Friday 07 December 2012
Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool safely negotiated their passage through to the knockout stages of the UEFA Europa League last night, while Newcastle United, who had already qualified, went down with a young side in Bordeaux.
Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas expressed his excitement at the possibility of faing his former side Chelsea in the Europa League after Spurs progressed to the knockout stages a 3-1 win over Panathinaikos at White Hart Lane.
"If we cross Chelsea, it is going to be two magnificent games"
Villas-Boas thinks destiny could pit him and his former employers, who enter the competition after finishing third in their UEFA Champions League group, against each other in the last 16 of the competition should Spurs beat their next opponents.
"Sometimes it's destiny," he said. "Hopefully if we go through we can meet each other.
"They have a team that can win the trophy, so they will be up to the late stages of the competition. We hope to do so. If we cross it is going to be two magnificent games, for sure."
Spurs, who needed just a draw to progress, took the lead against Panathinaikos through Emmanuel Adebayor but the Greek side hit back with an equaliser from Zeca.
Toche missed a good chance to put the Greeks ahead, and Spurs eventually went on to seal the win thanks to an own goal from Orestis Karnezis and Jermain Defoe's 13th strike of the season.
Brendan Rodgers believes Liverpool took another significant step forward with a 1-0 victory away to Udinese. Jordan Henderson's first-half strike, his maiden European goal, was enough for the Reds to top Group A.
"We have to make them better players and educate them"
The Liverpool manager is looking forward to concentrating on his side's Barclays Premier League form for the next couple of months with a testing trip to West Ham United on Sunday first up.
"We won and that is good for our future," Rodgers said. "We had two objectives coming into this stage of the tournament, our 10th game in the competition.
"Firstly, qualification was important and secondly, we wanted to give experience to some of younger players and we have done that. At the end, when they had 10 men on a difficult pitch, our idea was better - control the game, pass and hide the ball - especially with young players in the side.
"This is the challenge we have to make them better players and educate them in the game whilst progressing and thankfully we've done that.
"It was always going to be a tight group and you can see how it finished [Liverpool, Anzhi and Young Boys all on 10 points], but I said to the players I always thought we could finish top."
Alan Pardew has told his young Newcastle United players that they may have to go out on loan to learn their trade. The Newcastle manager handed starts to James Tavernier, Shane Ferguson, Mehdi Abeid, Gael Bigirimana, Sammy Ameobi and Nile Ranger in Bordeaux, but the French side secured a comfortable 2-0 to clinch top spot in Group D.
"The players need to learn more about the pressure of the jersey here"
Pardew expected more from his team and said they could be sent from Tyneside to further their education, depending on injuries and the club's activity in the January transfer window.
"When this [Europa League] comes around in February, I am hoping to have a stronger position in the Premier League and to have a stronger squad to pick from, certainly stronger than I had tonight.
"A few of those young players, like Nile Ranger....he has only had one reserve game and that was a bit tough on him. But we felt he deserved the right to play a game and he has trained well.
"But certainly looking at my group there, they need to learn a little bit more about this game away from the black and white and the pressure of the jersey here and the level we are playing at.
"I will probably look at loaning a few of those who played tonight, hopefully after January when I have got a stronger position in the squad."
Pardew was at least able to comfort himself with positive injury news from home as he turned his attention to Monday night's Barclays Premier League trip to Fulham.
He could have Davide Santon, Cheick Tiote, Jonas Gutierrez, Hatem Ben Arfa, Gabriel Obertan and Demba Ba back for the game at Craven Cottage.
"The news I am getting from back home is that Cheick, Demba, Obertan and Hatem will train tomorrow, and we hope that Jonas can train on Sunday and Davide Santon too, and we will be in a lot better position for that game," he said.
Group winners (seeded)
Liverpool, Viktoria Plzen, Fenerbahce, Bordeaux, Steaua Bucharest, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, Genk, Rubin Kazan, Lyons, Lazio, Metalist Kharkiv, Hannover 96.
Anji Makhachkala, Atletico Madrid, Borussia Moenchengladbach, Newcastle United, Stuttgart, Napoli, Basel, Inter Milan, Sparta Prague, Tottenham Hotspur, Bayer Leverkusen, Levante.
Qualifying from the UEFA Champions League
Chelsea*, CFR Cluj*, Olympiacos*, Benfica*, Dynamo Kiev, Zenit St Petersburg, Ajax, BATE Borisov. (*seed)
Seeded teams will only face unseeded team in the draw on 20 December for the fixtures on 14 and 21 February. Teams from the same association cannot be drawn against each other.