Match Preview, Tottenham vs AEL Limassol. (2nd leg)

Match date & time: Thursday 28th August 2014. 7:45pm GMT KO.

Competition: Europa League play-off second leg.

Venue: White Hart Lane.

TV: Live on ITV4.

1st leg result: Limassol 1-2 Tottenham.

Tottenham’s place in the Europa League group stages is one hurdle away, a 2nd leg fixture against Limassol at the Lane after we were victorious with a 2-1 win away from home last week. We know after the first game that Limassol are no push overs, & do pose a threat – probably more so than we anticipated, but with two away goals to our name, and the form we’ve shown at the start of this season, it seems as though we should breeze through to the Europa League group stages, but you can never know and the players need to be ready to finish the game off, most preferably early on in the game to give us some real comfort. Hopefully, we can score a few goals and put in a good performance for the home faithful, which always insights confidence into the players and the fans ahead of a big game against Liverpool on Sunday.

AEL Limassol have some good players, but their top player for me is Sardinero, who scored their goal and showed that he is a very lively striker, who has ability to finish off chances. Lima da Silva is another player who is a threat for AEL, he’s quick and skilful in midfield and holds the spark for the Cypriot side. Sardinero and da Silva are the players I’m sure we’ll be looking to contain. Limassol don’t have any injury concerns coming into the game, so are looking fresh and I’m sure they’ll be looking to cause an upset! Although they have a couple of decent players, I’m sure we’ll have enough to see them off, even if we put out a weakened side to play the Cypriot champions. At Home is where Limassol are threatening, so if we can get past them there, we should be able to finish them off at White Hart Lane.

IMG_1366.JPG
The team news for Tottenham is that Kyle Walker (pelvis) remains out, with Roberto Soldado (neck/back) also out. Michel Vorm, who is under a special fitness programme, isn’t registered for the game along with newest signing Federico Fazio. The good news is that after a back injury, Vlad Chiriches is fit to return to the squad and hopefully he can get some minutes after missing the pre-season fixtures, to get back to full fitness; if he can perform as he did at times last season, he could be an important player for us this season. Paulinho and Andros Townsend, who were left out of the squad to face QPR at the weekend are also expected to return to the 18 man squad.

With Roberto Soldado out with an injury, and Emmanuel Adebayor expected to be rested, Harry Kane looks to have an opportunity to play the lone striker role. Hopefully he can continue to perform well and score a few goals; he can be an important player this season, from the bench and in the cup competitions especially. He can be the one to provide the goals in this game, as he did in the first leg getting the winner for us. I think ahead of a big game at White Hart Lane against Liverpool in the Premier League and with a 2-1 win already in the bag from the first leg, a ‘weakened’ team will be put out, even though with the strong squad we have, we don’t really have a ‘weak’ team, which holds us in good stead for the season ahead. Players like Andros Townsend, Lewis Holtby, Paulinho and Vlad Chiriches have good opportunities to show what they can do; to the fans and to Mauricio Pochettino. All squad competition is good competition and I always like to see players given a chance in games like these, & possibly the inclusion of some young players too, such as Milos Veljkovic.

Looking forward to the game! Important to get off to a good start, and finish off the tie early. Let’s make it an easy game, not a tense one, eh Spurs? The game is live on ITV4, and you can also follow updates on my twitter account @AddictedToSpurs, including photos, videos and more. Let’s get to the group stages! COYS!!

My predicted team to face AEL Limassol at the Lane:
4-2-3-1
Friedel
Naughton – Chiriches – Veljkovic – Davies
Dembele – Sandro
Lennon – Holtby – Townsend
Kane.

Mauricio Pochettino press conference pre Limassol:

Match Preview, AEL Limassol vs Tottenham. (1st leg)

Match date & time: Thursday 21st August 2014. 5pm GMT KO.

Competition: Europa League – play-off stage.

Venue: Antonis Papadopoulos Stadium, Larnaca, Cyprus.

TV: Not televised in the UK.

The Europa League has come back round the corner. Last season, we made the round of 16 before meeting our match in Benfica. This season, our aim as it was last season is to win the competition, but it will be very difficult. It starts here, in the play-off round to enter the group stages. We had to get through this last year, facing Dinamo Tblisli and we got through the game with ease, and now we’ll be hoping to breeze past AEL Limassol in similar fashion. We should be taking this competition seriously, because, as Pochettino has said, it gives us another chance to secure Champions League. Even if that chance is slim, difficult and even more unrealistic than getting top 4, it’s a chance and given a good draw and luck goes our way, who knows; we have the squad to do well, that is for sure.

AEL Limassol were champions of the Cypriot division 1 in the 2013/14 season, winning 19, drawing 5 and losing just 2. This got them into the Champions League third qualifying round, where they met a strong Zenit St. Petersburg side, managed by our former head coach Andre Villas Boas. In the first leg, at home, they beat AVB’s side 1-0, a massive win for their club and City, but in the second leg away from home they couldn’t finish the job as Zenit ran away 3-0 victors. This should show us that this could be a really tough test that if we underestimate them, we could get stung by an obviously ‘plucky’ AEL Limassol team who will no doubt be pumped up for the game.

IMG_1174.JPG
The team news for Tottenham is that Emmanuel Adebayor, Christian Eriksen, Etienne Capoue, Younes Kaboul, Michel Vorm and Etienne Capoue have been left in London for the first leg, while Vlad Chiriches (back) and Kyle Walker (pelvis) are still suffering from their injuries. Good news is that Jan Vertonghen, Nacer Chadli, Paulinho and Mousa Dembele are back in contention for the game after returning from the World Cup, so we’re hoping that they get a run out and then be ready for the game against QPR in the Premier League on Sunday after missing the West Ham game. Youngsters Milos Veljkovic and Luke McGee (GK) have also traveled with the squad along with Tom Carroll. It’s a very strong squad and we’ll be looking to take a strong lead into the second leg at White Hart Lane, but if we slip up, we will still be confident of breezing past them at the Lane into the group stages.

It’s important that our World Cup players get minutes, and I’m specifically looking forward to seeing Jan Vertonghen return to the field after an impressive World Cup display. He has the talent, after a disappointing 2013/14 season, to become our key defender and really take this season by storm as he did in his 2012/13 debut season, when he made the Premier League team of the year, it’s key that he regains that form as we will rely on him this season. Three players returning from the World Cup Mousa Dembele, Paulinho and Nacer Chadli have a lot to prove this season, but I do believe they have the quality to show why we bought them in the first place, especially Mousa Dembele who I think has incredible ability, but he needs to find form and fitness again and come back with the form he had in his first season and in his Fulham days, this starts against AEL Limassol. Lewis Holtby is another I think is important for the game, he can provide the spark along with Erik Lamela in the absence of Christian Eriksen, with Harry Kane providing goals without Emmanuel Adebayor present.

We’ve got a tough game on our hands, with what is expected to be a hostile atmosphere and a dodgy pitch. We have to be professional, as always, and look to get a good result to bring back to North London. The game isn’t televised in the UK but I’m sure a stream will become available. Make sure to follow my twitter account @AddictedToSpurs for match & goal updates, photos and videos for the game. COYS!!

My predicted team to face AEL Limassol in Larnaca:
4-2-3-1
Friedel
Naughton – Dier – Vertonghen – Davies
Paulinho – Carroll
Townsend – Holtby – Chadli
Kane.

Mauricio Pochettino’s pre match press conference:

Tottenham Hotspur 2014/15 Season Preview.

The new season is upon us. We’ve had an action packed summer, with the World Cup, pre-season tours and transfer rumours/deals. So it’s made the wait for the new season to start a little more bearable. We’ve got a new Head Coach for the new season, and hopefully it’s the start of a new, successful era under Mauricio Pochettino. In this article I’m going to share my general expectations for the season in the Premier League, FA & League Cup, as well as the Europa League. Also, I’ll be looking at the players I think will be key to success this season, player awards and my season conclusions:

Premier League:
For many years our goal in the Premier League has been the same; break into the top four and secure Champions League football. And this season, the hope and urge that we will, continues to burn brightly in the hearts of Tottenham fans. Having those glory glory nights back at White Hart Lane, and then eventually the new stadium. It’s a dream. This season, with Pochettino being appointed, I think most fans for this season just want improvement, in the style of football we play, and the results we get. If we can get both of those things then I think the season will have been a success and a stepping stone to better things. Daniel Levy seems to, according to Mauricio Pochettino himself, not set any targets for this season and that for me is such a sigh of relief. We need to give Pochettino time to make this squad his own and this takes at least a season. What I want is to enjoy watching Tottenham again, with free flowing, fast paced football on the agenda and always being a threat to the big teams on the pitch, not just rolling over and letting them trounce us. Despite what anyone will say, it is a season of transition for Tottenham and us fans need to be patient and stay fully behind the team and the manager.

