White Hart Lane, London
April 4th, 20:05 GMT kick-off
Switzerland’s domestic champions and league leaders FC Basel will be travelling to North London full of confidence with the aim of creating history. If the Swiss champions can pull off a victory over Tottenham Hotspur in both legs, then they will enter the semifinals of a European competition for the first time. The magnitude of the occasion makes this clash a mammoth one. It might be a Europa League quarterfinal clash, but this fixture has been much awaited across the globe for many reasons.
FC Basel will be locking horns with Tottenham Hotspur for the first time and there are no favorites according to history or stats. But history books aren’t completely empty as Christian Gross has coached both sides while Thimothee Atouba has played for both Basel and Tottenham.
Hosts Tottenham Hotspur have put things on track with a win against Swansea City at the weekend after a string of 3 losses to Liverpool, Inter and Fulham. Tottenham are in a tough battle with Chelsea and Arsenal for the top 4 spot which will guarantee put them in Champions League equation unlike last year. With an important fixture lined up against Everton this weekend, it will be interesting to see Andre Villas Boas’s approach for this home encounter. Tottenham had tougher fixtures in the previous rounds in form of Lyon and Inter Milan; comparatively, Spurs-Basel looks easier for the North London faithful. Tottenham’s casual approach was nearly dealt a huge blow at San Siro, however, and the tactician and his wards do not need another wake up call after that catastrophic display against Inter Milan.
FC Basel currently lead the Swiss Super League title race with 52 points from 25 games. Basel’s nearest rival in the league is Grasshopper Zurich who are 3 points behind the trendsetters. The gap is effectively equivalent to 4 as FC Basel enjoys a superior goal difference when compared to their nearest rivals (27 to 10). The away side are currently on a hot run of form as they have suffered just one defeat in their last 15 games. Domestically they are putting teams to shreds with 3 wins and 3 shutouts. In European competition, Basel got the better of Dnipro in the round of 32 and Zenit in the round of 16 to book a place against Tottenham in the quarterfinals. Zenit was a tough test for the Swiss champions, but they overcame a red card to influential Diaz at home to register a two goal victory which helped them to advance despite a loss in Russia. Zenit was a tough test they passed, and Basel will be hoping that it will help them to get the better of Spurs.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris is back from injury after missing the outing against Swansea due to a slight knee injury. The French captain’s return might not alter things in a big way as Villas Boas might stick with his no.2 Brad Friedel in goal, which means Lloris will make it to the bench. Jermain Defoe suffered another injury and the out of form striker will be unavailable for this clash along with long-term absentees Sandro and Kaboul. Impressive youngster Tom Carroll joined the injury table and misses out an opportunity to enhance his experience.
There might be some tweaking in defence for the clash as Villas Boas has rotated his defense between European and league games. Kyle Walker and Jan Vertonghen have played every minute in Europe this season, Walker is suspended for this fixture leaving Vertonghen to continue his adventure. Vertonghen has been a revelation since moving to Tottenham from Ajax and will be dreaming of a successful return to his previous home for the finals. Club captain Michael Dawson has been a prominent figure in domestic revival, hence will be rested for the weekend clash. William Gallas has been a regular in European games, but he remains susceptible and was torn into pieces by Inter Milan the other night. Gallas might lose his place to young Steven Caulker who is slowly marching up the ladders into England squad. Naughton seemed vulnerable against Swansea on the left hand side of defence, and it is likely that he will shift to right and Benoit Asou-Ekotto will take up the left back role in the absence of Kyle Walker.
Andre Villas Boas has rotated his defence on numerous occasions, but the same cannot be said about Tottenham’s midfield. Unless forced by injuries or suspension, the favourites have picked themselves. Aaron Lennon’s return from injury means that the Tottenham midfield will see a change from the Inter Milan line up. Livermore is likely to return to his more customary role on the bench, so it means Dembele will occupy a more influential position in the center of the park along with Parker. Super hot Gareth Bale will be flanked by Lennon and Sigurdsson. This trio are primarily responsible for goals at a time when Tottenham’s strikers have forgotten their scoring boots. Holtby and Huddlestone are likely to settle for a spot in bench with the former more likely to see the pitch at some point to make an impact on the game.
