Lyon vs. Tottenham Hotspur: Preview and Team News Ahead of Europa League Clash
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Tottenham Hotspur enjoyed a rare couple days off this past weekend as the FA Cup Fifth Round took precedence in England. Andre Villas-Boas would rather his side had not been knocked out at Leeds United in the previous round, but he will not have objected to his well-worked players getting a rest.
It has meant Tottenham go into their Europa League Round of 32 Second Leg with Olympique Lyonnais on Thursday having not played since their first meeting last week. Gareth Bale's late winner (his second on the night) gave his team a 2-1 aggregate lead heading to France. But without a game since then, will that leave the North London club well-rested or a little rusty?
The former is more likely given the amount of football Spurs have played over the last couple of months. Lyon will have welcomed playing in between though, seeing as they enjoyed a confidence-boosting 4-0 thrashing of mid-table Bordeaux.
Gueida Fofana and Alexandre Lacazette, the 21-year-olds who both impressed against Spurs, grabbed a goal apiece with Clement Grenier scoring the other two.
The win kept Lyon in touch with Ligue 1 table-toppers Paris Saint-Germain (who lost to Sochaux), and was yet more evidence of the progression being made by this young group under the tutelage of Remi Garde.
After years of big spending on player recruitment, the French outfit are putting an emphasis on youth development.
Seven of the 13 players who featured against Spurs were under the age of 25. At times that inexperience showed, but so too did the potential of the talent they possess. In addition to the positive showings of Lacazette and Fofana, Maxime Gonalons performed strongly in midfield while Samuel Umtiti's equalizer matched Bale's brace for brilliance.
Tottenham will be optimistic about their chances of sealing their progress at the Stade de Gerland, but having now seen them up close they will not take their opponents lightly. For all of Lyon's youth, as a club they retain the aura they have developed over the last decade in title-winning campaigns and European adventures.
Villas-Boas' men can prepare for Lyon knowing they are not in action again until next Monday. The gap of four days is most welcome considering they face a London derby at West Ham United.
Plenty of attention will be focused on Spurs' star man Bale following his match-winning exploits in three successive games over the last month.
The Welshman was relatively quiet for much of the game against Lyon, but stepped up in spectacular fashion to score those two free-kicks. Unsurprisingly, he has rarely been out of the headlines since with constant opinion and speculation about his future.
Villas-Boas will be looking for Bale's teammates to play their part in settling the tie. In that regard he has no new injuries to contend with.
Jermain Defoe is still out injured so Emmanuel Adebayor is expected to lead the line upfront again. The Togo international struggled to make an impact in the first leg. At the very least Tottenham could do with him occupying the Lyon defense as much as possible as they look to stifle the French outfit.
Bale and Aaron Lennon will almost certainly start out on the wings, with Scott Parker and Mousa Dembele continuing their central midfield partnership. Clint Dempsey will likely remain in attacking midfield, though Lewis Holtby might well get his first start in Europe for Spurs in place of the American.
Villas-Boas' de-facto cup goalkeeper Brad Friedel is set to get the nod once again over Hugo Lloris, denying the Frenchman a chance to start against the team he left last summer.
What the Portuguese coach has in mind for his defense is not clear yet. Michael Dawson was rested in the first leg while William Gallas started ahead of Steven Caulker too, with Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Jan Vertonghen having come back in after being left out for the previous weekend's win over Newcastle United.
Villas-Boas might keep it as is for Lyon, with Dawson coming back in for the more physical challenge of Andy Carroll and West Ham on Monday. If so, the onus is on the experienced Gallas to guide and marshal his defense in the face of the tricky threat posed by Bafetimbi Gomis and Lisandro Lopez.
Lyon have no new injuries to report, ensuring Tottenham will face (at least) the majority of the side they took on last week.
These are two clubs with aspirations to be back in the Champions League next season. For now though it is the Europa League that plays host to them in a match that has all the makings of one of the most exciting fixtures of the round.
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