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Tottenham’s Europa League campaign may well have cost them a top-four spot

Tottenham were eliminated from the Europa League last week at the hands of Swiss side FC Basel, going out on penalties at the quarter-final stage. Andre Villas-Boas’ attitude to the competition was positive from the start, largely down to his experience of winning the tournament with Porto. However, given the level of effort in overcoming the likes of Inter Milan and Lyon, Spurs’ domestic form has dipped, which now threatens their chances of finishing in the top four.

With six games remaining Spurs find themselves in fifth place, out of the top four for the first time since the start of the campaign. With tough games against Chelsea and Manchester City still to play, the north Londoners will really need to up their efforts if they are to claw Arsenal back and secure a place in next term’s Champions League.

Andre Villas-Boas

The Europa League is a tricky competition to negotiate; it seems like it is either a tournament you look to go out to win or be eliminated in early doors. The fact that Spurs have relinquished their positive results against Inter and Lyon by being put out by Basel means that they have done neither, and now could be stuck in the same situation next season with a fifth-placed finish. Tottenham have been backed (using FREEbets) at 2.50, but the toll of European football just might have left the Andre Villas-Boas bandwagon without the momentum to go any further this season.

Villas-Boas’ outlook to take the tournament seriously is admirable, and the victories that Spurs have recorded have been enjoyed by the White Hart Lane faithful. However, the real objective must be Champions League football, which may now be beyond them given the travel and exertions in the Europa League, and the knock-on results domestically.

Missing out on the top four has widespread repercussions for Tottenham. Gareth Bale will be pursued this summer by some of Europe’s top teams, and if Spurs miss out on the Champions League the Welsh attacker may well be tempted to jump ship, just as Luka Modric did last summer. Arsenal have looked far from the side that has been superior to Tottenham over the last ten years this term, and the opportunity to finally finish ahead of the Emirates Stadium outfit could have been thrown away.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but most Spurs fans would trade the victories over Inter and Lyon for a chance to play in next term’s Champions League. Perhaps more strength in depth to compete on two fronts is needed, but one thing is for sure; the entire club and its long-suffering fans will be pained at the hands of gloating Arsenal supporters should Spurs throw their season away once again.

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Champions League preview: Chelsea, Inter, Bayern and Real Madrid with work to do

The Champions League quarter final contestants will be decided this week, as the final four fixtures of the round of 16 take place on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. After stellar performances from the underdogs in the respective first legs, four favourites have work to do to make the last eight.

Chelsea vs Napoli

Since the 3-1 first leg defeat to an in-form Napoli in Italy, Chelsea have sacked Andre Villas Boas and will need to up their game if they are to stand a chance of progression; despite domestic wins of late, Walter Mazzarri’s men will pose a more stern test. The hosts need an attacking outlook, but with Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik ready to pounce, John Terry’s role at the back is equally as important as the team’s attackers. Napoli have goals in them, but are also susceptible at the back; this was showcased in their 6-3 win over Cagliari on Friday night. Away goals could decide this tie.

Real Madrid vs CSKA Moscow

Real Madrid were expected to walk all over CSKA in the first leg, but the Russians put up an ardent fight to get a 1-1 draw at the Luzhniki through an injury-time equaliser. Jose Mourinho’s men are still in a dominant position to progress, with Cristiano Ronaldo in superb goal-scoring form; the Portugal international has 45 goals already in all competitions this term. The travelling support will pin their hopes on promising attacking duo Alan Dzagoev and Seydou Doumbia, but anything other than Madrid progression would be a massive shock.

Inter vs Marseille

Marseille take a slender 1-0 advantage to the San Siro on Tuesday, after a last-gasp Andre Ayew header gave the French side victory at the Stade Velodrome in the first leg. Claudio Ranieri has come under increasing pressure due to domestic inconsistency, and if Inter are eliminated the head coach will fear for his future. Didier Deschamps’ men are not in good form either however, and have lost all four Ligue 1 games since beating Inter in February. The midfield battle will be key to deciding the fixture and should be a pulsating watch, as Alou Diarra and Morgan Amalfitano face Esteban Cambiasso and Wesley Sneijder.

Bayern Munich vs Basel

Bayern have high hopes for this season’s Champions League as the final will be held at the Allianz Arena, however Jupp Heynckes’ men have stuttered of late and are 1-0 down against Basel after the first leg. The Bavarian giants did have ideal preparation for the second leg by beating Hoffenheim 7-1 on Saturday, with Mario Gomez grabbing a hat-trick. The Swiss champions will look to their excellent showing at Old Trafford earlier in the season as motivation, with Bayern-bound Xherdan Shaqiri the visitors’ fulcrum of attack.

With AC Milan, Barcelona, APOEL and Benfica already in the quarters, four close games will decide the remaining participants. Madrid should overcome CSKA, whilst Chelsea will most likely be eliminated by a classy Napoli outfit. Marseille have the quality to compound Inter’s misery and Bayern should fight back to knock out Basel – just.

Published – Soccerlens

United crash out of Champions League, which intensifies rivalry with City

On Wednesday night in Switzerland the impossible happened, the unthinkable became reality, and Manchester United were eliminated from the Champions League group stages after a 2-1 defeat to Basel. Disappointment is an understatement for what is being felt amongst the players and supporters, as the Premier League champions must come to grips with the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal competing in the last 16 of Europe’s top club competition without them. The lack of Champions League football for the remainder of the season will not affect the side’s popularity, but a number of factors will impact on whether or not the Old Trafford team have a successful campaign or not.

There is no hiding the fact that Champions League football is the pinnacle for a team like Manchester United and all the leading European clubs, and elimination from the tournament, especially this early in the competition, is a massive blow. Being drawn in the relatively agreeable Group C alongside Benfica, Basel and newcomers Otelul Galati meant that progression should have been guaranteed well before round six – and even then a draw should have been something United were able to ascertain against Basel; Sir Alex Ferguson could barely hide his disappointment after the result.

United lose out on the pitch as they have went from beaten finalists last term to group stage failures this time round, and off the pitch the vast revenue generated by competing against the continent’s best will represent a dent in the profit and loss account, and potentially Ferguson’s summer transfer budget. Contesting the Europa League is a severe blow to the club’s ego and reputation, and the Old Trafford side will have to play on Thursdays and Sundays now instead of the traditional Wednesdays and Saturdays. The situation is less than ideal.

However, what elimination does guarantee is another step up in the ongoing battle with noisy neighbours Manchester City. Roberto Mancini’s men were also knocked out of the Champions League on Wednesday, and following their third place finish in Group A will join United in the Europa League. Sheik Mansour’s billions and a confidence exuded from  the Etihad Stadium has grasped English football this season, and City now threaten to compromise United’s stranglehold over the British game. Both Manchester clubs would have faced tough competition to win the Champions League in the form of Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, AC Milan and holders Barcelona, but now enter the Europa League as the two favourites. With the duo the only realistic challengers for the Premier League title after Chelsea and Arsenal’s early season faltering, and paired together in the FA Cup third round, the victors in the battle for superiority in the city are likely to dominate domestic and Europa League honours too .

United still have the ability to win a Premier League and Europa League double, and if they were to do so would look back at 2011-12 as a success despite the failures of this term’s Champions League campaign. However this failure will be made all the more sickening for the Old Trafford faithful should City win this double at their expense.

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