Thursday 11 April 2013

UEFA Europa League: Tottenham can brush off Basel, says Freund

Assistant coach says Spurs can win in Basel; Chelsea and Newcastle also in Europa League action

  • Andre Villas-Boas is without a number of first-team regulars for Spurs' trip to Basel

  • Chelsea's David Luiz could be deployed as an emergency left-back against Rubin Kazan

  • Newcastle's James Perch and Jonas Gutierrez share a joke ahead of Benfica's visit

Three teams from the Barclays Premier League are in action this evening hoping to seal a place in the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League.

After being held 2-2 at White Hart Lane last week Tottenham Hotspur need, in all likelihood a win, in Basel to progress. Newcastle United must overcome a 3-1 deficit against Benfica at St James’ Park, while Chelsea are the club in the best position, taking a 3-1 first-leg lead to Moscow to play Rubin Kazan.

Basel v Tottenham Hotspur (2-2)

Steffen Freund believes that Tottenham Hotspur’s strong away form this season will bode well when they take on Basel in Switzerland. After recovering from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 in the first leg at White Hart Lane, the assistant head coach is confident Spurs can reach the last four.

"We are confident because we’ve played so well away from home all season"
Steffen Freund

“We’re playing against a strong team with good individual quality and we know it will be difficult,” Freund said. “But we are confident because we’ve played so well away from home all season.

“If we perform how we know we can, we have a good chance of progressing to the semi-finals. We’ve played 11 matches in this competition and we’ve been strong throughout. We certainly have the desire and determination to do it.”

The Londoners' task will be rendered all the harder by the absences of Gareth Bale (ankle), Aaron Lennon (knee), William Gallas (calf), and Jermain Defoe (pelvis). Spurs expect all four to be back for the Barclays Premier League match at home to Manchester City a week on Sunday.

Tottenham Hotspur (from): Lloris, Friedel, Walker, Naughton, Dawson, Caulker, Vertonghen, Assou-Ekotto, Holtby, Livermore, Dembele, Carroll, Parker, Ceballos, Huddlestone, Sigurdsson, Dempsey, Adebayor, Coulthirst.

Newcastle United v Benfica (1-3)

Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew has called on his players to emulate Barcelona if they are to reach the semi-finals.

"Hatem Ben Arfa has made an unbelievable recovery – he will be involved"
Alan Pardew

Benfica have not lost in 31 matches in all competitions  and Newcastle must become the second team this season after Barcelona to beat Jorge Jesus's team by two goals if they are to advance. The Catalan side won 2-0 in the UEFA Champions League at the Estadio da Luz in October.

"This is a Champions League team and if it weren't for Celtic's fantastic performance in the group, they could have been competing in the Champions League," Pardew said. "They have a real, real threat on the counter-attack, and the game could get away from us, so we have got to be very much on our guard that we approach it in the right manner, give ourselves a chance and try to get us to the end of the game in a position where we can get it back.

"I would still feel confident two goals down with 10 minutes to go, the way that we are and the potential we have in the group, and the way I can affect it off the bench."

Pardew may be helped in this with the surprise return of Hatem Ben Arfa from a hamstring injury. The France forward was thought to be out for the rest of the season with the injury but has returned to training and is likely to be used as an impact substitute.

"Hatem Ben Arfa has made an unbelievable recovery – he will be involved tomorrow,” Pardew said. "I am sure if he is needed, he will be somebody who can turn the game, so I have assets that have come to me maybe just in time."

But Pardew will be without central defender Steven Taylor, who has joined Fabricio Coloccini on the sidelines with a knee problem suffered in training. The manager hopes Taylor will be fit to play in the Tyne-Wear derby on Sunday against Sunderland.

Newcastle (from): Krul, Elliot, Harper, Simpson, Williamson, Yanga-Mbiwa, Perch, Bigirimana, Cabaye, Anita, Gutierrez, Ben Arfa, Gosling, Marveaux, Obertan, Sissoko, Cisse, Ameobi, Campbell.

Rubin Kazan v Chelsea (1-3)

Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez is weighing up his options at left-back with Ryan Bertrand forced to miss Chelsea's second leg with Rubin Kazan due to illness.

"David Luiz has also played as a left full-back before so maybe he can be an option"
Rafa Benitez

Ashley Cole limped out of last week's FA Cup quarter-final replay victory over Manchester United with a hamstring problem, while Bertrand has not travelled to Moscow after picking up a virus.

Benitez is considering playing either Paulo Ferreira or the 18-year-old Nathan Ake in the role, although the Spaniard may instead switch David Luiz from his customary centre-back position.

"David Luiz has also played as a left full-back before so maybe he can be an option," Benitez told a press conference at the Luzhniki Stadium, the venue for Chelsea's 2008 UEFA Champions League final defeat by United.

"I have an idea but we will train today, see how everything is, and after we will decide. I don't think it would be a big problem for Ake if he has to play there. He has played for us and trained with us."

Despite their comfortable lead the Chelsea manager insists his side will not take Rubin Kazan lightly on the artificial surface in Moscow, especially as injuries are beginning to take their toll. Defender Gary Cahill (knee) and midfielder Romeu (knee) are also sidelined along with cup-tied striker Demba Ba.

"We have a lot of respect for Rubin Kazan," he said. "We know they are a good team. For us to lose [players] is not ideal, we have to manage the situation and we have confidence we can go through. You have to play on a synthetic pitch and adapt to that but it will be the same for everyone."

Chelsea (from): Cech, Turnbull, Hilario, Ivanovic, Ferreira, Luiz, Terry, Azpilicueta, Ramires, Oscar, Mata, Benayoun, Mikel, Moses, Lampard, Hazard, Marin, Torres, Ake.

UEFA Europa League quarter-final first legs

Benfica 3-1 Newcastle United
Chelsea 3-1 Rubin Kazan
Fenerbahce 2-0 Lazio
Tottenham Hotspur 2-2 FC Basel

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Key Points

  • Three Premier League teams striving to reach UEFA Europa League semi-finals this evening
  • Chelsea defending 3-1 lead against Rubin Kazan; injury depleted Tottenham Hotspur must win in Basel
  • Newcastle United host Benfica looking to overturn 3-1 first-leg deficit