Tottenham vs. Lyon: 4 Reasons to Be Excited for Spurs' First Europa League Tie
Thursday's draw for the first round of European competitions' knockout stages offered up a few mouth-watering encounters.
While it is easy to get caught up in the Champions League's clashes of giants, such as Real Madrid-Manchester United, AC Milan-Barcelona and Arsenal-Bayern Munich, a few Europa League ties should have enough appeal to keep you interested on Thursdays.
Not the least of these interesting matchups is the pitting of Tottenham against French stalwarts Olympique Lyonnais.
So what makes this encounter one to watch for?
Here are four reasons for Spurs fans to get excited about their club's Round of 32 tie.
While much is being made of Cristiano Ronaldo's upcoming return to Old Trafford and Lukas Podolski's upcoming return to the Allianz Arena in the Champions League, this tie actually has two players who will be going up against their old clubs.
Current Tottenham keeper Hugo Lloris will be making his first trip back to Lyon since he left the club for the Premier League in August.
Before the draw, it was unclear whether the France captain would actually play in these Europa League matches (seeing as backup Brad Friedel started the final group stage match), but Lloris is almost certain to start against his old club.
Meanwhile, Lyon's Steed Malbranque is set to make his return to White Hart Lane. The Belgian left Spurs in 2008 after two seasons with the club.
AVB's Positive Approach
As much as I would like to see lots of rotation in the squad so as not to hinder their pursuit of the Premier League's top four, manager Andre Villas-Boas seems well set to go hard for the Europa League.
The Portuguese manager was practically giddy talking about the competition and his team's draw, calling it "wonderful and important." (via the Guardian)
Given the fact that AVB's biggest accomplishment as a manager is his Europa League title with FC Porto, this stance is not so surprising.
No matter your opinion on the matter, if Spurs are to go after the competition and play their starters, the matches are vitally important for the club, especially in their progress towards the Champions League.
"Champions League Audition"
While resting your starters could effectively make these Europa League matches virtually meaningless, taking an all-guns-blazing approach makes them extremely important.
This fact is not lost on Andre Villas-Boas, who called the tie with Lyon "a dress rehearsal for the Champions League." (via the Independent)
While the comment is a bit heavy-handed since it in no way impacts the club's qualification for next season's Champions League, his point is clear: Given a top-four finish this season, ties like this one will provide the experience needed for a Champions League run next season.
The fact that Lyon have been Champions League regulars over the past decade just adds to the potential benefits of success in this tie.
If Spurs pull this tie off, they may be able to look back on it and pull on their experiences from it come next season.
Should Tottenham be able to get past Lyon in this Round of 32 tie, their likely opponents in the Round of 16 are Inter Milan.
For most clubs, the prospect of a match with a team from another country wouldn't be all that thrilling. For Spurs and their fans, though, the prospect of two matches with Inter is quite alluring.
Supporters will remember just over two years ago, in the midst of Tottenham's first Champions League campaign, when Spurs had two matches with Inter in the group stages.
Those were the matches where Gareth Bale announced himself to the world, scoring a hat trick and leading the side to one of their greatest-ever results, a convincing victory over the reigning European champions at White Hart Lane.
Would Tottenham and Bale be able to duplicate their success?
Who knows, but a trip to the San Siro would be mighty nice.
There are my four reasons for being excited for this Europa League tie.
Of course, beneath these surface points, there will be a thoroughly interesting and enthralling tactical battle that will be waged on the pitch.
With the tie still a month and a half away, I will address these points further as we get a bit closer to the matches.
For now, let's indulge ourselves with holiday spirit and dream of some Europa glory for Spurs.
Did I miss anything? Do you have anything else to add? Do you have any thoughts on the matches?
Please let me know in the comments section below!
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