Sheriff Tiraspol v Tottenham Hotspur: Lewis Holtby relishing European action with Tottenham Hotspur
Thursday 24 October 2013
Lewis Holtby is enjoying Tottenham's Europa League trips to the likes of Sheriff Tiraspol - even if he thought they were a club in Northern Ireland, not Eastern Europe.
Spurs are aiming to keep up their 100 per cent record in the Europa League on Thursday evening and can even qualify from Group K if they win and Anzhi draw with Tromso.
The clash at the Moldovan champions is one of several tough trips faced by Andre Villas-Boas' side in this year's competition, although one midfielder Holtby thought was a little closer to home.
"I had never heard of Sheriff before," the Germany international said. "I thought they were based in Northern Ireland.
"But coming to places like this is always an experience, especially for young players.
"You learn a lot coming to these types of countries and playing these types of teams.
"It is important to take these kind of atmospheres into your game. You learn a lot of things. So from that point of view it's nice to have a group like this."
Few can blame Holtby for not knowing much about Sheriff.
Dominant in the Moldovan top flight, they hail from the capital of Transnistria - a self-announced breakaway state unrecognised by an sovereign nation.
"I only heard of it 20 minutes before we arrived," said Holtby, who admitted sleeping across the border.
"I got told it was a country within Moldova. That's a new one on me but a good experience to take with me and it has improved my geography.
"I am very pleased to be here. I can tell my grandchildren that I played in a part of Moldova that isn't Moldova."
The Stadionul Sheriff is sold out for Thursday evening's clash and more than 200 Tottenham fans are expected at the Group K clash.
"We have to be ready for them because it is going to be their cup final," Holtby added.
"Every opponent we face in the Europa League sees us as the bigger side.
"We are Tottenham Hotspur, we are a fantastic club, we have got quality players throughout the squad, so everybody is buzzing when they play against us.
"It makes us proud to be in that position. But we are only concerned with trying to get our win, continuing our 100 per cent points tally and qualifying from the group as quickly as possible."
Few people give Sheriff a chance of winning the clash, with bookmakers pricing them as far out as 10/1 to beat Spurs.
Captain Miral Samardzic admits the team are playing more in hope than expectation, although they are aiming for a positive result.
"Our team wants to win this game," he said. "There is excitement is in the team, which is understandable because it is Tottenham and not a team from our championship.
"It's a good thing because every player's emotions will see them play to the maximum."
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