wednesday, 14th March, 2007 KO: 8.15pm

Tottenham Hotspur (3)



SC Braga (2)


Following the first game, Spurs should make it into the Quarter Finals of the UEFA Cup whatever team Martin Jol decides to play on Wednesday evening. There was nothing in the SC Braga performance to suggest that they could come back at White Hart Lane to win the tie. Spurs could so easily have been bringing a three or four goal lead to this game but a dubious penalty and a debatable free-kick gave Braga a glimmer of hope until Robbie Keane scored the late winner. Spurs totally dominated the game with Dimitar Berbatov again proving the thorn in their flesh - his performances in Europe this season have been awesome and it is so good to see them being brought to the Premiership as well.

If Tottenham put in a proper professional performance, they should win with ease against a team that played neat football to the edge of the penalty area but could create nothing after that.

Braga have a reputation for a tight defensive team, they hadn't conceded a home goal in the previous UEFA home games, and they only conceded 25 in 21 games this year. Their home match on Sunday against Beira Mar (15th in the 16 team League) ended in a scoreless draw.

Away from home in the UEFA Cup they lost both games in the group stage - 0-3 to AZ and 0-2 to Sevilla, although they did win 1-0 at Parma with a 90th minute winner.

Spurs have been involved in a series of high-pressured games in the past three weeks. Having endured a period of poor results from the end of January, the team was under pressure as they went into the Fulham FA Cup tie with many predicting they would lose. They came through that game convincingly, the win at Everton was more pressure with another late winner and then they defeated one of their more difficult teams, Bolton, with an outstanding display including playing for almost an hour with ten men. The tension of that game was only exceeded by the game at West Ham when they scored twice in the last five minutes to snatch victory. A late goal at Braga and just over sixty hours later they faced Chelsea in the FA Cup. It has been a gruelling time for the players and understandably they are feeling drained emotionally and physically but they overcame it to put on a performance that deserved victory.

Immediately after the Chelsea game, the feeling was of disappointment - that they had missed a great opportunity - but on reflection the players have done amazingly well to turn the season around. Not only have they had a series of tension packed games but they have had to cope with mounting injuries. In that period there has not been an easy game.

Unfortunately, the injury list continues t grow with today's news that Anthony Gardner broke a bone in his leg shortly after coming on as substitute on Sunday. With Rocha ineligeble for UEFA Cup games. Chimbonda may have to switch to the middle to play beside Michael Dawson, the only fit central defender.

This season reminds me of 2001 when Liverpool suddenly hit a rich vein of form that carried them to a treble of FA Cup and UEFA Cup success, having already won the League Cup. If Spurs could follow suit with a Cup double, what a dream and what a season that would be.

I'm looking forward positively to the UEFA Cup Quarter-Finals because the dates suit me and I want to be at White Hart Lane to experience one of those very special 'Glory, Glory Nights' at the Lane.


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