DAVID SMITH - Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Brad Friedel and Clint Dempsey should both take the field for Tottenham on Thursday evening when they host Swiss upstarts Basel in the first leg of their Europa League quarterfinal.
Friedel got a rare league start in Spuds' 2-1 win over Swansea during weekend as usual starter Hugo Lloris recovered from a minor knee problem, and will likely once again feature for head coach Andre Villas-Boas as he has throughout their European campaign this season.
On paper, Tottenham are undoubted favorites to advance through to the semifinals against their Swiss opponents, but are dealing with the complication of managing both an extended European campaign as well as a domestic fight to qualify for next season's Champions League.
They were given a boost over the weekend after their win at Swansea gave them a narrow lead over fourth-place Chelsea and some much-needed breathing room ahead of Arsenal, but will be wary since their fortunes on either front could turn at a moment's notice.
Dempsey has been absence since his return from international duty, but should be available to feature on Thursday. The same cannot be said for Jermain Defoe, whose expected two-game absence due to a groin injury is a huge blow to the north-London team.
Tottenham barely survived their round of 16 battle with Inter Milan, coming through only by nature of away goals after suffering a second-leg 4-1 defeat in the return leg to the Italian team.
Basel had a more straightforward path to the quarterfinal, defeating 2008 UEFA Cup champions Zenit St. Petersburg by a 2-1 margin in the previous round.
Their first-year head coach, former Swiss international Murat Yakin, has a relatively healthy squad, but must make his plan of attack without three of his important pieces with defenders Park Joo Ho and Philipp Degen along with midfielder Marcelo Díaz all suspended.
Villas-Boas has no players suspended for the game, but in addition to Defoe, will continue to be without long-term injury concerns Sandro and Younes Kaboul.