Tottenham Focus - Lyon draw offers reunions and a tricky tie
The draw for the knockout stages of the Europa League has pitted Tottenham Hotspur against Ligue 1 side Lyon, the winner going on to face the victor of the Inter-CFR Cluj tie. The prospect of facing Inter again may delight fans but first comes Lyon.
The draw offers reunions of different sorts. Lyon may see a quick return for Hugo Lloris to the club where he made his reputation, with ex-Spur Steed Malbranque due a return to White Hart Lane. Coach André Villas-Boas has expressed his delight with the draw, saying: “Lyon is a tremendous tie for us in the sense that it gives this country, along with the Liverpool game, the chance to see wonderful Europa League fixtures being played.
“The fact that we play Lyon, who are used to being in the Champions League and used to winning trophies, it's an important reference for us. If we want to set our targets for Champions League qualification, this is the kind of team we will face, teams with a winning mentality, full of quality players.”
Lyon should offer a stern test whilst extra spice if needed will be added by the French club’s manager, ex Arsenal player, Remi Garde. Their glory days of the 2000s, when Lyon dominated French domestic football have passed, with their last title back in the 2007/08 season. However, this season has seen a more resurgent Lyon; second in Ligue 1, level on points with Paris St Germain. The resurgence has been led by the goals of Bafétimbi Gomis and prompted by the assists of Malbranque.
In some ways, Spurs and Lyon may be a mirror image. Both have predominantly played 4-2-3-1 this season, both appear to play a pressing, possession-based game, trying to control the ball in the opponent’s half. Both have scored 30 goals in their league with one striker leading the way - Gomis for Lyon and Jermain Defoe for Spurs.
Lyon have a better defensive record and to date have lost three games compared to Spurs’ six, however similar to Spurs there have been disappointing results - draws against teams they may have expected to win or close matches against struggling teams. Where Lyon have been reported to struggle at times this season has been from attacks down the flanks. This should offer encouragement to Spurs with the width and pace of Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon.
What Spurs fans know is that the Coach, Villas-Boas, seems intent on taking the competition seriously, determined to recapture the success he achieved with Porto. In the group games, Spurs fielded strong teams with one or two youngsters, unlike under Harry Redknapp, where fringe players and youngsters were thrown in at the deep end. Now Spurs are in the business end of the competition, the approach will be no different to this tricky but winnable tie.
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