Getting in the top 4 is very difficult this season. A lot of the top teams in the top 4, and just outside it have strengthened a lot while keeping a stable core of their team. It’s very hard to see where we fit in to that elite group, so in all honesty I think it would either take one team having a season like Manchester United last season, or Tottenham having a miracle season. Both are difficult to see. For this season, I’d be content with 5th, which is an improvement on last season’s 6th place finish. But, I’d want us to compete further in the cups, and if the draws are kind, go on and win one. I am confident we will be competing for the top 4 spaces, we have a good squad with a great manager who is known for getting the best out of his players, and I think back to last season when we got these players and people believed it was a squad that could compete. If we can get the players back to the level they were when they arrived, who knows what could happen.

Prediction: 5th place.

FA Cup and Capital One Cup:
To win one of these competitions you need two things; a good team, and loads of luck. It’s all about the draw you get. Whether against a big team or little, at home or away and praying you don’t get the game just before a big Premier League game. It’s difficult to see Tottenham being fully focused on winning one of these trophies, even though I’d sacrifice any top 4 space offered to me for a glory day at Wembley. We have a lot of focus on the Premier League, where ultimately your season is judged on, plus the commitments of the Europa League, which now offers the winner Champions League football, so I think the priority of these Cups is down the pecking order, although I would still love to go for one. It’s always nice playing teams away from the Premier League, striving to get into the next round. Something very special about it, but if I had to chose a trophy to focus on it wouldn’t be the FA Cup or Capital One Cup, it would be the Europa League.

Prediction – FA Cup: 4th Round.

Prediction – Capital One Cup: Quarter Finals.

Europa League:
This competition always splits opinion. Some say all it does is distract from the Premier League, offering up games on the far side of the earth until the teams from the Champions League come in and knock you out, others say it’s a real opportunity for European Glory, something that Tottenham should always strive towards having won the competition twice. We have to learn to deal with playing in the Europa League, in my opinion, if we ever want to compete in the Champions League and Premier League simultaneously, which is the long term goal. Last season we made the round of 16, Benfica getting the better of us, but this season I want us to do better. Show Champions League credentials by taking it by storm. Starting with AEL Limassol in Cyprus. There’s nothing better than a European Glory night at White Hart Lane. If that means the Europa League then I’m all for it. Mauricio Pochettino has said in the past he doesn’t like the Europa League, but has recently admitted that the option for the winners getting Champions League at the end makes the competition more appealing, so I do sincerely hope we take it seriously.

Prediction: Quarter Finals, but I’d love to think we’d go all the way.

Key Players for the 2014/15 season:
We have a lot of great players who will definitely be very important for our 2014/15 campaign, but there are a bunch that stick out as being extra special and the players I’m predicting to have a big season:

Christian Eriksen – Our player of the season for the 2013/14, expectations are high for his performances but I think he will just continue to improve and improve. At only 22 he still has a lot to learn, but he’s on the right path to be considered a World Class player, even if people would argue he’s at that level right now. It’s a pleasure to have him at Tottenham and I’m predicting him to have another massive season, getting into double figures for goals scored and assists made.

Erik Lamela – A difficult season last campaign, but he looked reinvigorated in pre-season, and after a long term injury, he’s back and looking sharp. He has undoubted quality, can play in any position across the three behind the striker. Left wing, central attacking midfield and right wing. He is creative, skilful and in my head is a traditional Tottenham player. As Bill Nicholson once said, “Finding, making and using space is a distinction of all great players” that is what I think Lamela can do for us this season.

Emmanuel Adebayor – Our top scorer last season, playing just half a season under Tim Sherwood. He’s our main man up front and we need him to be on form this season. If he can continue his form that he showed last season we don’t need a new striker as I think he can be classed as a top class striker. Hold up play, link up play and the finish on the end of it. I’m predicting Emmanuel to have a really good season and I think he’s a dark horse for Premier League top scorer, if he can stay fit and on form.

Jan Vertonghen – Jan didn’t have the best of seasons last year, inconsistent, injuries and didn’t repeat the quality he showed when he first joined the club. Now though, with a new season on the horizon and a new challenge, I think Jan will play a major role in any success we have this season from centre back. He can focus on being our main centre back, as we have a lot of back up at left back now, so I think he’ll show his quality once again that once got him mentioned as our new Ledley King. I hope he can rediscover that.

Other players that will be key are of course Hugo Lloris and Kyle Walker, they bring great quality to the team. There could be a few surprise packages, too; if Roberto Soldado can find his form in front of goal he could be the difference for us, if Emmanuel Adebayor goes off to the African Cup of Nations and Lewis Holtby, who was on loan at Fulham last season; I think he can break into the first team this season and Etienne Capoue, who had a great pre-season is another that I think can become a really big player; composed on the ball and solid in his defensive duty. Others include a few younger players, Nabil Bentaleb, Andros Townsend and Harry Kane could all be really important players for us this season.

Player awards predictions:

Player of the season – Christian Eriksen.

Young player of the season – Erik Lamela.

Top scorer – Emmanuel Adebayor.

Most assists – Christian Eriksen.

Conclusions:
I’m excited. I always am for a new season. Surely we will have a better season than the last. I’m hoping for progression, but also to enjoy watching Tottenham again. One or two decent Cup runs and 5th in the League. That is what I think ‘success’ would look like for Tottenham. A season full of excitement, thrills and as little spills as possible. I believe in the quality of the squad. We have a lot of depth and good players, so despite it being a sort of transition period, I think Spurs can make this season memorable.

It all kicks off on Saturday, 16th August at 3pm. West Ham await at Upton Park. Let’s get this one out of the way with three points and then push on. Let the madness commence… COYS!!

What are your hopes and aspirations for the new season? Comment below!

IMG_0969.JPG

Tottenham Hotspur Season Review – 2013/14.

20140515-200108.jpgIt’s been a topsy-turvy season at White Hart Lane, a season with expectation, hope and excitement at the start, having a middle of uncertainty, anger and disillusionment, ending with relief, hope and an ounce of positivity. We’ve been through it all, every emotion from elation to despair, and everything in between. Two managers, 7 new players and yet another transition season, with another one to come next season.

August – September.
Such promise. 7 new signings for a total of £110 million, but also selling Gareth Bale for a World Record £85 million, therefore from other sales such as Tom Huddlestone, Scott Parker and Steven Caulker. It was out for the English men, and in with the European talent, with Erik Lamela, Roberto Soldado, Paulinho, Christian Eriksen, Etienne Capoue, Vlad Chiriches and Nacer Chadli (in price order). Mistakes were made in the way we brought these players in, that I say without a doubt, but I do not think we made a mistake on the personnel we brought in, except for arguably Roberto Soldado in hinds sight. In August, we started the season in fine form, beating Crystal Palace, Swansea and beating off Dinamo Tbilisi in the Europa League qualifying. We didn’t concede in August, scoring 10 goals in 4 games. Not bad at all, although we did scrape past Palace and Swansea.

In September, we started the month conceding our first goal, against Arsenal in a 1-0 defeat at the Emirates. The excuse was that we were in incredible uncertainty, and the sale of Gareth Bale was confirmed the same day, straight after the defeat. That was a really bad day. Really bad. The saying on the season ‘bounce back’ was then introduced and we did exactly that, beating Norwich convincing at the Lane, Christian Eriksen making his introduction brilliantly, and then beating Tromsø 3-0 in the Europa League and then one of the games of the season, beating Cardiff 1-0 away from home, Paulinho with a late back-heeled goal. After that, we beat Aston Villa 4-0 at Villa Park in the Capital One Cup. Then we drew 1-1 with Chelsea at the Lane with a very good performance. Things looked very up, AVB had us well drilled and the club was together pulling in a good direction. We sat 3rd in the table. Respectable, eh? Our best player in the first two months, would be Gylfi Sigurdsson, he was playing really well with 2 goals at the time against Chelsea and Norwich.

20140514-203220.jpg
October – November.
It all went a bit sour in October, a long journey to Anzhi, but a good victory, winning 2-0, but we returned to arguably the worst result of the season, a 3-0 defeat in a London Derby to West Ham United, we were dreadful, a lack of commitment and having no idea what to do in attacking positions, and West Ham punished our nonsensical defending. A tough one to take, the toughest. We did it again, we bounced back, we showed what seemed to be ‘character’ to quote Tim Sherwood and beat Aston Villa 2-0 at Villa Park, Robert Soldado with his first goal from open play, and we all thought he’d kick on from there and expected the team to do the same. Another long journey to Sheriff followed, getting the win again 2-0 and then returning to the Lane, we beat Hull City 1-0, a Soldado penalty clinching it. It all went sour for Andre Villas Boas after that. He criticised the fans, right or wrong, the media didn’t need to hear it, and neither did the fans who were already writhing in anger at the performance against Hull. Only a few days later, we faced Hull again, and scraped through again, on penalties in the Capital One Cup. A very difficult month, and after all that we still sat 4th in the Premier League table, and still in all the competitions.

