Dnipro vs Tottenham Hotspur.
We are off to the Ukraine to face the wrath of Juande Ramos. His article in the Daily Mail states that Levy was to blame for his departure by cashing in on strikers Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane in the summer and failing to buy his two prime targets David Villa and Eto`o as replacements. That then opened the usual can of worms about Daniel Levy and Enic so we all had a good natter on VS about how wonderful Levy is or isn`t, depending on which side of the Profit and Loss account you want to sit.
This is our last chance to win a bit of silverware this season and you have to hope that the squad is big enough for Sherwood to have a Europa League side and a Premiership side. If we get past Dnipro we face either PAOK or Benfica in the last 16. The first leg of which will be at the Lane.
We won a football game 4-0! And away from home! Not only that Sherwood managed to blow everyone`s brains with the team selection and the formation. Where did that one come from? Capoue sitting in front of the back four with Bentaleb and Paulinho playing higher up the pitch and Dembele coming in from the right was an "interesting" formation. Mind you Hugo Lloris was the reason why we kept the Magpies out of the game, some of his saves were unbelievable and all the more reason why we need to get fourth place otherwise some of our key players, like Lloris could decide to go if we don`t make Champions League.
Adebayor is now running the show. He plays as a spare centre back when we are defending set piece`s, he holds the ball up in midfield whilst we a get a move started and then he arrives in the final third looking for work.
I doubt if Sherwood would ask Ade to play in the Europa which means Soldado will be leading the line. £30m Lamela is out for another 6 weeks with a back problem. Chiriches is still out and Dnipro maybe too soon for Sandro, Siggy may be back though, as may be Rose. Capoue looked good in his new role and Chadli could be a contender. The question is; will Sherwood use Bentaleb? Townsend could probably do with some game time where as Walker could do with a night off even though the squad will have had 9 days off because of our lack of involvement in the FA Cup. We have a winnable game at Norwich after Dnipro so that may have a bearing on the squad choice.
But what of our opponents? We seem to be spending a lot of our Europa League games in the Eastern European sector. Anzi Makhachkala, Sheriff Tiraspol and now Dnipro who our currently 4th in their League. They had a good win at CSKA Moskow on Valentines night although they did get 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Dinamo Moskow a couple of days before. Dnipro have reached the last 32 just 3 times since the start of the Europa League. Their last 3 meetings against English Clubs have been; won 1 lost 2, the last defeat being against Middlesborough in 2005/2006 who went on to get to the final.
The last time we met a Ukranian Team in the Europa it was Shaktar Donetsk when we drew 1-1 at the Lane and then lost 2-0 at their place. Dnipro's Yevhen Seleznyov came off the bench to score Shakhtar's second goal in that game. Dnipro have won three of their four European home games this season, but have yet to record a victory in ten fixtures in the last phase of a UEFA competition, with their matches to date ending ;D5 - L5.
Spurs are on an eight-game winning streak in the EL, home and away, with just 2 goals conceded in this year`s campaign, in fact, we have not lost over 90 minutes in our last ten European fixtures. It was Basel that beat Dnipro last season to qualify to the last 16 only to beat us on penalties and "that" Adebayor penalty!
There are now 5 more teams that have dropped out of the Champions League; Napoli, Shakhtar, AFC Ajax; Porto and this year`s final hosts, Juventus, who will be in the mix, so the final part of the competition will be a tough one.
Jermain Defoe is joint top scorer in the competition this season with 5 goals. Defoe is 11th on the all-time leaderboard alongside Dennis Bergkamp, Martin Chivers, Jürgen Klinsmann, Óscar Cardozo, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
Dnipro goalkeeper Alexandru Vlad and Tottenham defender Vlad Chiricheş were team-mates at FC Internaţional Curtea de Argeş in 2008/09 and at FC Pandurii Târgu Jiu in the 2011/12 season and Dnipro's Czech goalkeeper Jan Lastůvka played in England with Fulham FC, Blackburn Rovers FC and West Ham. Dnipro's Croatia forward, Nikola Kalinić joined the club in 2011 after spending the previous two seasons in England with Blackburn.
Ukraine and Italy are the most represented nations in this seasons knock out stages with four teams each out of the final 32. Last season Dnipro were the top scorers in the 2012/13 UEFA Europa League group stage with 16 goals.
Ramos took over Dnipro in 2010. He led Sevilla to back-to-back UEFA Cup successes in 2005/06 and 2006/07, before his now infamous spell in charge of Spurs but he also coached Real Madrid CF and PFC CSKA Moskva.
This will be Tim`s first taste of EL football so it would be interesting to know if he has done his home work on Dnipro. A draw away would be a good result as Dnipro have struggled when playing in England. You have to fancy us for the last 16 again and meeting a glamour side like Benfica.
Written by OyVeh Maria