After some curious ventures into the pockets of Cold Europe- Moldova, the Saturn Stadium (near Moscow) and, finally, within the borders of the Arctic Circle- Spurs have now progressed into the knockout stages of the Continent’s secondary club competition. Take that, Europe!
Is wasn’t too long before last night’s game in Tromsø descended into meaningless farce as news filtered in on the old wireless that Anzi Michelangelodonatelloraphaelleonardo had failed to beat Sheriff, meaning winning Group K was a certainty for the glove-clad and frosty-breathed men of Hotspur and all soccer bets placed on them finishing in top spot would be prosperous. Very soon it became an exercise in admiring the retrograde air of playing with a high-vis orange ball and wondering which player who wouldn’t be able to remember Euro 96’ might make an appearance for Spurs.
As it turned out, not one of the four fledglings consigned to the bench by Villas-Boas made it on to the wintry turf. Even when the result was completely irrelevant.
Still, the experience alone- that of sitting on one’s behind in sub-zero temperatures, with a thick blanket covering the legs so they don’t fall off- is one to delight in for the McEvoy, Fredericks and Co.
Regardless of the news from Mother Russia, the outcome was never really in question for Tottenham, even with the residual weight of trauma from last weekend. If there were some reassurance to be harvested from the game then Dembélé’s finish was pleasingly neat- his first since the last-minute equaliser at Lyon in March- and Étienne Capoue looks a little closer to regaining full-fitness. Elsehwhere, Gylfi Sigurdsson created both goals, which may go some way to aid his cause in claiming the primary playmaker role for United at the weekend. A saner choice as any.
Moving on is never easy, as anyone who witnessed the axing of the original Krypton Factor series in 1995 will confirm. Dark, dark days. But what better way to recover from a 6-0 pumping than to travel to the Arctic Circle to take part in a more or less pointless Europa League group game against a side who’ve just been relegated from Norway’s top division?
That’s right, no better way.
Few things say ‘What Crisis?’ like outscoring a European heavyweight like Tromsø in their frozen, artificially turfed backyard, while they contemplate a season in which they finished a good few points behind Odd, Molde and cereal’s own Brann and Start.
Some of this lot might play:
Afternoon, girls and boys. A full Technicolor Europa ding-dong in the offing later tonight, against Tromsø of Norway.
Our Scandinavian brothers aren’t strangers to the virtues of foggy London Town. Back in November 1997 they visited Stamford Bridge and got themselves done-busted by Ruud Gullit’s Chelsea at a rate of 7 (seven) goals to 1. Gianluca Vialli scored a hat-trick that evening and the pre-Russian Blues went on to win the Cup Winners’ Cup.
Meanwhile Spurs were employing Christian Gross and flirting with the idea of getting relegated.
Back here on earth and Andre Villas-Boas has been talking to the press this week about our upcoming schedule. Which, you could say, is a touch busy:
“After this game (against Tromso) we have not only the Sunday game but the Tuesday game, which I found as an incredible surprise,” he said.
“How can the game be scheduled after two days? This is putting the players’ career at risk and the risk of injuries.
“I can understand the reasons why our game against Aston Villa for the Capital One Cup was chosen to be on Tuesday, bearing in mind the other fixtures, but I find it absolutely incredible that we have to risk injuries to our players in a game we play on that Tuesday.”
While it does represent some serious fixture congestion, it sounds like the Big Football Computer has its cold, inanimate hands tied on this one, with Swansea and Arsenal in COC action on the Wednesday. What’s more, unless I’m mistaken, Spurs have themselves a bit of a squad these days. So I’m sure we’ll cope.
Expect plenty of changes tonight:
Oo-er. This looks decidedly not ideal. While resident harefoots Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon are grounded in London with unrelated but not terminal ankle and knee prangs respectively, Spurs contemplate how they might best progress from an even (but not really) tie in which Swiss side Basel hold most if not all the aces. The most reasonable answer would be to score more goals than them but as we saw last week, that won’t be as simple a task as some perhaps imagined. Tidy, aggressive and stylish were Murat Yakin’s brigade at The Lane last week, and, rather troublingly, in their domestic League they’ve not been beaten at home all season having only conceded six and scored a walloping twenty-eight. Yikes.
Still, the general consensus appears to be that, with a fair chunk of time before our next league game (Sunday 24th against City) the chaps are pretty much free to turn the dial up to full volume and worry about the consequences and stiff joints in the morning. The thought being that if Spurs could get the maximum out of Holtby, Adebayor, Dembele and the like, we ought to have enough tinned goods in the pantry to see us through. Here’s how they might line up, Champs 01/02 stylee:
Brad out, Hugo in. Just how necessary it is at any stage to rest an exuberant young goalkeeper isn’t really the concern here- Friedel’s done something of a job in the previous rounds and it’s nice to give his legs a bit of a stretch from time to time- but now that our status in the competition hangs in the balance, Lloris’ inclusion is crucial. We’re simply better with him in goal. Elsewhere it’s Tom Carroll for Dempsey for the sake of ball retention and to avoid the potential meltdown on Twitter should the Texan have an awry one. It’s for your own good, Clint. COYS!
We did a fine job of underestimating Swiss opponents in the Champions League qualifiers back in 2010 so let me be the first to declare that we should absolutely vaporise this lot within minutes of referee’s threep. In fact, with the weather unseasonably brisk, I’m not sure why they’ve even bothered making the trip- such is our superiority, might and standard of haircut.
FC Basel are, of course, crack Euro campaginers and presuming we’re going to walk this would be misguided at best. Top of the Swiss Super League and recent conquerors of United, Bayern Munich and Zenit in the last twelve months, Murat Yakin’s side are anything but small-time chancers fumbling their way to a final.
Sure the history books will tell you Bayern scraped through their Champions League tie last year on away goals (then went and robbed their best player, Xherdan Shaqiri) and Zenit are massive racists, but the numbers add up to a difficult fixture and one we’d be doing well to take a something-to-zero lead from tonight.
The latest Big Injury Concern is Jermain Defoe who was declared kaput for up to three weeks yesterday; meaning he’ll miss both legs of the quarter-final and Saturday’s crucial meeting with Everton. It wouldn’t be over-egging it to suppose that Adebayor might want to start being good again soon. Not over-egging it at all. 2-0 Spurs.