In November, it really turned bad. We didn’t manage a League win and failed to score a League goal, although winning games in the Europa League against Sheriff 2-1, record signing Erik Lamela’s first goal for the club and beating Tromsø in Norway 2-0. In the League, we drew 0-0 with Everton, a hard fought game but arguably a good result against a resurgent Roberto Martinez team. No complaints. Then, after a game against Sheriff in the Europa League, we lost to Newcastle at home 1-0, in one of the most frustrating games of the season, nothing would go in. Nothing. We were left frustrated and the fans’ pressure built on Andre Villas Boas. The next game didn’t help the pressure on AVB, an absolute rout through Manchester City at the Etihad. Of course, the Champions this season, but for where we wanted to be, and by that margin, it was embarrassing and despite a large amount of fans backing AVB to get out of this slump, there was serious media pressure and reported pressure from the board. All in all, pressure. We ended November with a Europa League win at Tromsø, but it didn’t help heal the scars from a dreary two months. Tottenham finished November in 9th, which is, no sugar coating, terrible. Although, still, we remained in all competitions, unbeaten. Our best player in that time would in my opinion, be Andros Townsend, he was electrifying, but not lethal. The best of a bad bunch.

20140514-222036.jpg
December – January.
December was without a doubt the busiest and most full of change month of the season. We started the month well, really well. A draw with Manchester United, but scoring 2 goals after not scoring in the League in November was a positive, as well as the team spirit shown. After that, we won two on the bounce away for home, but both, we scraped past relegation candidates Fulham through Vlad Chiriches and Lewis Holtby, then past Sunderland, through an own goal and Paulinho. Our final victory under Andre Villas Boas then was upon us, a 4-1 victory over Anzhi with Soldado grabbing a hat-trick, and then the darkest day of the season so far. A 5-0 defeat to Liverpool at the Lane. Humiliating. A lack of presence, fight and quality led to a terrible day, and one that saw Daniel Levy lose patience in the Portuguese manager and fire him that next day. Right or wrong, the decision ended our season. I truly believe that. The club then appointed Tim Sherwood, Chris Ramsey and Les Ferdinand in charge and in the first game lost in the Capital One Cup to West Ham in the Lane 2-1, after returning Emmanuel Adebayor to the team and him scoring. We then had a ‘decent’ end to the Christmas period, with Tim Sherwood being confirmed as Spurs Head Coach on an 18 month contract, we beat Pochettino’s Southampton at St Mary’s through a resurgent Emmanuel Adebayor performance, but then drew to West Brom at the Lane on Boxing Day, a big disappointment, but we then performed to the highest level of the season, beating Stoke City 3-0 with free flowing football that had been missing for too long under AVB. We finally beat someone comfortably. We finished the month in 7th.

In January, we started the month in fine fashion, we went to Old Trafford and got the result in wonderful style, Emmanuel Adebayor and Christian Eriksen on the scoresheet. That’s my favourite victory of the season, an amazing win despite Manchester United’s problems this season, we have not lost to them in 4 games and beat them on their own turf twice in a row! It was back to reality after that, we lost to Arsenal in the FA Cup 2-0 at the Emirates, and now it was Sherwood’s turn to feel the pressure of the fans, his honest press conferences splitting his opinion and his tactical approach of 4-4-2 against top sides split them even further. We then beat Crystal Palace, with Jermain Defoe’s last goal for the club after the announcement of his move to Toronto, a very emotional moment and then went into beat Swansea convincingly 3-1 at the Liberty stadium, Emmanuel Adebayor continuing his great form with a brace. We finished the first month of 2014 with a heavy defeat to Manchester City, in unfortunate circumstances, a goal disallowed, wrongly, and then a wrongly awarded penalty and red card against Danny Rose. Of course, we wouldn’t go onto have an effect the game, losing 5-1, with another heavy defeat to City, but you could feel a sense of what could have been without some horrifying decisions. Plus, Etienne Capoue got his first goal for the club! At the end of January, we sat in 5th place, just three points off Liverpool in 4th. There was a little bit of hope here. Our best player during this time, was most definitely Emmanuel Adebayor, brilliant.

20140515-003928.jpg
February – March.
It was a mixed bag of results in February, but we continued to be there or there abouts for Champions League football and some fans still had hope! We started the month of February with a draw at the KC Stadium to Hull City, it was an incredibly hard fought match but we couldn’t seem to break them down, although Paulinho scored a great goal to get us a point. Then, as it seemed to be the case many times this season, good results came in twos. We beat Everton at White Hart Lane 1-0, taking 4 points from them this season, somehow, through a sweetly taken goal from Emmanuel Adebayor. Then, we went up to St James’ Park to complete our most convincing win of the season so far, a 4-0 win, Emmanuel Adebayor getting another brace as well as goals from Paulinho and a fine strike from Nacer Chadli, his first Premier League goal for the club. Then, a low, as we lost to Dnipro 1-0 in Ukraine in the first leg of the round of 32, and then we followed it up by being beaten by Norwich at Carrow Road 1-0, a terrible defeat with some extremely disappointed performances. The loss to Dnipro was then cancelled out, after a great 3-1 win at the Lane, Adebayor with 2 and a Christian Eriksen free-kick. A good end to a mixed month. Into the round of 16 of the Europa League.

I think March was the moment we realised that Tim Sherwood wasn’t the man to take us forward. Only 2 wins out of 7 and 4 defeats conceding 16 goals and only scoring 6. We started with a win, against Cardiff City, a 1-0 win, Roberto Soldado getting only his second goal from open play in the Premier League, but it certainly wasn’t free flowing football, we scraped past them as we had many times under AVB and under Sherwood. Then, we lost heavily to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, after going in level at the break after a great performance in all fairness, the team capitulated after a Jan Vertonghen mistake. A tough result to take like many this season, and Sherwood then criticised the players, which was highly supported and scrutinised at the same time. Then, we lost two on the bounce, both extremely tarnishing to the club, a 3-1 defeat to an incredible Benfica team at the Lane, but then another loss to Arsenal, quite unluckily even though we dominated the game. Then we performed really well at the Estadio Da Luz, a 2-2 draw, but we were extremely unlucky not to go through, a Nacer Chadli brace and a Harry Kane double of assists! Our next game was against Southampton, with a lot of the support extremely disheartened supporters not expecting anything from the rest of the season except for disappointment. The Southampton game was great, though, after going down 2-0 to a highly talented Southampton team, we fought back valiantly and showed the ‘gut’ that Sherwood had been willing for. That ‘gut’ and determination deserted Tottenham as we took on Liverpool, however, a 4-0 defeat, and the less said about that day the better. We sat 8 points off of 4th on 56 points after March. Our best player in that time being Christian Eriksen, for sure!

20140515-013406.jpg
April – May.
I’d say we had our best month of the season in April, unbeaten, scoring twelve goals in 4 games and only conceding 4. Our great month started with our biggest win of the season, a 5-1 victory over Sunderland, Adebayor once again getting a brace, with Christian Eriksen running the show along with a Gylfi Sigurdsson goal too. Then, we went to West Brom and conceded 3 goals, but we came back in the second half despite Adebayor missing a penalty, an own goal, a Harry Kane goal and finishing off the comeback with a Christian Eriksen late equaliser. Fulham came next, another 3 goals, but this time we only conceded once. Paulinho, Harry Kane and Younes Kaboul got on the scoresheet as Christian Eriksen ran the show once again and cemented his place as a contender for player of the season, as well as an incredible performance from Hugo Lloris, who saved a penalty and made three or four incredible saves at least. World Class. The rumours on Sherwood’s future was as intense as ever coming into May, but the team ended April on a high after going to Stoke and dragging out a result. We were on track to equal our highest ever points tally in the Premier League.

In May, we only had two games and one of them was utterly horrible. West Ham. Again. This time, on their own turf. A 2-0 defeat and a Younes Kaboul red card. We weren’t terrible, a little unlucky with a few individual mistakes but a loss to West Ham is just unforgivable, and unfortunately it’s been unforgivable three times this season. But, we finished the season on a high, which was definitely needed. Tim Sherwood’s last game as Tottenham Hotspur Head Coach, a 3-0 win, some wonderful football and the youth being introduced. A wonderful way to end a difficult season. Paulinho, an own goal by Baker and then an Adebayor penalty. We finished the season in 6th place, with 69 points, securing a Europa League place for next season. Tim Sherwood sacked and now a manager search commences. My player of the two months was Christian Eriksen. Incredible.

