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)
Kerban Berdyev’s Rubin Kazan can field the same team as in the first leg, although Salomon Rondon is likely to replace Vladimir Dyadyun.
Rafael Benitez continues to rotate in Europe, and may feel that progression should be comfortably secured. John Terry, Frank Lampard and Victor Moses have all become regulars in the Europa League and are likely to come in again.
Chelsea’s two goal lead forces Rubin to attack, although they are a naturally conservative side, as only 29 goals in 23 league games will testify. Berdyev will either need to hope for a stand-out performance from his players or look to identify weakness in Chelsea that his team can exploit. Benitez will surely feel an away goal will be enough to guarantee progress to the semi final… (Read more)
Newcastle’s victory over Fulham at the weekend was a large step towards guaranteed Premier League survival, although many will feel the limitations of their relegation rivals already makes this a formality, so Alan Pardew should be willing to gamble on some of his half-fit squad members for a must-win European tie. Newcastle’s injury list remains extensive, but Cheick Tiote may be risked in midfield alongside Yohan Cabaye and Massadio Haidara should come in at full back. With Yoan Gouffran cup-tied Jonas Gutierrez and Sylvain Marveaux are likely to play out wide.
Jorge Jesus has no such problems, meaning Benfica can name an unchanged side from the first leg, although Lima may push Rodrigo for a place in attack.
In a battle of two fairly traditional 4-4-2 variations the tie is likely to be decided between the lines and by the depth of the respective midfields… (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)