So, in the oddball rules of the Europa League, finishing second appears to be a good thing.
After tonight’s disposal of the plucky Greek Panathinaikos, Spurs are into the knockout phases, and while hardly setting the footballing world alight, were unbeaten in the group stage.
According to the rules, Group winners and the four best third-place finishers from the Champions League are seeded and the second-place group finishers and the other four third-place finishers….are you still with me….are not seeded. You also can’t play someone you played in the group stage and can’t play someone from your own country…at least not in this round. (I think the rules were written by the guys that write IKEA instructions)
So by finishing second, Spurs face the daunting prospect of playing er…Plzen, Dnipro, Genk, Ruben Kazan (didn’t he direct On the Waterfront?) Cluj or Olympiakos. Who they avoid playing include Inter Milan, Athletico Madrid, Chelsea, Zenit St Petersburg, Stuttgart, Napoli, Newcastle and Beyer Leverkusen.
I know which group I would rather take my chances with. There are a couple of potential difficult teams in the seeded clubs – Benfica, Hannover and Fenerbache but even those teams should be fearing Spurs rather than the other way around.
Of course, watch Spurs get Metalist Karkhov and go out.
The last few weeks have seen the good the bad and the ugly. Spurs were particularly good in routing an impressive West Ham team. Were pretty bad in the second half against Liverpool and the win over Fulham was down-right ugly.
Still, maximum points can’t be sniffed at. And at least at Fulham Spurs kept a clean sheet, although that was more down to a lacklustre display by the Cottagers than any great shakes by the Spurs defence.
Am I the only one whose heart leaps to the back of my throat every time Gallas touches the ball?
It is quite clear that Spurs need Dembele in the line-up. He doesn’t do anything super spectacular but he just seems to be able to get the ball, keep the ball and then make the smart pass. And it is very effective. It is a pity he has been injured and it is interesting that the time Spurs struggle has been when he is out. Is he a natural and able replacement for Modric.? Not sure about that, but he is showing why Spurs spent so much money on him. It will be interesting to see what AVB will do with him when Parker returns in the next week or so. Maybe a three person central midfield of Sandro-Dembele-Parker with the Belgian playing further up field behind the striker…much where the sort disappointing Dempsey is playing now. That would be a gritty hard tackling and perhaps overly defensive midfield but aided by Bale and Lennon a pretty impressive one.
On the subject of the American, he has been playing better of late and the absence of Bale has seen him play in a wider left winger spot. I am sure those Greek defenders gulped when they saw Defoe, Dempsey and Adebayor lining up together. All of whom scored tonight by the way.
Bale seemed to have stepped it up a notch recently too and his displays against Liverpool (face-plant own goal notwithstanding) and West Ham were among his best. But now he is injured for a couple of weeks. Maybe it will give him a bit of a rest so maybe a small blessing in disguise.
Spurs’ next three matches which he is likely to miss are Everton, Swansea and Stoke. Difficult but not unwinnable games. After losing three on the hop Spurs are back in fourth, tied with the third place disaster that is Chelsea and on a three game win streak. Beating Everton will be a big boost. So here is hoping.