At the beginning of the 2013-2014 season, Tottenham had a chance at winning four competitions: The Premier League, the Capital One Cup, the FA Cup, and the UEFA Europa League. For all of those competitions, most fans (including myself) believed we had a good chance in winning any of them, the least likely being the Premier League. Fast forward to now, and we have been knocked out of the FA Cup and the Capital One Cup, chasing 4th in the Premier League (Which I think is ideal), but very much alive in the Europa League. For this writing, we will be focusing on Tottenham’s only chance for silverware.
An insight on the competition so far..
Tottenham have absolutely dominated the Europa League so far, proving that they are the favorites to win the Europa League. Tottenham were one of two teams to sweep their division (The other is Red Bull Salzburg), winning all six of their games in scintillating fashion, scoring 15 goals and conceding only two. Also, soon-to-be Toronto FC striker Jermain Defoe became Tottenham Hotspur’s all time record goal scorer in Euro competition with 23 goals, surpassing Martin Chivers. The most challenging adversary that’s come from the group is the conditions that have been played in. Tottenham have had to travel to freezing cold Russia, an isolated city/state in Moldova, and near the Arctic Circle in Norway. Tottenham pulled off impressive 2-0 wins every time on the road, and won 4-1, 2-1, and 3-0 at home. It’s been impressive so far, but can this good form continue?
Fellow challengers for the cup
Tottenham are one of the favorites, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only ones. The UCL teams that drop in always provide a challenge, and sometimes win the competition (Chelsea last year). This year they include Napoli, Benfica, Ajax, Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Victoria Plzen, Basel (knocked us out at the quarter finals last year), and Serie A toppers Juventus. Out of all those teams, the weakest teams are probably Donetsk and Plzen, the strongest being Juventus (favorite for the UCL before the tournament began), Napoli, and Basel. I must say, Juventus are probably expected to win the cup. If not Juventus, it’s a tossup between Basel, Benfica, Napoli, Tottenham, and dark horses Salzburg. Here are the two teams I think are most likely to win the Europa League:
1. Juventus: Not much explaining to do here. They have a fantastic squad, great depth, and some world class players. Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon needs no introduction. The 2006 world cup winner is still a world class keeper at age 35, not much gets past him. Aruto Vidal is believed by many to be the most all around midfielder in the world, and rightfully so. Alongside him is Paul Pogba, the hottest young property in world football. It seems every other week he scores an impossible long range stunner. Up top, Carlos Tevez is in good form and has settled nicely at his new club. A world class team that surprisingly fell out of the group stages of the UCL, they’ll surely be terrorizing any team they come up against in the Europa League.
2. Tottenham: I believe Tottenham Hotspur are just behind Juventus in terms of being able to win the Europa League. Juventus has depth, but so do Tottenham. Even if you used a team entirely different than the usual starting lineup, that team would still be capable of winning this competition. They swept all before them in the group stages, and are tasked with facing FC Dnipro in the round of 32. Sure they are a decent team, but they shouldn’t be able to match up against Tottenham. Expect a lineup consisting of these players in the Europa League: Jermain Defoe (until he leaves), Andros Townsend, Brad Friedel, Lewis Holtby, Zeki Fryers, Kyle Naughton, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Erik Lamela, Etienne Capoue, Paulinho, and Roberto Soldado. All are decent players at worst, and some are truly class (Erik Lamela, Brad Friedel, Lewis Holtby). Some first team regulars will probably play as well.
Why I think Tottenham can triump
I have mentioned all of the teams participating in the Europa League capable of winning it all, and Tottenham top them all. I have Juventus at number one, but only because they are the proven team. Both Juventus and Tottenham have great squads, but Tottenham probably has better reserves to play in the Europa League. Juventus has little interest in the Europa League, so don’t expect players like Tevez, Chiellini, Buffon, Pirlo, and Pogba to see too much playing time. Their reserves aren’t nearly as good as the options Tottenham have. Also, Tottenham are used to playing in atrocious Europa League conditions, while Juventus aren’t subject to that in Serie A and didn’t have to travel very far in the UCL (aside from Denmark, and the conditions weren’t too bad. Also, the hailstorm in Turkey but that game was called off). Tottenham will triumph in the Europa League, and Tim Sherwood will add that to his CV alongside UCL qualification. Here come the Spurs..