FC Basel v Spurs, 8.05pm, Live on ITV1
Match odds: FC Basel 2.52, Spurs 2.98, the draw 3.65
LOYALTY is an admirable quality but sometimes it can be misplaced.
Veteran centre-back William Gallas has been one of Andre Villas-Boas’ automatic picks in the Europa League but some of the Frenchman’s performances have been atrocious.
In last week’s first leg at White Hart Lane, Gallas looked utterly bewildered as Basel ghosted past the Spurs defence seemingly at will. That performance followed his dozy display in the San Siro which culminated in the own goal that forced extra time against Inter Milan.
Every Spurs fan I have spoken to has expressed relief Gallas is injured for this game but another absence is far from welcome.
Gareth Bale turned his ankle at the end of last week’s 2-2 draw and will miss this trip to St Jakob Park which means Spurs will have another opportunity to prove they are not a one-man team. Jermain Defoe is also out while Aaron Lennon is also expected to stay on the sidelines.
One could easily make a case for a Basel victory. Opta tell us the Swiss side haven’t lost a competitive home game since August and in the Europa League they have won four of their five home matches.
Last season they dumped Manchester United out of the Champions League with a 2-1 home win and also beat Bayern Munich 1-0 in the knockout phase. You could also point to the fact Spurs are yet to win away from home in this season’s Europa League.
However, I have a strong gut feeling Spurs will win the match and the tie. Spurs are yet to win away from home in the tournament but haven’t had to win any of those games.
Sometimes Villas-Boas slips into containment mode and that has got his team into trouble in matches at Lyon and Inter Milan. However, when Spurs have had to scrap, up the tempo and really push for goals, they have succeeded.
When they needed a late winner away to Lyon, they got it. When they had to go for the jugular in extra time against Inter they scored the goal that ultimately put them through.
When they had to recover from 2-0 down last week they did so. That singular focus can be a powerful force and the players’ minds will be further concentrated by the knowledge Spurs don’t have another game for 10 days.
Spurs were held to a 2-2 draw at home by Everton at the weekend but there were positives to take from the game. Emmanuel Adebayor scored a quickfire opener, set up Gylfi Sigurdsson’s late equaliser with a shot that rebounded to the Icelandic international off a post, and generally looked far more energised and lively than he has for much of the campaign.
Both Adebayor and Sigurdsson scored against Basel last week and Sigurdsson has now scored six goals in his last 10 matches for club and country.
It’s also worth considering that Spurs have racked up nine Premier League away wins this season and only Manchester United have collected more. It’s also worth noting in this season’s Champions League qualifiers asel needed a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Molde then lost 2-1 at home to CFR Cluj.
Basel are strong at home, with good attacking players like Valentin Stocker, Marco Streller and Mohamed Salah, but they are not invincible. The value lies with Spurs who are 2.98 to win and 2.58 to qualify.
Best Bet: Back Spurs to win at 2.98
Back Spurs to qualify at 2.58