DAVID SMITH - Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Brad Friedel and Clint Dempsey will try to protect Tottenham's narrow lead over Lyon as the field of teams vying for the Europa League will be whittled down to 16 after Thursday's round of games.
Olympique Lyonnais - Tottenham Hotspur (agg. 1-2)
Holding a precarious 2-1 advantage over Lyon from the home leg, Clint Dempsey and Brad Friedel will both be in the starting lineup for Andres Villas-Boas in France on Thursday.
Gareth Bale was the hero one week before, netting two fantastic free-kick goals to give Spurs the leg up before hitting the road.
His second in the dying moments of the game was particularly important, as it put the pressure on the French team to score in the second leg. While Lyon have no shortage of attacking talent at their disposal, this necessity could very well open the game up for the visitors to nab an away goal of their own on the break, and further cement their current advantage to go through to the final 16.
A forgotten man in Premier League play, Friedel will take what has by now become his usual spot in cup play. As a result, Friedel will force usual starting keeper Hugo Lloris to celebrate his return to the Stade de Gerland - where he plied his trade for four seasons - as a spectator from the bench.
If Lyon hopes to press through to the round of 16, they will need to defeat a Tottenham team that has yet to lose in Europe this season, in the process allowing a paltry four goals through seven group stage and knockout round games.
The only clear advantage the French team holds is on the injury front, as they appear to have a full squad with no notable absences.
Tottenham, on the other hand, is missing starting striker Jermain Defoe to an ankle injury, along with Sandro, Younes Kaboul and Tom Huddlestone, all to knee problems.
David Yelldell will not be in uniform for Leverkusen on Thursday when they try to overcome a 1-0 first-leg deficit at Benfica.
Steve Cherundolo is recovering from knee surgery and will not take part when Hannover hosts Anzhi Makhachkala, needing to overcome a 3-1 first-leg loss to the Russian team.