Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Tottenham Hotspur v Sevilla UEFA Cup Q/F (2nd leg) Preview

Thursday, 12th April, 2007
Tottenham Hotspur v Sevilla
UEFA Cup Q/F 2nd Leg
KO: 7.45pm
L L W L W W ------- D W D W W W

Welcome to European football 2007 – in Seville everyone discovered what European football was all about - the hostility of the police, diving and win at all cost tactics and refereeing that favoured the home side. The previous games this season have been a mere stroll in the park compared to Spurs’ Spanish experience.

Spurs came through relatively unscathed and know exactly what they have to do at White Hart Lane:

Spurs win by 2 or more goals and they qualify for the semi-finals.
Win 1-0 – Spurs qualify on the away goals rule, thanks to Robbie Keane’s precious goal after a minute.
Win 2-1 – the game goes to extra time and possibly penalties.
Any other single goal win by Spurs would see them eliminated on the away goals rule.

In Spain Spurs had the perfect start and for the next twenty minutes they were comfortable and only when the referee interfered with the penalty award did Sevilla come into the game. For the rest of the first half Spurs were stretched but Martin Jol did an excellent job at half-time to get the team regrouped for the second half when they were rarely troubled and could have equalised. So at the end of ninety minutes, a one goal defeat can be regarded as a job well done.

Of course, the work now has to be completed at Tottenham. Sevilla showed that they are quick on the break so Spurs will have to be careful as they look for those important goals that they don’t leave themselves exposed at the back.

Spurs will have to show patience and composure to deal with the Sevilla players’ attempts to win free-kicks every time they are tackled. Here the referee must take a firm control to avoid a repetition of the first game when free kicks were awarded liberally to Sevilla while the Spurs players, especially Keane and Berbatov, received little protection.

The referee on Thursday evening is Konrad Plautz from Austria.

Injuries are playing a part for both sides – Lee and Stalteri have now joined the Spurs’ injury list but it is rumoured on message boards and has been reported in some of the media that Ledley King is ready for a return to action. That would be a great boost for Spurs but he has been out for so long and we have heard on a number of occasions that he was about to make an appearance in the team. We will have to wait and see.

Sevilla again rested players from their weekend drawn League game so it shows the importance this game is to the Spanish club as they strive to retain the UEFA Cup. However, their goalkeeper, Palop, is injured as is Chevantón who started on the bench last week. He is Sevilla’s top scorer in the UEFA Cup this season with four goals. David Cobeño is expected to take Palop's place for the game at White Hart Lane. The Sevilla forward Luis Fabiano is now available having been suspended for the first leg.

For Spurs to qualify they will have to inflict the first defeat by an English side on Sevilla who defeated Middlesbrough and drew at Bolton in last season’s competition.

Spurs’ record in European games at White Hart Lane shows only one defeat, to Real Madrid in the 1985 UEFA Cup Q/F (1st leg) game. On the two previous occasions that Spurs have lost the away leg by 1-2, they have subsequently won the home game to progress to the next round.

1983-84 UEFA Cup (S/F) Hajduk Split (a) L1-2 (h) W1-0 (won on away goals rule)
1984-85 UEFA Cup (2nd R) FC Bruges (a) L1-2 (h) W3-0

On four other occasions, Spurs have returned to White Hart Lane with a one goal deficit and progressed against Dulka Prague (EC Q/F – 1962) and Bayern Munich (UEFA Cup 3rd R – 1984) but lost to Lyon (ECWC - 1967-68) on the away goals rule and to Feyenoord (ECWC -1992) who held on for a scoreless draw at Tottenham in .

The game is balanced on a knife edge with no room for error and Sevilla’s success is such that they never know defeat – pulling the previous tie around in the final moments when they looked to be going out of the competition. A goal in injury time took the game into extra time when they managed to score a decisive winner. However, with Spurs’ home record being so impressive this season they will be confident of further progress. The only note of caution is that when the top clubs have come to White Hart Lane, with the exception of Chelsea in the Premiership, Spurs have been unable to fulfil their promise. I trust they are ready and able for the task in hand this time.

The game is set up for another pulsating ‘Glory! Glory!’ night of European football at White Hart Lane. The atmosphere will be tremendous as we roar Spurs to a semi-final tie against probably Osasuna of Spain as they hold a three goal lead over Bayer Leverkusen following the first game in Germany.


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