Basel can welcome back Marcelo Diaz, Park Joo-Ho and Phillip Degen from suspension and all three are likely to come in for the second leg against Tottenham. Murat Yakin will have to choose between the 4-2-3-1 shape that succeeded in securing an impressive 2-2 draw at White Hart Lane or reverting to a more conservative 4-1-2-3 shape.
In contrast Tottenham are currently struggling with injuries, most notably to star man Gareth Bale, although the loss of Aaron Lennon is equally destabilising. Andre Villas-Boas’ lack of wide options means a narrow trio of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Lewis Holtby and Clint Dempsey behind Emmanuel Adebayor. In defence Villas-Boas has a dilemma – does he persist with selecting Benoit Assou-Ekotto at full back, when Jan Vertonghen has looked so dangerous going forward in the Premier League or leave the Belgian at centre back alongside Michael Dawson? A similar problem may be in goal. Villas-Boas has remained loyal to Brad Friedel through the Europa League campaign, but as Tottenham reach the business end of the competition there must be an urge to start selecting the impressive Hugo Lloris.
Anybody who remembers Basel’s impressive displays in the Champions League against Manchester United a few years ago will understand what an accomplished side they are, and Tottenham face a tough ask if they are to advance… (Read more)
Daniel Sturridge’s return from injury gives Brendan Rodgers a dilemma given the potency of Liverpool’s forward line against Wigan. Luis Suarez’s hat-trick strengthens his claim to the central berth, although Rodgers will argue that the Uruguayan has been equally dangerous from deeper, wider positions. Both Philippe Coutinho and Stewart Downing also performed well, and will be difficult to drop. Rodgers is likely to choose between including Sturridge in his usual front three, probably at the expense of Coutinho, or switching to a 4-4-2 variation with Suarez and Sturridge through the middle. However given the threat of Gareth Bale for Tottenham Rodgers is likely to want to keep an extra man in midfield, so a 4-1-2-3 seems the likeliest option.
Tottenham’s impressive victory over Arsenal last weekend will have increased their confidence further and Bale, and his teammates, have adapted well to the Welshman’s new central role. Jermain Defoe’s return after a long absence will be a relief to Andre Villas-Boas, who must be getting worried about Emmanuel Adebayor’s lack of form. Elsewhere Lewis Holtby and Gylfi Sigurdsson will compete for the left midfield role – Sigurdsson was solid against Arsenal and supplied Bale for the first goal, but Villas-Boas probably still identifies Holtby as a longer term solution. Despite the manager rotating his defence throughout the campaign, Jan Vertonghen and Michael Dawson’s excellent performances against Arsenal may suggest a first choice partnership has been found.
Contrary to popular belief it is Liverpool that come into this game in free-scoring form, having scored three or more goals in 7 of their last 13 league games. In contrast Tottenham haven’t won a league game by more than one goal since the 1st of January… (Read more)
Tottenham have now been competing on a similar level to their North London rivals for a few years now, but they have yet to secure a convincing victory in a league game. In fact Arsenal have often come into these games as the team under pressure and left with a sizable victory. The last two league meetings, both at the Emirates, are excellent examples – Tottenham taking an early lead and looking exert their authority before capitulating and losing both games 5-2. Ultimately, while performances have led to many declaring Tottenham as having usurped Arsenal as North London’s best, the derby matches often show Arsene Wenger’s side as being better equipped to perform under pressure.
This match is no different to previous encounters. Before the reverse fixture in November Arsenal were being written off whilst Tottenham under Andre Villas-Boas were gaining momentum, but an early red card for Emmanuel Adebayor ruined a gameplan and chances of victory. Tottenham, led by the increasingly brilliant Gareth Bale, continue to impress, whilst Arsenal continue to confound, although it is telling that such contrasting fortunes are only separated by four points and two places in the league… (Read more)
European competition is often used as a measure of a league’s strength. Champions Manchester City’s early exit in the Champions League didn’t bode well for the Premier League’s claim to be the world’s best, and other clubs have done little to dispel this as anything other than a myth. Manchester United defied doubters to avoid defeat away to Real Madrid and Tottenham secured the draw required to seal an aggregate victory against a competitive Lyon side, but Newcastle and Chelsea laboured against moderate opposition. Liverpool fought in vain to overturn a first leg deficit against Zenit St. Petersburg, whilst Arsenal were utterly outclassed by Bayern Munich… (Read more)
Two teams looking to build around a new central midfielder for the remainder of the season. Tottenham’s decision to sign Lewis Holtby six months ahead of schedule was influenced by the loss of Sandro to injury, but in reality he will offer a more natural fit as a central playmaker than either Clint Dempsey or Gylfi Sigurdsson. Newcastle also signed Moussa Sissoko before his contract expired in the summer and his two games in an advanced midfield position have inspired Alan Pardew’s side to two victories. Both teams play a 4-2-3-1 variation, although the ambition of the managers and the identity of the players involved makes Tottenham’s shape closer to a 4-2-1-3 compared to Newcastle’s 4-4-1-1. The difference may seem trivial but it creates an interesting tactical match up… (Read more)
Transfer activity is often a fascinating way to identify a teams’ tactical ambition as a club’s transfer policy is dependent on the manager’s approach. A systemic manager’s priority is to sign players that are better adapted to their style of play, and thus improves the strength of the team not necessarily by signing better quality players, but by signing better fitting players. An adaptable manager is less focused on tactical suitability as they are happier modifying their game-plan to suit the players at their disposal, and therefore can use the transfer market solely to improve the quality of the squad. In reality few managers are strictly one or the other and tend to be a mixture of the two, but the contrasts were still evident in the January transfer window… (Read more)
With all the talk around Brendan Rodgers’ appointment at Liverpool, it may actually be that Andre Villas-Boas moving to Tottenham is the most interesting managerial development of the summer. Villas-Boas has had a turbulent twelve months, having arrived at Chelsea as a treble winner with Porto and considered one of the hottest managerial prospects in Europe and leaving nine months later with his reputation tarnished. However, reported interest from Inter Milan and a number of other European clubs will testify that the Portuguese manager still has his admirers and Tottenham seem to have found a top class replacement for Harry Redknapp… (Read more)