As is the case for many managers whose clubs have progressed to the latter stages of Europe’s second most prestigious cup competition, Andre Villas-Boas is facing a difficult balancing act as the climax to the 2012/13 season draws near. Although his strong team selections throughout the Europa League thus far have suggested Villas-Boas, who triumphed in this tournament with Porto in 2011, is taking the competition very seriously, he will be wary that over exerting his squad may prove detrimental to their hopes of securing a place in next season’s Champions League. His side currently occupy fourth place in the Premier League standings, four points ahead of north London rivals Arsenal, who have a game in hand.
Tottenham’s quarter-final opponents, Swiss champions Basel, will be very familiar to English audiences, having ended Manchester United’s participation in last year’s Champions League with a pulsating 2-1 victory at St. Jakob-Park. In the first knockout round they even managed to record an unlikely 1-0 victory over eventual finalists Bayern Munich, but succumbed to a heavy 7-0 loss in the return leg. Sadly, Basel are now without the prodigious young talent whose performance catapulted them to that impressive win over Sir Alex Ferguson’s charges, midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri, who joined Bayern last summer.
Veteran striker Alexander Frei will be particularly keen for underdogs Basel to continue to progress in this season’s Europa League. The 33-year-old talisman, who has enjoyed two stints with the club, plans to retire after the current campaign and has scored more goals in European football than any striker still remaining in the competition, having notched 32 in 59 games.
KICK-OFF: Thursday, 8.05pm
Tottenham and Basel have never met in competitive action.
Tottenham are the only side left in the competition who have won this trophy before, lifting the UEFA Cup in 1971/72 and 1983/84.
At 41, Tottenham goalkeeper Brad Friedel is the oldest player left in the competition. He is over six years older than his manager André Villas-Boas, and also has over three years on Basel coach Murat Yakin.
Basel are the only reigning domestic champions still in the competition. They have also played more European matches this season than any other surviving team (16), having begun their continental campaign in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League.
Basel have scored ten of their 12 goals since the start of the group stage after the 60th minute, including six between the 76th minute and full time.
Tottenham to win: 1.42
Basel to win: 9.6
TV: Live on ITV at 8.05pm.