20140515-021845.jpg
My player ratings for the 2013/14 season:

Hugo Lloris – 9 – My player of the season. He has been incredible for us, saving us on numerous occasions. I don’t know where we’d be without him in the team, but we wouldn’t be in the Europa League, that’s for sure! He brings a cool, professional head even when chaos strikes on the pitch. He finds a way to keep his consistency no matter how the team is playing, who the team is playing and who the team is being managed by. Truly World Class and a pleasure to have in the team. He managed 17 clean sheets this season from 46 appearances.

Christian Eriksen – 8.5 – My outfield player of the season. At just 22 Eriksen has been a revelation, and has been praised as the ‘best of a bad bunch’ by many in the press. Although I disagree, I believe that he has been a shining light in a dreary season, with the way that he plays, conducts himself and speaks all becoming increasingly important to the club and without a doubt, the team should be built around Eriksen next season, whoever the manager is. There is so much more to come from such a brilliant, but young player. Eriksen has 10 goals and 10 assists, our top provider this season in 30 appearances.

Emmanuel Adebayor – 8 – Adebayor only played half a season, but still was one of our best performers this season. He scored so many vital goals to carry us through Tim Sherwood’s reign, and he almost made Sherwood look good, just as Gareth Bale seemed to bail out Andre Villas Boas. There were some lacklustre showings from the big Togolese striker, but overall, I think Adebayor has shown AVB was wrong to keep him in the dark, despite Adebayor being in the wrong through standing up to Villas-Boas. Emmanuel Adebayor scored 14 goals this season and getting 4 assists, he ended the season as our top goalscorer.

Brad Friedel – 7 – Judging Brad through the games he played, he has earned a 7/10. His performances in the Europa League were top class, he showed his professionalism throughout the season, not complaining, instead hailing the manager and the team, boosting moral and acting as a calm head. At 42, he has a decision to make regarding his future, and if he does decide to retire, I would love Brad to stay at the club and become a coach. He’s that sort of person. Friedel played 9 times and kept 3 clean sheets. Respectable.

Kyle Walker – 7.5 – Many will feel I have ‘overrated’ Walker here. But I would like to remind you all that Kyle was absolutely magnificent before injury toyed with his season. Without a doubt he was our best defender, showing a maturity that was lacking last season, but also a work ethic like I have never seen from him before. He was concentrated and driven to succeed and I am gutted that his injury has kept him out of a World Cup that he deserved to go to more than any other English right back. Walker made 35 appearances this season, scoring once and assisting 3 times.

Kyle Naughton – 5 – Average. He is no Kyle Walker, but what Naughton has been this season is reliable. Not many clubs have a player that will sit there and be willing to fill in whenever possible. Needed a lot this season, he was exposed a lot as a left back that he wasn’t and his lack of pace and bad decision making cost him many times. But overall I don’t think Naughton did too badly, and would like to thank him for his efforts. He showed that he cared. Naughton played 31 times for Spurs this season as a stop gap, and assisted goals twice.

Michael Dawson – 6 – Harshly treated for the majority of this season, including by myself. Dawson has shown his fight and determination on a numerous amount of occasions this season, although he has been exposed way too often as slow and very one dimensional. He’s my captain though, and his desire and passion for the club do not go unnoticed in my eyes. Dawson played 38 times this season.

Younes Kaboul – 5.5 – A difficult season for Younes. The injuries in his career have affected him a hell of a lot and he is certainly not the player he used to be, but he has captained us this season, and played some really good games, for example against Newcastle and against Southampton. I would like to think Kaboul will stay and have a full pre-season behind him to prove his worth to the fans, but whether or not the club feel too much of a risk of having him here we can only wait and see. Younes played 18 times this season, scoring 1 goal and assisting 1.

Vlad Chiriches – 7 – One of the seven new signings arriving this season, and he’s been one of the best in my view. At just 23 he has a lot to learn and he can be very nervy at times, making him prone to mistakes, but he has also had incredible games this season and is showing why we decided to sign the Romanian and ditch Steven Caulker. Vlad can only improve next season, the captain of Romania and definitely one that can push to start every game next season. Vlad played 23 times this season, scoring 1 goal.

Jan Vertonghen – 6 – A strange season for Jan. He has been accused by fans of having a bad attitude, bad body language and not showing enough passion for the team, as well as taking a big step down from the level of performance that he was last season. We all know what Vertonghen is capable of, and despite these rumours of Jan wanting out, we should try to keep him at all costs, because he is a wonderful talent. I believe he will stay. I hope he will stay. Hopefully we can see an improvement in performs from Jan next season, possibly when we have a new manager in charge! Vertonghen had an injury stricken but played 31 games, scoring 1 goal.

Zeki Fryers – 6 – A breakthrough season for young Zeki Fryers, firstly at left back, but then later in the season being used as a centre back, and I think we found the perfect position for Zeki. At left back he lacked agility and an end product, but at centre back he is composed and strong. I’d like to see more of the 21 year old there next season. Zeki played 16 times, getting 1 assist in that time.

Danny Rose – 4 – Danny, at only 23, has a lot to learn. This was his first season as our number 1 left back, but he was exposed nearly every game for defensive insecurity, a poor end product and a lack of skill on the ball. Although Danny had 3-4 good games, he isn’t at the level that Spurs need. Whether that will come in time, I don’t know, but right now, we need better. Danny made 31 appearances this season, scoring 2 goals and getting 2 assists.

Aaron Lennon – 6 – Inconsistent would be the word to describe Lennon’s season. He has been on fire at times, beating players getting dangerous balls into the box, and he has been the opposite, unimaginative, ineffective and simply poor. Aaron is still 27, so I’d definitely keep him for next season, but I hope Lamela steps up and earns his spot ahead of our long serving winger. Aaron played 34 games this season, scoring just 1 goal and getting only 3 assists.

Andros Townsend – 7 – What a start to the season Andros had. Coming back from his loan spell at QPR he was electrifying, he had the confidence to take people on, take shots and break with pace. This earned him an England call up, and he made the impact of a lifetime, scoring on his debut. Unfortunately, injury played havoc with his second half of the season and his form dipped. And now injury has ruled him out of a World Cup he was destined to go to. Hopefully Andros improves massively next season and we can see him shine again. He played 34 games scoring twice, but getting no assists.

Erik Lamela – N/A- Our record signing, but we didn’t get anywhere near a season out of him. Mismanagement, injuries and poor ability to adapt have messed the Argentine’s season and World Cup hopes right up. Such promise, but such disappointment to see our Gareth Bale replacement not start a game at White Hart Lane this season in the Premier League. He did have 2-3 good performances but needed a sustained fun in the team, and due to a fractured vertebra, he didn’t get that. He will return though and I hope he will be better than ever! He played 17 times for Spurs, but only had 3 starts in the Premier League. He scored 1 goal and got 3 assists.

Paulinho – 7 – I think Paulinho has had a very good first season at the club. It has been blighted by some terrible, invisible performances but all in all I think he’s done well, especially in the goal scoring department. Playing higher up the pitch he is a joy to watch has immense skill, but playing in a deeper role next to a similar player, such as Mousa Dembele, Paulinho didn’t have the strength and grit to make tackles. That’s why his best performance came alongside Sandro, or next to Dembele when we were bossing the game. Hopefully he’ll push on next season and prove himself to more and more fans. He played 37 times for us this season and scored 8 goals with 2 assists, a good first season tally.

Sandro – 6 – Injury has struck Sandro’s season once again. This time muscular niggles that have kept him out of the team and stopped him from having, just like Lamela, a sustained run in the team. There have been some difficult matches for Sandro, not playing well or in good form, but I think mostly he has when he has started. He’s a crucial player for the team and I can’t wait to see him in a Spurs shirt next season. Sandro played 25 games and scored 1 goal.

Mousa Dembele – 6 – It’s like a broken record, but Mousa is another player who’s season has been seriously harmed by injuries. He looked as if he had been playing with injuries all season and that meant his form wasn’t up to the standard that we wanted it to be. He has a World Cup now so I hope he gains a lot of confidence from that and comes back to Spurs a better player. Mousa did despite injury play 42 games this season, scoring 2 goals and getting 1 assist.

Nabil Bentaleb – 7 – Nabil has had a great season. Promoted through the youth system at just 19 he has put in some stellar displays in the midfield role, as well as some poor performances, which are expected at just 19 years of age. His connection with Sherwood made it difficult at times, with fans pilling pressure on the young mans shoulders, but he dealt with it really well. Nabil played 21 times, getting 1 assist.

Etienne Capoue – N/A – Etienne started the season in outstanding form, our best player against Crystal Palace and Swansea, but he was hit by injury, another player, and after that never found the level he is capable of. He missed 50% of the season through, higher than any other player, so I really can’t give him a fair rating. It will be interesting to see whether Capoue is kept by the new manager, or moved on. Etienne played 18 times scoring 1 goal and assisting 1.

