Tottenham can expect a thorough examination of their European credentials in the 2nd leg of the Europa League tie with Lyon. Spurs hold a slender advantage from last week’s meeting at White Hart Lane where Gareth Bale’s last minute strike proved crucial against a Lyon team who showed themselves to be well-organised and skillful team with a work ethic that will test Tottenham to the limit.
This will be Tottenham’s third European match in France and their second against Lyon. The first meeting between the two clubs was in November, 1967 in the European Cup Winners’ Cup when a bad-tempered game ended in Lyon’s favour. Both sides had been reduced to ten men when Alan Mullery and Andre Guy were dismissed in the first half after a brawl and the only goal of the game was scored with fifteen minutes remaining by Fleury Di Nallo. Tottenham want to avoid a similar score tonight as Lyon would progress to the next stage on the away goals rule as they did in 1967 following a 3 – 4 defeat at White Hart Lane. Spurs will also hope that the match doesn’t follow the same physical pattern of the 1967 encounter which was called the ‘Battle of Lyon’ in one English newspaper headline and infuriated the normally calm Bill Nicholson.
The Tottenham fans in France have already experienced the unpleasant side of European football when a group where attacked in a Lyon pub last night. This follows on from the nasty scenes and events of the attack on Spurs supporters in Rome ahead of the group match with Lazio in November.
Champions League Experience
Over the past decade Lyon have built up a wealth of experience in Europe including the Champions League. Lyon have been French champions seven times and every title was won in seven successive seasons from 2001-02. They have won the French Cup on five occasions and are the current holders. Lyon have played in the Champions League twelve times and in 2009-10 reached the semi-finals after appearing in the quarter-finals on three previous occasions. As Andre Villas-Boas said at his press conference ahead of the first match, and reported in the Independent,
“I called it when the draw came out: it’s like a Champions League tie, and I still fell the same way. This is a club with ambitions to win trophies every season and a team that can cause problems to us.”
Lyon used that experience to top their group in this season’s Europa League with 16 points, winning five and drawing one of their six matches. Their first defeat in the competition was last week in Tottenham.
Lyon are currently second in the French Lique 1, three points behind leaders, PSG. They followed their defeat in Tottenham with a 4 – 0 win at Bordeaux on Sunday. Their goals were scored bu Grenier (2) (1 pen), Fofana and Lacazette.
Lyon with the former Tottenham player, Steed Malbranque, working hard in midfield showed at White Hart Lane that they are dangerous opponents. They defended well but attacked with pace and threatened on a number of occasions after their second half equaliser. Spurs will have to alert to the threat of striker, Gomis who displayed his ability last week. Defensively, Lyon were well organised and solid but they found it difficult to cope with Gareth Bale and the combination play of Aaron Lennon and Kyle Walker on the right caused them problems. They will be reluctant to concede too many free-kicks in dangerous positions following Bale’s stunning goals last week.Tottenham
It would appear that Andre Villas-Boas intends to continue with Brad Friedel as the goalkeeper for the Europa League matches. The starting line-up could well be the same as last week with William Gallas preferred in central defence due to his vast European experience and Clint Dempsey in support of Emmanuel Adebayor for his hard work work and graft. Lewis Holtby might be considered but is more likely to come on as a late substitution if the situation requires it. Otherwise the there are few options for change with Jermain Defoe still out through injury.
Tottenham showed determination and application in the scoreless draw against Lazio in Rome and will require similar endeavour this evening. Spurs want to score and require a goal to negate the advantage Lyon gained with their strike at White Hart Lane. It will be a close encounter in a typical, evenly balanced European second leg match which could go either way. Tottenham will be hoping that Bale can reproduce his form and goals of recent weeks and that they can find other goal scorers within the team.
Who will progress? I have a feeling that Tottenham might just win through after a very tight and edge of the seats ninety minutes.