He may not be Harry Houdini, but Tottenham Hotspur manager Andre Villas-Boas orchestrated a great escape at Inter on Thursday evening. Their Europa League dreams intact, Spurs now know who they'll next have to defeat in order to advance to the competition's semifinal round.
Spurs have been drawn to play Swiss Super League club FC Basel in the Europa League quarterfinals. Tottenham advanced in the competition despite losing 4-1 in Italy on Thursday, as that one away goal was enough to win the tie against Inter. Basel knocked Zenit, thought to be one of the favorites to win the tournament, out of Europa League on Thursday after winning that tie on aggregate.
While some may consider Spurs lucky following Friday's draw, nobody should underestimate the Swiss side. Basel are currently second in the Super League table, two points behind first place Grasshoppers. After failing to qualify for Champions League last August, Basel finished second in Group G of the UEL qualifying round. They then picked up a 2-0 victory over Zenit before surrendering just a single goal to the Russian club in the second leg of that tie.
Basel are also no strangers to knocking Premier League teams out of European competitions. Back in December 2011, they eliminated Manchester United from Champions League en route to advancing to the knockout stages of that tournament.
The two extra fixtures make April just that much more challenging for Tottenham, who are still clinging to a Champions League spot in the EPL table. Basel travel to White Hart Lane for the first leg on April 4. Spurs will then host Everton, another team looking to earn European football this spring, on April 7. Tottenham will be away to Basel for Act 2 on April 11, and they'll follow that up with a clash with Chelsea, who will have played a Europa League match at Rubin Kazan on April 11, at Stamford Bridge on April 14. Tottenham host Manchester City on April 21, and they'll be away to Wigan, who will likely be fighting for Premier League survival, on April 27.
Villas-Boas is going to have to come up with some further squad rotation magic beginning this Sunday when Spurs host Fulham if his team is to both lift the Europa League trophy and also finish the season no lower than fourth in the Premier League table. Several lineup mainstays are likely going to need breathers following the 120-minute thriller at Inter on Thursday. This includes midfield general Scott Parker (Spurs fans will remember that former boss Harry Redknapp ran Parker into the ground during the second half of last season), Emmanuel Adebayor, Jan Vertonghen (Vertonghen appeared to be gassed out before halftime of the Inter match), and Moussa Dembele (Dembele picked up a head injury on Thursday).
It's not all bad news for AVB heading into St. Patrick's Day. Gareth Bale will have had a full week of rest, as he was unable to play against Inter because of yellow card accumulation. First-choice goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and team captain and new Mr. Spurs Michael Dawson will also be available. Front man Jermain Defoe played only 56 minutes in the Europa League match at Inter, and he'll likely be the only striker in AVB's team on Sunday.
As cliche as it is to say, Spurs truly cannot afford to look past the Fulham contest that will take place before the upcoming international break. Spring 2012 is when Redknapp's side began to fall apart, and Tottenham are currently losers of two straight across all competitions. Anything short of a win over Fulham will be a major disappointment for Spurs;
and also possibly a sign that further woes are in their immediate future.
Zac has been covering Tottenham Hotspur, Major League Soccer, RBNY, the USMNT and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.
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