Lewis Holtby – 6.5 – Only half a season with Spurs before being shipped out to Fulham, but during that time he made it difficult to make a decision between Eriksen and Holtby, and I think he played well at times during his time at Spurs and was unlucky, but probably for the best of his development that he was sent out on loan. I hope to see him back in a Spurs shirt next season, pushing for a place. Lewis took part in 22 games for Spurs this season, scoring 3 goals and getting 5 assists.

Nacer Chadli – 6 – Chadli hasn’t set the world alight. Far from it. He has shown glimpses of why he is so highly rated in Holland and in Belgium, but as of yet hasn’t shown it to the Spurs faithful. Some very good performances, especially his 2 goals against Benfica, and his stunner against Newcastle, but he needs to improve. He played central midfield and behind the striker later on in the season which didn’t help, though. Although he played well behind the striker, in central midfield I don’t think it suits him. Nacer played 35 times, scoring 5 goals and contributing 4 assists.

Gylfi Sigurdsson – 6.5 – Gylfi’s start to the season was sublime, he had a goal scoring instinct and scored some wonderful goals as well as goals where he had to be in the right place at the right time. I think Gylfi is a great player, technically, mentally and physically. He lacks a lot of pace, which let’s him down, but he has such a great shot and a great footballing mind. It’s unfortunate Sigurdsson is forced out onto the left hand side so often. He’d be a real threat in the central position. There are things wrong with his game and there has been this season. Still, he’s only 24. Gylfi played 35 games this season, scoring 6 goals and getting 3 assists. Not too bad.

Harry Kane – 7.5 – I can only judge on the games that they have played, and Harry Kane has had a superb end to the season, as well as good performances against Hull City in the League Cup and Cardiff away earlier this season. Brought in by Sherwood to the starting 11 he has repaid the faith with goals, a hard work ethic and some real good performances. Harry has played 19 games this season for Spurs, scoring 4 goals and getting 2 assists.

Jermain Defoe – 6 – Defoe was outstanding in the Europa League for us this season, there’s no denying it. He scored goal after goal and played really well, but his Premier League performances, of which there were very few, were poor. Jermain was sent off to Toronto and we will miss a true Spurs legend, but I don’t think we’ll miss the player. Defoe played 22 games for Spurs this season, with 11 of those from the bench. Scoring 10 goals and getting 3 assists.

Roberto Soldado – 5 – Hard. Disappointing. Underwhelming. All words we’d use to describe Roberto Soldado’s first season at the club, and possibly his last. I want Soldado to succeed as much as the next but judging on this season he has been terrible in front of goal. It’s a mystery. He has lost his goalscoring touch through a flight from Spain to England and I don’t know why. Everything he touches he seems to miss. Although, his link up play and play with the ball is top notch, something he never really had in Spain. I’d call it weird other than anything. We’ll see what happens to him this summer. Roberto played 37 times for us this season, scoring 11 goals and getting 5 assists.

20140515-122749.jpg
My awards for the season:

Player of the season – Hugo Lloris.

Young player of the season – Christian Eriksen.

Goal of the season – Gylfi Sigurdsson vs Hull City. (League Cup).

Assist of the season – Eriksen vs Norwich to Gylfi Sigurdsson.

Individual performance of the season – Hugo Lloris vs Fulham.

Win of the season – Manchester United 1-2 Tottenham.

Signing of the season – Christian Eriksen.

Most disappointing player of the season – Roberto Soldado.

20140515-122844.jpg
Ups, downs and upside downs. All in all it’s been an eventful season, for sure! Expectation outweighed reality, and now as fans we have to rally again, support the team, the players and the whole club to try and do our bit to help the side on the pitch. And that starts by supporting our new manager, whoever it may be. I’m looking forward to a great World Cup, a brilliant pre-season, an uncertain Transfer Window and a new season of excitement! Thank you for reading, tweeting and debating with me on twitter and on the website. It’s been a pleasure and I can’t wait to do it all over again next season! Leave your comments down below, subscribe and follow my twitter account if you don’t already – @AddictedToSpurs. Thank you and COYS!

All the goals from the 2013/14 season:

Season Review video:

20140515-123129.jpg

Match Preview, Tottenham vs Sunderland.

Match date & time: Monday 7th April 2014. Kick off at 8pm.

Competition: Premier League.

Venue: White Hart Lane.

TV: Live on Sky Sports 1, MNF.

The last 6 games are here of what has been a very disappointing season for the club; it is near impossible to get into the Champions League, and now even getting in Europe at all is in doubt. After the games at the weekend we sit in 7th place, which for Tottenham Hotspur is nowhere near good enough, so for these 6 games, in which on paper we are capable of winning all 6, we have to win and get some pride back into the club, and get the club another season in the Europa League, because even with it’s flaws, Tottenham need to finish as high as possible in every season and we have to deal with 2 games a week if we want to even think of being a regular top 4 team. The last six starts with Sunderland this Monday.

Our recent form against Sunderland cannot be faulted, we haven’t lost to the Black Cats since 2010, when we lost 3-1 at the Stadium of Light with Darren Bent with a brace with Harry Redknapp at the helm. At the Lane, we haven’t lost since 2008, when Djibril Cisse scored a late winner to win the game 2-1 back when Juande Ramos was in charge. That loss in 2008 was our only loss to Sunderland in 14 games at White Hart Lane dating back to 1984 in the old Division 1. Our last game against Sunderland was Andre Villas Boas’ last away game before his sacking, we won 2-1, Paulinho and a John O’Shea own goal gave us the win at the Stadium of Light so Monday gives us the chance to do the double over the Northern club. Our last game against Sunderland at White Hart Lane was the last game of the 2012/13 season, we had the chance to make Champions League if Arsenal slipped up at Newcastle, but it wasn’t to be and we finished 5th, but we won the game 1-0, a Gareth Bale screamer gave us the three points and our record points total in a Premier League season, it was also Gareth Bale’s last Premier League game in a Tottenham Hotspur shirt.

Sunderland are in dreadful, dreadful form and that form leaves them bottom of the Premier League with just 25 points from 30 games, having 3 games in hand on Cardiff and Fulham above them though. Since going to the Capital One Cup Final at Wembley and losing to Manchester City, Sunderland have been appalling and the results have not gone their way, dragging the Black Cats into the relegation zone. They have not won a Premier League game since the 1st February, a 3-0 win at St James’ Park against Newcastle. They have lost 3 Premier League games on the trot, and haven’t won in 8 League games. Gus Poyet’s men are now desperately fighting, and that makes Monday’s game a possible banana skin for us, we have to be on our game and be ready for a fight.

The team news for Sunderland is that striker Steven Fletcher (ankle) and goalkeeper Kieran Westwood (shoulder) are out of the game, but they have no other notable injuries. Even though Sunderland do sit at the bottom of the Premier League, they do have threats, most important to them is Adam Johnson on the wing, he’s hit some good form this season and has scored 10 goals and has 4 assists, Sunderland’s top scorer. Johnson gives Sunderland width, as well as a good delivery and good width on the right hand side. Another threat for Sunderland is Fabio Borini, on loan from Liverpool the striker is nuisance, he harries and hassles defences and can nick a goal from you, he has 6 goals this season in all competitions. The player in midfield that makes it all tick is Ki, on loan from Swansea he plays with composure and quality, if we stop him providing the pace in the attack we will nullify Sunderland.

20140406-194330.jpg The team news for the Tottenham is that Jan Vertonghen (ankle), Roberto Soldado (hamstring), Erik Lamela (back), Etienne Capoue (ankle) and Kyle Walker (groin) are sidelined for the game against Sunderland at the Lane which is a big blow, but, key players Emmanuel Adebayor, Vlad Chiriches, Paulinho, Sandro and Mousa Dembele are all fit and in contention to take on Gus Poyet’s Sunderland.

The return of Emmanuel Adebayor is at a key point, as Roberto Soldado gets an injury we can replace him with the big Togolese target-man, he’s our top scorer in the Premier League and was in immense form prior to his flurry of injuries, but he’s back now, and hopefully he can continue his goalscoring form with a few in the bag on Monday. He brings us that extra dimension to our game, he’s an outlet with incredible talent. Another really important player returning on Monday is Vlad Chiriches, similar to the Adebayor/Soldado situation, he returns at a crucial point in which Jan Vertonghen has picked up an injury, so hopefully Vlad Chiriches will slot in to the defence alongside Younes Kaboul. Vlad started off his Tottenham career really well and I believe he has a massive future at Spurs ahead of him; he has so much talent, and now needs a run in the side, possibly alongside Jan Vertonghen. In central midfield, I’d like to see Sandro come back into the side after missing the last two, I’d play him alongside Paulinho, who although has been in bad form, has spoken of his want to prove the fans and Tim Sherwood wrong and spark himself back into form, so I’d like to give him the chance next to a defensive midfielder to give him the licence to attack.

