Tottenham Hotspur vs. Lyon: Soaring Spurs entertain Lyon at the Lane

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When French international goalkeeper Hugo Lloris swapped Lyon for Tottenham in the summer, I’m sure he wasn’t counting on meeting his old club again so soon. Yet France’s number one will be reunited with France’s number two on Thursday as Lyon, currently second in Ligue 1, travel to London for the first round of their Europa League round of 32 contest. Lloris recently spoke of his satisfaction with his move to Spurs, but how will his new side measure up against the side he once captained?

A quick glance at their respective results of late shows that Spurs have the form advantage. Spurs have claimed seven points from a possible nine in their last three Premier League matches, conceding just two goals. Conversely, Lyon has lost two of their last three in Ligue 1, shipping six goals in the process. On the face of it, Lloris’ absence seems to be keenly felt by the visitors, but the fact remains that sub-standard defending is the primary culprit for their recent form struggles.

Still, Lyon certainly possess enough quality in the side to trouble Spurs, especially in midfield and attack. Steed Malbranque, the former Tottenham man, leads their providers with seven assists. Their two main strikers, Bafetimbi Gomis and Lisandro Lopez, have scored a combined nineteen goals between them, and are considerably more dangerous than Spurs’ currently depleted strike force. Elsewhere in the side, quality exists in the form of Brazilian midfielder Michel Bastos, French international midfielder Johan Gourcuff, and Croatian defender Dejan Lovren.

Spurs will be confident, however, given their recent form. Though Bale has been taking the plaudits for some admittedly stunning pieces of individual magic, the squad as a whole has been performing pretty well in recent weeks. Defensively, English centre back Michael Dawson has been immense. The club captain possesses a willingness to fling himself in front of any shot, critically blocking a late effort in the 2-1 win over Newcastle, and is dominant in the air. Coupled with the attacking verve of his usual partner, Belgian Jan Vertonghen, Dawson’s abilities give the Spurs backline a sense of balance and stability they have perhaps lacked prior to this point in the season.

Attacking-wise, the elephant-in-the-room Bale is accompanied by the increasingly impressive Lewis Holtby, who looked quite good early on against Newcastle before fading and being substituted in the second half. The hard work of England winger Aaron Lennon and American centre forward Clint Dempsey in closing down and pressuring opponents in the attacking third has yielded good results as well. Finally, Scott Parker is looking more like himself with each passing match, and has partnered effectively with Moussa Dembele in the heart of the Spurs midfield.

The hosts may be slight favorites in this one, but the result will hinge largely on the team each manager chooses. Spurs don’t have a match at the weekend and can afford to risk a more complete starting eleven, whereas Lyon will travel to Bordeaux three days after this tie and may need to rest certain players for that league encounter. They are only six points off of Ligue 1 leaders PSG, and could very well decide that a solid shot at their domestic title is worth more than an outside chance to lift the Europa League trophy. Regardless of who takes the field for Lyon, though, Spurs should edge this one. I say 2-0 to the home side, with you-know-who pivotal to the victory.

By Mike Schmidt

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