Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas believes that the European experience of Europa League quarterfinal opponents Basel poses the biggest threat to his side progressing in the competition.
The Swiss outfit have been regulars in continental competition in recent years and last season reached the last 16 of the Champions League having seen off Manchester United in the group phase. Since then the club has lost talented young midfielders Xerdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka, while Murat Yakin has taken over as manager, but Basel showed the quality they still possess by knocking out one of the tournament favorites, and conquerors of Liverpool, Zenit St Petersburg, in the last round.
“The team has changed and the manager has changed but this is a team that is used to winning trophies and used to playing European football,” Villas-Boas said, according to Tottenham’s official website. “So they are in the same line as teams we’ve faced before, Lyon and Inter Milan, perhaps not with the same European pedigree and trophy cabinet, but a team that is used to winning and that makes them a difficult opponent.”
Tottenham only just scraped into the last eight of the competition as they let a 3-0 first-leg lead slip against Inter Milan before eventually progressing in extra time. That result in Italy was part of a run of three successive defeats, but Spurs got back on track with a 2-1 victory at Swansea on Saturday.
Basel, meanwhile, lie three points clear in the race to retain their Swiss Super League title. Yakin, though, accepts that Tottenham are favorites for the tie but does not want his side to merely go to White Hart Lane and sit back.
"Spurs are very strong but that is what the Europa League is about," he said, according to UEFA’s official website. "They are favorites but we are in the quarterfinals and we want to get further. We know their strength at home. It will be a great challenge but we will compete. Our role is not just defensive -- we need an away goal."
Yakin will be without full-backs Joo-Ho Park and former Liverpool man Philipp Degen as well as midfielder Marcelo Diaz. Midfielder Cabral is also a fitness doubt.
For Tottenham, Jermain Defoe will be missing with a groin injury.
D: Walker, Caulker, Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto
M: Parker, Dembele
Lennon, Bale, Dempsey
D: Sauro, Schar, Dragovic, Steinhofer
M: Elneny, Cabral
Salah, Stocker, Frei
Prediction: The loss of Defoe is a significant blow to Tottenham, with Emmanuel Adebayor offering very little this season. But with Basel missing both their first-choice full-backs, Spurs could really exploit any weakness down the flanks. The Swiss side’s away form has not been nearly as impressive as at home this season and Tottenham should come away with a win that gives them a string chance of making the last four.
Tottenham 2-0 Basel
Where to Watch: The first leg of the Europa League quarterfinal will kick-off at 3.05 p.m. Coverage will be provided by Fox Soccer Plus, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.