Match facts and stats from Opta.

– Tottenham have won five and lost none of the last seven Barclays Premier League games against Sunderland.

– Sunderland have scored a league-high 46.4% of their Barclays Premier League goals from set pieces this season.

– Spurs have had loss/loss results in their last four home defeats.

– Sunderland boss Gustavo Poyet had two spells at Tottenham Hotspur, one as a player where he made 82 league appearances and scored 18 goals and also as Assistant Coach to Juande Ramos.

– Tottenham have failed to score in four of their last six Premier League matches.

– Spurs have had 1-1 scorelines in their last four home draws against bottom-six teams

– Tottenham have conceded the fewest headed goals in the Premier League this season (1).

– Tottenham are one of only two teams not to lose a Premier League game from a winning position this season prior to this matchday (along with Man Utd).

– Sunderland have conceded first in their last four away matches against Spurs

– Five of the six Premier League goals that Roberto Soldado has scored this season have been the first goal of the game.

– Five of the six goals that Soldado has scored have been the winning goal.

– Spurs have had Under 2.5 goals in their last four home matches against Sunderland.

– Spurs have picked up just three points fewer than they had after 32 games in 2011-12, which was their best-ever Premier League haul at this stage.

– Spurs could become only the fourth team to finish a Premier League season in the top six with a negative goal difference (currently -4; Norwich 3rd -4 GD in 1992-93, West Ham 5th -7 GD in 1998-99 & Everton 4th -1 GD in 2004-05).

Coming into the end of the season, let’s secure a good end to the season and get Europe. I’m looking forward to getting football back at the Lane after the disappointing defeat at Anfield. I will be giving updates from my twitter account, so follow me there at @AddictedToSpurs, the updates will include photos, videos, goal updates and vines! COYS!!

My predicted/preferred team to face Sunderland at the Lane:
4-2-3-1
Lloris
Naughton – Kaboul – Chiriches – Rose
Paulinho – Sandro
Townsend – Eriksen – Chadli
Adebayor.

Tim Sherwood’s pre Sunderland press conference:

Match Review, Benfica vs Tottenham. (2nd leg)

Match: Thursday 20th March 2014.

Competition: Europa League round 16, second leg.

Venue: Estadio Da Luz.

Result: Benfica (5) 2-2 (3) Tottenham.

GoalScorers for Benfica: Garay 34′, Lima (pen) 95′.

GoalScorers for Tottenham: Nacer Chadli 78′ & 79′.

Argh! Tottenham are bloody good at getting your hopes up, aren’t they? What a hearty performance that was, we fought until the very end and the lads put in a great performance, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to get past a Champions League standard Benfica side, who over the two legs, probably deserved to go through. With the team we put out, we have no shame on the day, we can go back to the Lane with our heads held high and although we don’t really have much to play for in terms of Champions League, we have a season that needs finishing and we have to do as well as possible and hope someone falters in the top four, which is unlikely, but after the season we’ve had, I think 5th would be a good achievement!

Back to tonight’s display; we started brightly, passing the ball with confidence and finding the players who had the potential to make things happen up front, we made some very good chances and it was desperately poor finishing from Soldado which cost us the chance to go ahead on 12 minutes, and another on 20 minutes. We should have been ahead, but instead we went behind after a weak tackle from Aaron Lennon let in Silvio, who chipped a nice ball in for the centre back Garay to head in without a challenge. Disappointing, and all hope seemed lost. The game went a bit dull, we didn’t create the greatest of chances and Benfica got comfortable, until the entrance of Harry Kane on 71 minutes and Christian Eriksen on 75 minutes, both made instant impacts and Harry Kane got the assist for Nacer Chadli’s first with a flicked header, while Nacer Chadli did very well, and shot a pile-driving shot into the bottom left hand corner, a great strike, but what seemed to be a consolation. Only 1 minute later, Aaron Lennon chipped a ball up into the box for big Harry Kane, and he grabbed his second assist of the evening and Nacer Chadli grabbed his second goal of the night. Hope, sweet hope. We pushed and pushed for a third, and probably should have had a penalty when Harry Kane was bundled over in the box, but that wouldn’t be very Tottenham like, would it? In the 95th minute, the game was out out of site after Sandro and his tired legs that did so much good, barged a Benfica player out of the way and the Portuguese side were awarded a penalty, which Lima cooly put away. Game over.

20140320-205842.jpg
What a performance from most of the team. Man of the match is an easy choice, Nacer Chadli, he played well the whole 90 minutes and got the 2 goals, but that wasn’t all that was in his performance, he worked hard showed skill and pace, and after a difficult start to his Spurs career he is showing the quality that he certainly possesses. He deserves to start on Sunday, and he also deserves a break from the fans who criticise him, when he hasn’t warranted the abuse he has got. It’s been difficult for every new signing!! Another great performer was Zeki Fryers; he is only 21 years of age, and played at centre back which isn’t his preferred position although he has played there in the past, he faced an experienced Oscar Cardozo up front and Zeki was absolutely sublime, I couldn’t fault him all game, he needs to concentrate on being a centre back and forget this left back nonsense, he’s better central. 19 year old Nabil Bentaleb showed his maturity once again in central midfield. He played without a natural central midfield partner and showed that his future is a big one. He needs to improve on his discipline, his decision making and his aggressiveness in the tackle, but he is on his way to becoming a top talent, the abuse he has received is unwarranted, also. A massive mention for Harry Kane, the 20 year old striker has shown recently in my opinion that he will be a top player, and his involvement in this game in the short time he was given was brilliant; if Adebayor isn’t fit for the Southampton game I’d start him up top. There were disappointing performances too; Aaron Lennon provided little on the right, as did Andros Townsend on the left and Roberto Soldado up top hasn’t pushed on from his Cardiff goal and looked lacklustre once again. Finishing on a high, I also thought Kyle Naughton put in a great shift, proving he is an extremely competent back up to Kyle Walker.

Proud, and nothing to be ashamed of. We bow out of the Europa League in the round of 16, our home leg result letting us down. Our next game is against Southampton at White Hart Lane on Sunday 23rd March 2014, kick off at 1:30pm. COYS!!

My player ratings for the team that faced Benfica at the Estadio Da Luz:
Friedel – 7
Naughton – 8.5
Sandro – 8
Fryers – 9
Rose – 5.5
Lennon – 6
Bentaleb – 8.5
Sigurdsson – 5.8
Townsend – 5.5
Chadli – 9 – Man of the Match.
Soldado – 5.

Subs:
Kane – 8.5
Eriksen – 7.5.

Match highlights from our 2-2 draw to Benfica:

Tim Sherwood’s press conference after our Benfica draw:

Match Preview, Benfica vs Tottenham. (2nd Leg)

Match date & time: Thursday 20th March 2014. Kick off 6:00pm.

Competition: Europa League Round of 16, second leg.

Venue: Estadio Da Luz.

TV: Live on ITV 4.

1st leg result: Tottenham 1-3 Benfica.

An uphill struggle to say the least. Some have even labelled it as impossible after a first leg bashing, and what is needed to progress to the quarter finals of the Europa League in the second leg. We aren’t just fighting for an incredible come back; we’re fighting for pride. We’ve lost three games in a row and that is simply not acceptable, even with the extremely tough fixture list. The fans desperately need something to cheer about and the players owe the fans travelling to Lisbon a performance, even if it doesn’t get us through to the next round. We need a 0-3+ win to progress, and if our defence is anything to go by, and their attacking threat, it’s most likely they will score, so we have to be aiming to score 4+ goals, which makes this tie as close to out of our reach as it can get, which is sad because I strongly believed we had a chance in the competition, but Benfica are Champions League standard, and the reality is, we are not. All I want from the players is a performance, something to cheer about, a couple of goals maybe and a right good go at it. Even though the fans might not believe, or the footballing world might not believe, we need the players to believe, and hopefully the tag of being the underdog will suit the team, and we can play without pressure.

We all know what Benfica are about after seeing them take us apart in the first leg. They are confident on the ball, good in tight spaces, with an organised and balanced team with good technical players. Top of the League in Portugal and unbeaten at home this season in all competitions, the task gets harder by the minute. We’re going to have to ignore the aggregate score and just try to play a good game, while attempting to contain a strong Benfica offence, with Rodrigo and Cardozo being the main threats in front of goal, but we now are fully aware of centre back Luisao’s prowess from set pieces after he scored 2 against us in the first leg. Let’s hope that a little bit of complacency trickles into their game, and we can exploit them.

