Through To The Group Stages

After a less than thrilling encounter – what did we expect – we are about to enter the Group Stages of the Europa League where, following the draw at lunchtime, we will face home and away ties against Russians FC Anji, Sheriff from Moldova and Tromso of Norway. Apparently we have never played any of these teams before so something entirely new.
FC Anji played in last season’s Europa League reaching the last 16, finishing top of their group which included Liverpool. Having lost 1 – 0 at Anfield they recorded a single goal win in the return match. In the last 16 they lost to Newcastle United 1 – 0 on aggregate to a late goal in added time in the second leg at St. James’ Park.
However they are probably best known as being that other club owned by a Russian billionaire oil magnate who decided that football would be a fine pastime to invest all his money in, but he then decided to sell all his expensive toys – “Will I Am” included – and concentrate on growing his own produce. Are you listening Roman? Having also sold E´to, Samba and Diarra as well recently they are not the force they could have been.
The Sheriff of Moldova defeated Vojvodina of Serbia in their play-off round, winning 3 – 2 on aggregate. They are a very young club having been founded as recently as 1997 by former cop Viktor Gushan, an employee of the Sheriff Security Company, and their logo is – appropriately enough – a Sheriff´s badge. The squad consists mostly of native Moldovans and no less than 6 Brazilians so our south American contingent will feel very much at home.
Norwegian team Tromso are perhaps the luckiest team to be in the competition as they lost 3 – 2 on aggregate to Besiktas but were re-instated when the Turkish club’s ban for match fixing was upheld this morning. Their team is primarily made up of Scandinavians but their one claim to fame is that they are the northernmost top-level football club in the world. A chilly night out in November beckons.
As yet the exact dates and times are unknown but the first tie will be on 19th September, sandwiched between Premiership games against Norwich and Cardiff, so team selection is going to be exceedingly interesting especially after those chosen against Tblisi.
Last night we saw a stronger than expected team with Walker, Vertonghen and Townsend all retaining their places and vying for a start at EmuRat on Sunday, while somewhere between 60M and 100M worth of talent graced the subs bench, and that doesn´t include those expected through the revolving doors any minute now – although I am given to understand that Vlad the Impala has already signed.
The Europa League has to be considered low on our list of priorities, probably third in line after The Premiership and the FACup, but it does represent a trophy which we could win. Over the past few seasons we have got through the group stages – we even progressed through those at Champions League level – so this is nothing new.
People who say it is a distraction are talking nonsense as, if we had CL status, we would be playing midweek (Tuesday or Wednesday) and at the weekend, so what is the difference playing midweek (Thursday) and at the weekend albeit that it will be on a Sunday?
The experience of travelling around Europe competing against the second tier of clubs is going to be immense for all the players, they need to get used to it if we are going to succeed at the very highest level in the future – the Champions League itself.
Graeme
Secretary Spurs Supporters Spain
The future is bright – The future is Lilywhite
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