Andre Villas Boas has plenty of problems up front. Adebayor and Defoe have been putting up sub-standard performances in front of goal and the manager was in a dilemma about the starting spot. It is solved for the time being as Defoe is unavailable, which means Adebayor will get the nod once again. Dempsey is also available and will provide cover for the striking department. Young striker Shaque Coulthirst and attacking midfielder Cristian Ceballos have been performing exceptionally well for the reserves and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them get a look in at some point.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Friedel; Naughton, Caulker, Vertonghen, Asou-Ekotto; Parker, Dembele; Lennon, Bale, Sigurdsson; Adebayor.
FC Basel will be riding high on confidence and morale after their 4-0 win against FC Luzern. They rotated their squad for the league match keeping in mind their Europa League tie against Tottenham, and will be happy with the victory and performance to go with it. Switzerland’s iconic striker Alexander Frei has announced his retirement after this season and he is all set to to take up the Sporting Directors post at FC Luzern. He will hoping to script history before taking up his new career path and this clash presents him an ideal opportunity to make it big.
Yan Sommer is the only player in Basel’s line-up to have played throughout this campaign. The Switzerland custodian has an astonishing 4 clean sheets in his last 5 games, and he is all set for the battle against Gareth Bale and co. Joo Ho Park and former Liverpool man Philip Degan are the regular wingback but their suspension means Steinhofer and Voser are expected to deputize in their absence. Steinhofer and Voser will come under scrutiny via the electric pace and trickery of Tottenham’s Bale, Lennon, Sigurdsson and Holtby. Young center backs Schar and Dragovic are expected to keep their spots on this big occasion. The back 5 have been consistent for the visitors over a period of time, but suspension means that the services of regular wing-backs will be missed.
Experienced defensive midfielder Giles Yapi Yapo is expected to partner Cabral in the middle of the park to thwart Tottenham’s possession based, high pressing game. Serie Die is another contender for the starting spot in the middle of the park, if Cabral isn’t able to shake his injury concerns. Coach Murat Yakin has rotated his midfield exceptionally well this season, and both the enforcers will be eager to put a decent shift in an intimidating atmosphere at White Hart Lane. Fabian Frei is expected to keep his spot in right midfield at the expense of David Daegen. Marcelo Diaz has been an influential figure for Basel in the no. 10 role but his suspension has left no choice for Yakin. Legendary Alexander Frei is expected to take the No:10 role in his absence. Left winger Valentin Stocker completes the midfield quintet.
Away games are usually tricky and most teams go with a safety first approach. Likewise Basel are expected to field a single striker strategy, and it will be their talismanic skipper and target man Marco Streller. Can we witness some magic from Switzerland’s deadly duo of Alexander Frei and Marco Streller?
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Sommer; Voser, Schar, Dragovic, Steinhofer; Cabral, Yipi Yapo; F.Frei, A.Frei, Stocker; Streller
- FC Basel are the only domestic champions remaining in Europa League
- Tottenham Hotspur are the only previous winners still in the competition. They won the UEFA Cup twice in 1972 and 1984
- FC Basel have a record of scoring late goals: 10 of their 12 goals have come after 60 minute, with 6 goals coming after 75 minutes.
- FC Basel have recorded the most yellow cards and red cards in this season’s Europa League: 23 yellows and 3 red cards to date.
- Tottenham’s 10 game unbeaten run was ended by Inter Milan in the last round’s second leg.
Facts Courtesy Tottenham Hotspur and Goal.com.
Player To Watch Out For
Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur)
Gareth Bale is proving be too hot to handle for opponents at the moment. Fresh from the rest he got after the suspension against Inter Milan, Bale will be raring to go in front of White Hart Lane. Bale’s manager believes that he is a complete package who can run, cross, finish, head and to top it all off, has a good long arm for throw-ins. Bale is a technically sound player blessed with a sprinter’s pace that makes him difficult to man mark or catch. Zinedine Zidane and the rest of the world believe that he is nearing the levels of Ronaldo and Messi. With such praise at hand, Gareth Bale will be eager to prove his detractors wrong and supporters right by putting in an immaculate display against Basel.
Tottenham Hotspur 3 – 1 FC Basel
Tottenham are making White Hart Lane a fortress in European competitions. They completely outplayed Inter Milan on this turf during their last European visit after killing Lyon’s threat. Home games are crucial in these kinds of marquee fixtures, and Gareth Bale and co. will be hoping to put matters to bed with a superior performance at the Lane. FC Basel are on a fine run at the moment and are expected to provide stern competition, but this Tottenham side has much better quality across the pitch and are expected to take the lead to Switzerland in a week’s time.