20140319-173504.jpg
The team news for Spurs is, well, incredible. There are TWELVE absentees, and no senior centre backs available for Tim Sherwood’s selection. Here it is: Erik Lamela (thigh/back), Vlad Chiriches (back), Michael Dawson (hamstring), Etienne Capoue (ankle), Younes Kaboul (knee), Paulinho (calf), Emmanuel Adebayor (ankle/knee), Kyle Walker (groin) and Mousa Dembele (calf) have been ruled out through injury, while Danny Rose (knock) is a doubt, Jan Vertonghen is suspended and Hugo Lloris has been left in London. To say Tim’s options are limited, is an understatement. Let’s just hope the game doesn’t get messy! With all the injuries, Tim will have to rely on the youngsters to fill gaps, after calling up Alexander McQueen (RB/CB), Dominic Ball (CB), Milos Veljkovic (CB/CM), Harry Winks (CM), Joshua Onomah (CAM), Connor Ogilvie (CB/LB) and Luke McGee (GK). So our defensive options aren’t too slim, but they are inexperienced. With this news of no senior centre backs, the job could fall with Sandro and Zeki Fryers, a central defensive midfielder and a left back, although Fryers has experience of playing at centre back. I think that’s the most experienced and secure (not really) pairing you’re going to get in this situation. Even if Rose is a doubt, I think we will have to play him just to field a team! I’d expect Roberto Soldado and Harry Kane to partner each other up top, which isn’t bad, considering the circumstances, I’d argue there are goals in that partnership.

It’s going to be near impossible to get through, but let’s hope the lads give it their all and we can take something positive away from the game! Nothing to lose! You can follow my twitter @AddictedToSpurs, for all the updates on the game, including videos, pictures, goal updates and vines! COYS!!

My predicted team to face Benfica at the Estadio Da Luz:
4-4-2
Friedel
Naughton – Sandro – Fryers – Rose
Townsend – Sigurdsson – Bentaleb – Chadli
Soldado – Kane.

Oh God help us.

Tim Sherwood’s pre match press conference:

Nacer Chadli looks ahead to the Benfica game:

Match Preview, Tottenham vs Benfica. (1st Leg)

Match date & time: Thursday 13th March 2014. Kick off 8:05pm.

Competition: Europa League, round of 16 1st leg.

Venue: White Hart Lane.

TV: Live on ITV 1.

Here we go, the business end of the Europa League is here, the glamour ties start to appear and the task becomes incredibly difficult to juggle with our Premier League commitments, but this season’s Europa League campaign has been a sort of nice distraction from the Premier League, something to look forward to and it builds excitement amongst fans and gives opportunities for fans to get to White Hart Lane, who may not go very often. I really like the competition, and now the challenge of Benfica is something I smile while thinking about; hopefully we put up a real fight, and then continue, because a trophy would be bloody marvellous.

We have been terrible on the big occasions this season, with too many capitulations and 3+ goals thrashing in the games which we have to put in more effort and show more quality. The fans have been disappointed far too often and hopefully, after Sherwood laid into the players, we won’t see the players give up, and will see more desire and passion from the team, even if we go a goal down. I want to see fight. We lost 4-0 to Chelsea, with luck going against us, but it wasn’t good enough and this fixture against Benfica is the perfect opportunity for the players and Sherwood to show they care and they are winners, because we haven’t seen it. We have history up against Benfica, we played them in the European Cup semi-final 52 years in 1962, our first European campaign, and lost 4-3 on aggregate. We lost 3-1 at the Stadium of Light in Portugal, and in the second leg won 2-1, with Jimmy Greaves being disallowed a goal for offside which would have drawn the game level, but we bowed out of the competition after a brilliant tournament all those years ago. Now, we will hope to have revenge against Benfica, and hopefully we will do what the 1961/62 team couldn’t do, and get past them and go into the quarter finals of the Europa League. It’s going to be a very tough game.

Benfica are a Champions League standard team. They are the level which we want to be in the near future. If we want to get into the Champions League, we have to show we can beat sides with the calibre of Benfica, Portuguese giants. Benfica are unbeaten in 17 games, winning 15 of those games in all competitions, including wins up against Paris Saint Germain in the Champions League, and Porto in the Primeira Liga. That’s impressive. They are top of the Primeira Liga, clear by 7 points and winning their last 5, so you can already see what a difficult task we have in front of us. The team news for Benfica is that after injury, Oscar Cardozo is back in the frame and is likely to start. The Portuguese outfit has a number of threats; up front, just mentioned Oscar Cardozo is a brilliant striker, he’s big and a deadly finisher with 26 goals in 25 starts last season, but this season he has been injured and has only started 11 games, scoring 4 goals. Another important player is Nicolas Gaitan, the attacking midfielder has 5 goals and 6 assists in 28; with a lot of pace and creativity he could hurt us. Rodrigo is another, we were linked in the summer with the striker/winger, and he has had a great season with 11 goals in 26 appearances, pacey and a definite goal threat.

20140312-160000.jpg
The team news for Spurs is that Erik Lamela (thigh/back), Vlad Chiriches (back), Etienne Capoue (ankle) and Michael Dawson (hamstring) have been ruled out of the game, and all of those players will also be out for Sunday’s North London Derby too. Mousa Dembele missed the Chelsea game with a hamstring problem, and is set for a late fitness test to see if he can play against Benfica, if not, he’ll be back for the Arsenal game on Sunday. Christian Eriksen and Danny Rose are back in contention after injuries and are likely to play a part in the game, two massive boosts, with Eriksen’s creativity being missed heavily and Danny’s offensive contributions on the left being lacked in his absence, too. Defensively, this game is crucial to our hopes of continuing to the quarter finals, we must contain Benfica’s attack, so I think we have to play our strongest back four, with Walker on the right, Vertonghen and Kaboul at centre back, along with Danny Rose at left back and Hugo Lloris in goal; this gives us our best chance of a clean sheet, playing Sandro would help defensively too. We are into the part of the competition where resting our best players will not see us through, and so the players will have to deal with the increase of games, and show desire to win in every game. Offensively, I think Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor will start upfront together; they are a partnership in working progress, and Ade drops back into midfield anyway so I don’t think we’d miss the extra midfielder too much with a 4-4-2.

Match facts provided by the Europa League.

– Tottenham have played ten games against Portuguese sides in UEFA competition, with the record W7 D1 L2 (W5 D0 L0 at home).

– Benfica have played 32 games against English clubs in UEFA competition, most recently last season’s UEFA Europa League final in Amsterdam, which they lost 2-1 to Chelsea FC. Their record in those games is W10 D5 L17.

– Spurs are unbeaten in 11 European home games (W9 D2) since a 2-1 loss to PAOK FC in the 2011/12 UEFA Europa League group stage.

– Spurs beat FC Internazionale Milano on away goals at this stage of last season’s UEFA Europa League to reach the quarter-finals, where they lost out to FC Basel on penalties.

– After entering the round of 32 from the UEFA Champions League group stage, Benfica are aiming to reach the final for the second successive season.

– Tottenham (1972, 1984) are one of six previous UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League winners left in the competition along with Sevilla (2006, 2007), Valencia CF (2004), SSC Napoli (1989), FC Porto (2003, 2011) and Juventus (1977, 1990, 1993).

There is nothing better than a European night at White Hart Lane, especially against a massive club like Benfica are. Hopefully the players are as pumped as us fans are, and can put on a performance! Let’s get a win to hold us in good stead for the second leg! COYS!!

My predicted/preferred team to face Benfica at the Lane:
4-4-2
Lloris
Walker – Kaboul – Vertonghen – Rose
Townsend – Bentaleb – Sandro – Eriksen
Soldado – Adebayor.

Tim Sherwood’s pre Benfica press conference:

Match Review, Tottenham vs Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (2nd leg).

Match: Thursday 27th February 2014.

Competition: Europa League, Round 32.

Venue: White Hart Lane.

Result: Tottenham 3-1 Dnipro. (3-2 Tottenham on aggregate.)

Tottenham scorers: Eriksen 56′, Adebayor 65′, 69′.

Dnipro scorer: Zozulva 48′. Zozulva sent off 62′.

These are the sorts of games are the reason us fans love Tottenham so much, putting the fans in complete misery, only to come back from 2-0 and get us into the round of 16 to set up a mouth watering tie with Portuguese giants Benfica, that’s Champions League standard is what that game is.

