Tottenham face Panathinaikos at White Hart Lane tonight, with the victor earning a place in the last-32. Spurs are unbeaten in Europe this season, having earned four draws and a victory, the latter coming against Group J basement team Maribor at the Lane in early November.
One of those draws was against Panathinaikos where the Greek club snatched a late draw, striker Toche equalising with 13 minutes to go after Michael Dawson had put Spurs ahead in the first half. That game would never be classed as a classic, but showed that Tottenham ought to be wary of their opponents. Spurs had several opportunities to close out the game as they controlled about 70% of it, but ended up hanging on in the face of a Greek onslaught as the hosts searched for victory.
As it was, Hugo Lloris stood firm and it is Spurs that go into the last round of matches with the advantage.
They stand on seven points from their five games, whilst Panathinaikos are two further back on five. Spurs only need to draw the game to go through to the knockout stages whilst the Greek side need to claim their first away win in the competition to make it through.
Spurs haven’t exactly sparkled in Europe this year. They’ve averaged a goal a game, whereas in the Premier League they are a touch under two goals per game. However, they have only conceded a single goal which is why they are in a position of power going into the last round of matches.
The defence has been a strong point for the hosts, something which cannot be said for their opponents who have conceded eight goals in the group stages. Villas-Boas will be looking, therefore, for a strong display from Gallas, Dawson et al to ensure safe passage through to the business end of the Europa League.
Tottenham have far too much experience to lose at home in Europe and ought to continue the good form which has seen them win three matches on the bounce. Therefore, I reckon they’ll run out 2-0 winners, with Defoe on the score sheet and AVB giving one or two youngsters a bit off a run out as the clock ticks down, ahead of a vital away trip to Goodison Park on Sunday.