What: UEFA Champions League Playoff Round
Who: Young Boys vs Tottenham Hotspur
When: Tuesday 17th August, 2010, at 19:45 UK Time
Where: Wankdorf Stadium, Bern, Switzerland
Shaking Off League Blues
Having finished second in last season’s Swiss Super League, losing out to Basel in the last two games, Young Boys were expected to enter this season with fire in their bellies. However, the summer break seems to have dimmed that and the Wankdorf outfit have entered the new campaign with something of a hangover. Five games in and Vladimir Petkovic’s charges have just five points and languish in the bottom half of the table; defeat at home to Neuchatel Xamax on Saturday (1-0) was another bitter blow.
In Europe though it’s been a different story for the Swiss side. The Champions League qualifying round paired Young Boys with Turkish giants Fenerbahce and that, along with their poor early form, left many fearing the worst. But Young Boys summoned up reserves of strength, snatched a last minute goal to grab a 2-2 draw in the first leg at the Wankdorf and then came away from Istanbul with a famous 1-0 second leg win. Indeed, that result made Young Boys the first Swiss side to ever leave the Turkish capital with victory.
Time to Seal the Deal
Last season Harry Redknapp led Spurs into the top four to massive acclaim from across England. However, reaching the top four is but half of the job and, as Everton boss David Moyes well knows – the Goodison Park side finished fourth in 2005 – the playoff round can be trecherous. Should Tottenham fall at this hurdle, it has the potential to cast a long dark shadow over their entire season.
Spurs began the season with a draw at home to Manchester City which should, on the balance of play, have brought a win. Redknapp praised what he considered to be an effective display and Spurs did carve City open throughout the match; only the brilliance of Joe Hart in the Citizens’ goal kept the London side at bay. Marked as a "9 out of 10" performance by Redknapp, Tottenham will hope to deliver more of the same in Switzerland.
Fenerbahce 0-1 Young Boys (04/08; Champions League)
Grasshopper 1-2 Young Boys (08/08; Super League)
Young Boys 0-1 Neuchatel Xamax (14/08; Super League)
Benfica 0-1 Tottenham Hotspur (03/08; Friendly)
Tottenham Hotspur 3-2 Fiorentina (07/08; Friendly)
Tottenham Hotspur 0-0 Manchester City (14/08; Premier League)
Young Boys: Hassan Lingani
Tottenham Hotspur: Jonathan Woodgate
Players to watch
Young Boys – Henri Bienvenu: The 22-year-old Cameroonian striker arrived at the Wankdorf in January from Tunisian football, but has only been trusted as a main marksman this season due to the departure of Seydou Doumbia to CSKA Moscow. The hero of Istanbul – Bienvenu scored the winner at Fenerbahce – will not get too many chances against Spurs; he must make sure he takes those he does get.
Tottenham Hotspur – Luka Modric: Champions League football is the stage on which Modric can excel. The little Croat has shown glimpses of brilliance in the Premier League since joining Spurs and, although tiring late on against Manchester City, the extra time and space Young Boys could well afford him may allow Modric to conjure some magic.
Spurs come in to this game as clear favourites and will be looking for a good result to take to White Hart Lane. However, complacency is their biggest enemy, just as it proved for Fenerbahce in the previous round. If Tottenham are already looking to the group stage, they could come a cropper. The Champions League has seen Young Boys’ best form so far and they have little to lose. Expect a tight game, ending in a 0-0 or 1-1 draw.