Why Tottenham Hotspur Can Win the Europa League This Season
On Thursday Tottenham Hotspur will find out their opponents for the next stage of the UEFA Europa League, as well as who they might potentially face in the round of 16 should they progress so far.
Changing tact slightly, it is time to look at the reasons why Spurs can win it.
With the round of 32 not scheduled until February a lot could change in the intervening weeks, with the fixtures that the draw determines certain to influence thinking over who the favorites will be.
But as of now, Spurs have reasons to be positive about their prospects in the tournament.
Few Opponents to Be Fearful of
Despite being one of the unseeded teams for Thursday's draw, there are few potential opponents Tottenham should be afraid of.
Chelsea, probably the strongest club of the remaining 32, will be avoided for now due to not being able to play clubs from your own country.
Andre Villas-Boas may come across his former employers later on, but even then he knows his new team is capable of giving his old one a run for its money.
So in the more immediate future there is the prospect of a tie with one of the other Champions League dropouts, or a club who topped their Europa League group.
Of these are undoubtedly some demanding tests—Lyon, Benfica and Olympiacos are riding high in their domestic leagues and are experienced European campaigners.
Tottenham would have to improve on their performances from earlier in the competition in order to navigate the threats posed by the likes of these clubs.
But should they do that, they would be beatable.
Even some of the stronger unseeded teams like Bayer Leverkusen and Napoli—who they might come across down the line—have issues of inconsistency that should ensure Spurs are not facing any potentially monumental jobs in progressing.
This is the first time Tottenham have reached the latter stages of the Europa League-UEFA Cup since 2009, when the prospect of a League Cup final and ensuring their Premier League safety saw Harry Redknapp field a weakened team that came up short against that year's eventual winners Shakhtar Donetsk.
Between then and last season's group stage exit, Spurs enjoyed a season in the Champions League, reaching the quarterfinals where they went out to Real Madrid.
The make-up of the Tottenham squad has changed considerably since those famous nights of the 2010-11 campaign when the club competed so admirably, let alone the UEFA Cup campaigns from a few years previously.
Remaining from those times are several players who still make up components of the present squad—notably the likes of Jermain Defoe, Aaron Lennon, Michael Dawson, Tom Huddlestone, Gareth Bale and William Gallas.
The aforementioned names would be involved to varying degrees should Spurs move forward, but the experienced they have all gleaned over the years should not be underestimated.
Others like Jan Vertonghen and Clint Dempsey are of course experienced in European competition too.
But there is something to be said about having been through it with Tottenham, having experienced the highs and lows of nights under the lights at White Hart Lane, and on character-building trips abroad.
Experience alone will not be enough to guide Spurs all the way, but it should have this squad well prepared for what they might face along the way—and that could make a big difference.
Much has been made of the importance of the Europa League to Andre Villas-Boas' career trajectory.
This is natural considering he would likely not have got his big move to Chelsea (and subsequently Spurs) without winning it like he did in Porto—not as quickly anyway.
Just because he has won the competition once does not mean it is a guarantee Villas-Boas will do it again, but his own familiarity with the demands of the Europa League will certainly be helpful to Tottenham.
For a start he is not coming into continental football unaware, and knowing as he does the challenges of navigating past teams of varying styles from various countries, Spurs should not be unprepared for these.
Less tangibly it is the experience of having been there and done that which may dividends.
The Tottenham squad has seemingly responded well to Villas-Boas' style and methods so far, so there is little reason not to believe they will not absorb any pertinent recollections of his own past he feels appropriate to share.
This will not be a deciding factor in Tottenham going all the way, but it is one of several little things that can help.
Time for This Group to Push on
A couple of pages previously we looked at how the players' previous experience in Europe might apply to them succeeding this time around.
On a similar note, this applies in the respect that as a group, this is good a shot as they have ever had to win a major trophy.
This might not chime with the general feeling of a brave new world at White Hart Lane this season as they continue to adapt to Villas-Boas and he to them (along with new players, coaching staff and training ground).
But the core of this squad has been together a while now, and while Spurs supporters are hopeful of what the club might do in the coming years under their Portuguese manager, for some of them there is no guarantee as to how long they will be part of it.
Players like Defoe, Lennon and Bale are undoubtedly talented enough to make a mark at this level and have proven so time and time again before.
As much as they would like to achieve something in the Premier League this season, there has to be an ambition inside of them to bring a trophy home after the near misses and heartbreaks they been brought (most recently losing an FA Cup semifinal to Chelsea).
To do so would be a true measure of their impact on the club, and they are deserving of that for the contributions they have made over the years.
It is something of a fool's task to predict the future, but we do so anyway as it is a bit of fun.
The belief that Tottenham Hotspur can win the Europa League is founded on an assortment of truths, facts, theories and assumptions that might prove solid, they might not.
But this is a club for which there is reason to be optimistic, so there is little wrong with applying that to their prospects in this competition.
Do you agree that Tottenham can win this tournament, or are bold or foolish enough to suggest they definitely will?
Or is this all pie in the sky thinking where the reality will expose Spurs to an overestimation of their abilities.
Have your say after the jump, and offer up any other thoughts you may have on who you think Tottenham will want to get or avoid in Thursday's draw, or anything else on the subject.