We started the game on the front foot, in control of the game and limiting Dnipro to very few chances, but we didn’t create enough ourselves; we saw way too many attacks break down in the final third of the pitch, but you could sense something was going to come at the time, but in the first half, it didn’t. Roberto Soldado was very lucky to be on the pitch, he swung an elbow and caught the Dnipro player in the face quite heavily, he deserved a red card but nothing was given. The referee was very poor in the first half, and that continued in the second half. After the referee called a very soft free kick in a dangerous area for Dnipro early on in the second half, Rotan whipped in a delightful ball and bad marking let Zozulva power a header past Hugo Lloris, who got a hand to the ball but was unable to keep it out. At 2-0 down on aggregate and an away goal in favour of Dnipro, it wasn’t looking good whatsoever. We pushed hard to get back in it, and didn’t crumble under the disappointment, we let it drive us. Then, 10 minutes after their goal, a glimmer of hope arrived, Christian Eriksen curled in a free-kick to get Tottenham level at 1-1, but still behind on aggregate 1-2, and needed 2 more goals. We played some beautiful football after we got it back to 1-1, passing the ball extremely well and creating chances with pace on the right and creativity on the left, with an in-form Adebayor in the middle. The major turning point of the match was the sending off, Christian Eriksen was lining up the free-kick, when Zozulva slightly bumped heads with Jan Vertonghen in the box, Jan went down holding his face and Zozulva was awarded a red card. A very harsh decision on Dnipro, and it looked like it was ours to lose from then on. Theatrical from Jan, but maybe that shows his desire to win. I didn’t particularly like his faking of injury. After that incident, 3 minutes later we got a second on 65 minutes, and there could be only one winner in the game after that, Emmanuel Adebayor AKA The Man on Fire, got his long lanky leg to a well placed Christian Eriksen cross from the left hand side and the ball buried into the bottom left hand corner. Only four minutes later we were ahead in the tie, Zeki Fryers launching a ball from the back towards Emmanuel Adebayor who controlled it wonderfully, and finished expertly like the goalkeeper and defender weren’t even there. White Hart Lane goes crazy. We saw out the rest of the game, just, giving Spurs fans heart ache in the dying minutes, when Dnipro pushed for a goal that would see the Ukrainians go through, free kicks and shots, but they couldn’t beat Hugo Lloris. A phenomenal comeback, and a great game of football. Credit to Dnipro who made this tie as exciting and nerve wracking as it was!

20140228-110922.jpg
Christian Eriksen was incredible, and deserves the man of the match award over Emmanuel Adebayor. A goal and an assist as his contribution was crucial to the turnaround in the game, he plays with such class and his movements flow with the game. A joy to watch and this was a superb performance, hopefully he continues to perform like this, and Tim picks him more often. Should start every game. Emmanuel Adebayor had a great game, even without the goals his hold up play and when he tried to beat a man to make something happen, it was brilliant, add the goals in and you’ve got a stunning game played by the big man. We salute him, and I wouldn’t know where we’d be without him at the moment. I want to give a big mention to Kyle Naughton; he’s been getting a shed load of stick for poor performances, but no praise when he performs well, he handled Konoplyanka very well and played a great game, credit to him and it just shows that Naughton at right back is a decent player, it’s just at left back where he struggles. Sandro is back from injury once again, and played a blinder in midfield, he bossed the game and showed how much we have missed him, he gave the freedom to Christian Eriksen, Andros Townsend and Mousa Dembele to go forward and try to make something happen, it was a great showing and playing 75 minutes shows he will hopefully be fit enough for the Cardiff game. Tim Sherwood could have put Brad Friedel in goal, but decided with first teamer Hugo Lloris, and that is a great decision in hind sight, Hugo saved us as he always does so many times, the victory isn’t just down to the goals, as they wouldn’t have meant anything without Hugo in goal. World Class, and loved the passion he showed when we scored.

What a game! The atmosphere at the Lane was electric and I can’t wait for the next round. Our next game is against Cardiff in the Premier League on Sunday 2nd March. Our next Europa League fixture is at home to Benfica, on Thursday March 13th. Massive! COYS!!

My player ratings for the team that faced Dnipro at the Lane:
Lloris – 9
Naughton – 7.5
Dawson – 7
Vertonghen – 7.5
Fryers – 6.5
Townsend – 7
Dembele – 6.5
Sandro – 8
Eriksen – 9 – Man of the Match.
Soldado – 6.5
Adebayor – 9.

Subs:
Bentaleb – 6
Kane – N/A
Lennon – 6.

Tim Sherwood’s post match reaction:

Jan Vertonghen’s post match reaction:

Match Highlights from our 3-1 win over Dnipro:

Match Preview, Tottenham vs Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (2nd leg).

Match date & time: Thursday 27th February 2014. Kick off 8:05pm.

Competition: Europa League round of 32, second leg.

Venue: White Hart Lane.

TV: Live on ITV 1.

First leg result: Dnipro 1-0 Tottenham.

It’s quite simple now, after losing the first leg and failing to score in Ukraine we have to win at the Lane. We were dreadful at the Dnipro Arena, and deserved to lose. We didn’t start quick enough and were sloppy all night, despite missed chances that would have won it for us, it wasn’t good enough and we didn’t create enough. The only positive from the game out in Ukraine is that we can come back to the Lane, only 1 goal down and put it right; it’s in our hands and we need to take that opportunity. Tim’s Cup Competition record is laughable, played 3 and lost 3, and all the performances have been lacklustre to say the least, so it’s crucial that Tim’s team don’t crumble again and get knocked out of yet another competition we had a chance of winning. It’s all well and good blaming Sherwood, but the players have to want it as well, they deserve as much of the blame as Tim does. As well as losing to Dnipro, we lost to Norwich and it’s simply unacceptable, we have to do better and that starts now, hopefully with a comfortable win against Dnipro to put us into the round of 16. Starting quickly, with offensive aggression is crucial, if we start sloppy and without purpose we will have a repeat of the Norwich and Dnipro game, let’s go out there and pummel them back into Ukraine!

Dnipro are a decent team we found that out on our visit, they sit 4th in the Ukrainian League with 18 games gone, and are now on their winter break from League action after stopping prior to Christmas last year. In the Europa League, they came second to Italian club Fiorentina, winning 4 games and losing 2, both loses to Fiorentina, at home and away. For Dnipro, they don’t have any injury concerns after their winter break and come into the game with a full and healthy squad. Their star player, and scorer in the last leg, Yevhen Konoplyanka is crucial to Dnipro, they rely on his skill, pace and final product to create chances and score goals, Kyle Naughton will go head-to-head once again with Yevhen, and I expect it to be a very bumpy ride, Kyle has to do more than he did in Ukraine to stop him, even if that means sacrificing his offensive play to be in position more. Their other offensive talent is attacking midfielder Ruslan Rotan, who has 8 assists so far this season, the best in the League out in Ukraine. Up front, Yevhen Seleznyov is their top scorer in the League with 8 goals in 17 appearances, and he’ll be another threat with Rotan and Konoplyanka feeding the big man. Another player who impressed in the first leg, winning the penalty which led to the goal and giving Danny Rose a hard time was Matheus, he is quick, but by God he cannot finish.

20140226-162522.jpg
The team news for Spurs is quite disheartening, but it picks up at the end I promise. Erik Lamela (back/thigh), Vlad Chiriches (back), Kyle Walker (hip), Younes Kaboul (calf), Danny Rose (knee), Gylfi Sigurdsson (strain) and Jermain Defoe (hamstring) have ALL been ruled out of the game through injury, it’s quite a list. The most disappointing aspect of a very disappointing list is the fact Jermain Defoe has been ruled out, it may be that he wouldn’t have played if fit anyway as he is flying to Toronto on Friday, but it would have been a joy to see him strut his stuff on the hallow White Hart Lane turf once more before he goes. We thank him for everything he has done for us, but there will be no more goals in Europe for our all time leading goalscorer in Europe, Jermain Defoe. Both our starting full-backs will not be playing, which is quite a concern, this leaves us with no choice but to play Kyle Naughton on the right and young Ezequiel Fryers on the left, not the strongest of full-backs, but I rate Fryers highly and think he will become our first team left back in the future if he can secure more games. Christian Eriksen’s exclusion from the starting 11 has baffled a lot of people, and after that exclusion I reckon Sherwood will reinstate the Danish playmaker to the first 11, and play him on the left hand side in a 4-4-2 formation. It’s time for Roberto Soldado to step up, once and for all, it’s been a torrid time for the Spaniard at Spurs, but I still believe that ultimate poacher from Valencia still lurks in the shadows, he needs a goal soon and hopefully he puts one or two away against Dnipro, from open play!

It’s going to be a very special atmosphere at the Lane, it’s great to have European nights like this and I’d like that to continue for as long as possible! Massive game, which we have to win! The game is live on ITV 1, kick off at 8:05pm. I’ll be at the Lane, and will update when I can from my twitter account @AddictedToSpurs, follow me there!

My predicted/preferred team to face Dnipro at the Lane:
4-4-2
Friedel
Naughton – Dawson – Vertonghen – Fryers
Townsend – Sandro – Bentaleb – Eriksen
Soldado – Kane.

Tim Sherwood’s pre Dnipro press conference: