Tottenham Hotspur will face FC Basel at St. Jakob-Park tonight in the second leg of the Europa League quarter-final clash. Basel are the favourites to win this tie based on the result in first leg. Although Adebayor and Sigurdsson’s goals have given Tottenham hope, the fact that they have conceded two goals to Basel at White Hart Lane have put them on the back foot in this tie.
Basel, who are the league leaders in the Swiss Super League, come into this match on the back of a 1-1 draw with third placed side St. Gallen, courtesy of a second half equaliser from Marco Streller. Murat Yakin’s side are now unbeaten in their last four matches in all competitions, although they have managed to win only two of their last five matches. But Basel’s home form this season has been brilliant. They have lost only once at home this season (in competitive matches), against CFR Cluj during the Champions League qualification stage (two more defeats came in friendlies against Bayern and Biel). Their home record in the Europa league is even more impressive: the Swiss side have won four of their five matches at home this season and are yet to encounter a loss. They have also managed to keep four clean sheets in a row and the last goal they have conceded at home in a Europa League match was against Genk back in October. Another clean sheet against Tottenham will be good enough for Basel to qualify into the next round.
Things have gone downhill for Tottenham Hotspur in the last few weeks. The London side have won only one of their last six matches in all competitions. They come into this match on the back of a 2-2 draw against Everton, which means they are now just two points ahead of Arsenal, who have a game in hand. A victory for the Gunners against Norwich will mean that Spurs will move out of the top four in the league, while they travel to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Andre Villas-Boas’s team have a tough fixture list for the remainder of the season, and their run in the Europa League could well act as a distraction in their goal of achieving Champions League qualification for next season.
Interestingly, Tottenham Hotspur are yet to win any of their away fixtures in the Europa League this season, although it must be added that they don’t need to win this match in normal time either. But Spurs will be once again without Gareth Bale in this match, due to an injury which couldn’t have come at a more crucial time in the season.
Basel are without any major injury concerns at the moment. Park Joo-Ho, Philipp Degen and Marcelo Diaz are all available for selection once again after missing out the first leg through suspension. But it will be interesting to see if Murat Yakin makes any changes to the side that performed excellently in the first leg. In all likelihood Joo-Ho will replace Voser as the left back, while Diaz is expected to replace Geoffrey Serey Die in the midfield. This will initiate a change in formation with Basel shifting to a 4-2-3-1 formation with Elneny and Diaz forming the double pivot the midfield, while Frei is pushed up in the hole behind Strellar.
Raul Bobadilla, who came on as a substitute against St. Gallen will miss this match once again as he is ineligible to play for Basel in the Europa League this season.
Probable Starting Line-Up (4-2-3-1) – Sommer (GK); Steinhofer, Schar, Dragovic, Joo-Ho; Diaz, Elneny; Stocker, Frei, Salah; Streller.
Unlike Murat Yakin, Andre Villas-Boas has a very long injury list to deal with at the moment. If the result at home to Basel wasn’t bad enough, that match also saw William Gallas and Aaron Lennon being added to that injury list. Tottenham currently have six first team players out with injury — Sandro, Kaboul, Bale, Gallas, Lennon and Defoe. So AVB has very limited options on the bench at the moment, hence only one change is expected to the starting line-up that was fielded against Everton this weekend.
Kyle Walker, who missed the first leg of this tie due to suspension, will make his way back into the starting line-up, along with Assou-Ekotto, who was dropped to the bench in the match against Everton. This means Steven Caulker will be replaced by Vertonghen, who played as a left-back against Everton, in the center of the defence.
Probable Starting-Lineup (4-2-3-1) – Friedel (GK); Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto; Parker, Dembele; Dempsey, Holtby, Sigurdsson; Adebayor.
Basel 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Basel will be too strong at home for Spurs to turn this tie around. The Swiss champions have an excellent defensive record at St. Jakob-Park, and given that Tottenham are missing so many key players through injury, it will be hard for them to cause any real trouble to Basel without exposing their defence to counter-attack. Tottenham will score in this match, but so will Basel, and considering the form of both the sides, the Swiss team might win this leg along with the tie.