Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Sevilla v Tottenham Hotspur [UEFA Cup Preview]

Thursday, 5th April, 2007
Sevilla v Tottenham Hotspur
UEFA Cup Quarter-final (1st Leg)

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The UEFA Cup starts in earnest on Thursday evening – away to the trophy holders, Sevilla. Earlier games in Turkey and Leverkusen seemed daunting on paper but in reality Spurs performed well and came through and now have 8 successive wins in Europe. Only Real Madrid in 1985 and 86 have retained the UEFA Cup and Spurs as the only team left who have won it twice will be looking to prevent the Spanish side from copying the feat achieved by Real.

Sevilla with Fredi Kanoute will prove difficult opposition and the way they disposed of Middlesbrough in last season’s Final should be a warning to everyone. They reached the knockout stage of this year’s competition by finishing second in Group C.
They then beat FC Steaua Bucuresti 2-0 away and 1-0 at home to reach the last 16. However, they were fortunate to survive the last round requiring a late injury time goal from their goalkeeper Andrés Palop to take the second leg game into extra time as they overcame FC Shakhtar Donetsk after a 2-2 draw at home. Ernesto Chevantón's extra-time goal secured a 5-4 aggregate victory. So on Thursday evening two goalkeepers who have scored goals for their teams in the past few weeks will be opposing each other. Sevilla have won three of their five home UEFA Cup games including a 2-0 over Braga but lost 1-2 to AZ Alkmaar.

Sevilla are a team of talented players. Apart from Kanoute who left Spurs in the summer of 2005 and is their leading goal scorer with 22 goals, they have a Brazilian right back, Daniel Alves and two skilful wingers Jesus Navas and Antonio Puerta. The strength of the Sevilla side is shown by their two wins over Barcelona this season, once in the Super Cup and recently in the league. A win over Real Madrid has also helped them to second place in the Spanish Liga, two points behind Barcelona.

Sevilla forward Luis Fabiano is suspended for the first leg, while team-mates Julien Escudé, José Luis Martí and Aitor Ocio are all within a caution of missing the return match in London. While for Spurs Berbatov and Chimbonda are both one booking away from a suspension.

Spurs record against Spanish sides is not as good as against some of the other continental sides.

P 5 W 1 D 2 L 2 For 6 Ag 4

After the initial impressive 5-1 success in the ECWC Final in 1963 against Atletico Madrid, Spurs have lost out to both Barcelona and Real Madrid. Both ties are memorable, the 1982 ECWC (SF) against Barcelona was a bruising encounter and saw Spurs draw1-1 at WHL but lose by a single goal in the second leg. Against Real Madrid it was a first home defeat in Europe, to a Steve Perryman own goal, that saw Spurs’ demise as the away game ended scoreless in the Q/F tie, with Perryman sent off in the second leg. This would be a good time to avenge those last defeats.

The Spurs team should be on the usual lines, now that Martin Jol seems to have settled on his best team. With no central defensive cover, Chimbonda should partner Dawson with Stalteri coming in at right back. It is rumoured that Ledley King may travel and have a place among the substitutes in case of an emergency. Depending on his level of fitness Tainio may get a place in midfield, while Keane will probably start alongside Berbatov.

Spurs have encountered tough draws in the latter stages of this season’s Cup competitions – Arsenal in the Carling Cup (SF) and Chelsea in the FA Cup (QF) and now Sevilla. They can look back on those previous competitions as missed opportunities – they can’t afford to make the same mistakes for a third time. A thoroughly professional performance is required in this game so that Spurs come back to White Hart Lane in control of the tie. An away goal is important while the defence must concentrate for the whole game, something they have failed to do too often this season, or they could be severely punished in Spain.

For those who are travelling to Spain – have a good trip and I look forward to the second leg at White Hart Lane in a week’s time.


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