FC Sheriff look to have a hard task on their hands as Tottenham Hotspur make their second ever trip to Moldova as the runaway leaders in UEFA Europa League Group K.
• This is the clubs’ first UEFA competition meeting and Sheriff’s first encounter with English opponents.
• Spurs took on the team that were once Sheriff’s main rivals, FC Zimbru Chisinau, in the first round of the 1999/2000 UEFA Cup, winning 3-0 at home before earning a 0-0 draw in the Moldovan capital.
• England have won all four of their senior national meetings with Moldova, and three of their four UEFA European Under-21 Championship meetings, with the remaining one ending in a draw.
• The only success for a Moldovan side against English opponents in a UEFA competition came when Toligma Chisinau beat Doncaster College DEAF FC 10-2 in the 2006/07 UEFA Futsal Cup preliminary round.
• Sheriff competed in the 2009/10 and 2010/11 UEFA Europa League group stages, failing to advance on both occasions having collected five points each time. In both of their previous campaigns, their group stage home record was W1 D1 L1.
• Sheriff drew 1-1 at Tromsø IL on matchday two and are one of only three sides to have tied both of their opening group stage fixtures, along with Real Betis Balompié and Olympique Lyonnais.
• This is Tottenham’s sixth UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League group stage campaign, and they also competed in the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League group stage, meaning that they have competed in one group stage or another for seven of the last eight seasons; their only absence was in 2009/10. They have only once missed out on the knockout phase in those campaigns, in 2011/12.
• Spurs maintained their impressive start to the season with a 2-0 win at FC Anji Makhachkala on matchday two; they have won all four of their games in this season’s competition, scoring 13 goals and conceding none.
• Tottenham can qualify for the round of 32 with a win in Moldova provided the other Group K game, between Anji and Tromsø, ends in a draw.
• Spurs’ Jermain Defoe is one of the competition’s three joint top scorers with three goals, sharing top spot with FC Salzburg team-mates Jonatan Soriano and Alan.
• Tottenham are one of four sides yet to concede in this season’s competition – Swansea City AFC, PFC Ludogorets Razgrad and Eintracht Frankfurt are the others.
• Sheriff are one of nine domestic champions involved in this season’s group stage: the others are NK Maribor (Slovenia), Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC (Israel), Ludogorets (Bulgaria), Legia Warszawa (Poland), FC Shakhter Karagandy (Kazakhstan), APOEL FC (Cyprus), GNK Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia) and IF Elfsborg (Sweden).
• Tottenham goalkeeper Brad Friedel is the oldest player registered in this season’s group stage; should he appear in this season’s competition he will replace FC Twente goalkeeper Sander Boschker (42 years and 33 days) as the oldest player to have featured in the UEFA Europa League.
• Tottenham (1972, 1984) are one of five teams in the group stage who have won this trophy before, along with Valencia CF (2004), Eintracht Frankfurt (1980), PSV Eindhoven (1978) and fellow two-time winners Sevilla FC (2006, 2007).
• Sheriff coach Veaceslav Rusnac was a defender for a number of clubs and is now assisted by Juan Ferrando, Cesc Fàbregas’s personal trainer at Arsenal FC. He achieved an unusual first in 2000 when he won the Moldovan league with FC Zimbru Chisinau, the local futsal crown with FC Zarea Balti and the top prize in Moldovan beach football with Palestra. As a coach, he led Moldova’s Under-17s, taking charge at Sheriff in July 2013 after spells with several other local sides.
• The only coach in the 2013/14 UEFA Europa League group stage to have won the competition in its current incarnation, André Villas-Boas learned his coaching craft under Sir Bobby Robson and José Mourinho. After a first solo venture at A. Académica de Coimbra, he led FC Porto to an extraordinary league, cup and UEFA Europa League treble in 2010/11. He fared less well at Chelsea FC, but has regained his footing since joining Tottenham in July 2012.
• Aside from Villas-Boas, three other coaches in the group stage have had their hands on the trophy before: PAOK FC’s Huub Stevens, who won it as a player (PSV Eindhoven, 1978) and a coach (FC Schalke 04, 1997), FC Dnipro Dniropetrovsk’s Juande Ramos (Sevilla FC, 2006 & 2007) and AZ Alkmaar’s Dick Adocaat (FC Zenit, 2008).
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