Premier League

Putting That Tottenham Qualifier Into Perspective

English eyes will be on Tottenham come the middle of August when Spurs take on Swiss outfit Young Boys in the Champions League play-off stage.

Tottenham will be attempting to reach the group stage of Europe’s elite club competition for the first time in their history. All-in-all Spurs fans will be happy with the draw, having avoided the likes of Sampdoria, Werder Bremen and Dynamo Kiev.

The tie shouldn’t be taken as a walkover however. Young Boys progressed through the previous round by winning 1-0 away at an always hostile Fenerbahce, after a 2-2 draw at home. I would still expect Tottenham to progress.

Celtic’s conquerors Braga have been handed a tough draw against Spanish side Sevilla. Though Braga will give Sevilla a good game, I can’t see anything other than the Spaniards progressing. Sevilla will have too much quality with the likes of Luis Fabiano, Freddy Kanoute, Federico Fazio and Sebastien Squillaci within the ranks.

Martin Jol’s Ajax has a tricky tie, facing European regulars Dynamo Kiev.  Kiev has some good players who will surely be moving to a better team in the near future. Olev Gusev and Artem Milevskiy are rated highly across Europe and could cause Ajax problems. And of course, Andriy Shevchenko. Perhaps not the lethal striker he once was but he still has an eye for goal. Ajax has real quality up-front with Luis Suarez, scoring thirty-five league goals last season and winning Dutch Footballer of the Year. A close one to call, if I had to stick my neck out I’d go for a narrow win for Kiev.

Werder Bremen and Sampdoria should be an interesting affair.  Sampdoria have two quality strikers up-top. Giampaolo Pazzini has an excellent record since joining the club and Antonio Cassano has really re-found his form since arriving. He doesn’t score as many as Pazzini, but he consistently creates chances for his strike partner, who generally gobbles them up.  Bremen has a number of the German national team in their squad. Per Mertesacker, Tim Borowski and the exciting Mezut Ozil (should he remain with the club during the transfer window).

Claudio Pizarro is always liable to grab a goal when needed and should get plenty of service from Ozil. Last season Bremen scored plenty of goals in the league but conceded regularly, with Pazzini and Cassano up against them that could spell danger. I’ll go for Sampdoria to sneak through.

The draw in full

Young Boys (SUI) v Tottenham Hotspur (ENG)

Sporting Braga (POR) v Sevilla (ESP)

Werder Bremen (GER) v Sampdoria (ITA)

Zenit St Petersburg (RUS) v Auxerre (FRA)

Dynamo Kiev (UKR) v Ajax (NED)

Salzburg (AUT) v Hapoel Tel-Aviv (ISR)

Rosenborg (NOR) v Copenhagen (DEN)

Basel (SUI) v FC Sheriff (MDA)

Sparta Prague (CZE) v MSK Zilina (SVK)

Partizan Belgrade (SRB) v Anderlecht (BEL)

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