Villas-Boas delighted with test Olympique Lyon will provide
Andre Villas-Boas described yesterday’s Europa League draw as “wonderful and important for the competition” after Tottenham Hotspur were pitted against Lyon and Liverpool drawn with Zenit St Petersburg in the last 32.
Four English clubs remain in the tournament following the group stage and Chelsea, the Champions League holders, will play Sparta Prague after dropping out of Europe’s premier club competition. Newcastle United take on the Ukrainian side Metalist Kharkiv, with all first-leg matches taking place on February 14th.
Tottenham face a last-16 tie against Internazionale if they get past Lyon and the Italian side overcome Cluj. Gareth Bale, who is available to face Stoke City tomorrow after a hamstring injury, scored a hat-trick at San Siro in October 2010, when Spurs lost 4-3 in the Champions League.
Villas-Boas, the Tottenham manager, believes the respective ties will boost the allure of a competition that is often maligned. “Lyon is a tremendous tie for us in the sense that it gives this country, along with the Liverpool game, the chance to see wonderful Europa League fixtures being played,” he said. “Zenit-Liverpool and Tottenham-Lyon should both be considered like Champions League fixtures so I think this is important for the competition, for how it’s seen in this country.
“The fact that we play Lyon, who are used to being in the Champions League and used to winning trophies – it’s an important reference for us. If we want to set our targets for Champions League qualification, this is the kind of team we will face.”
Brendan Rodgers welcomed Liverpool’s draw against Zenit, with the tie being staged a month before the start of the league season in Russia, but refused to be drawn on Zenit’s largest supporters’ group, Landscrona, which called this week for the club not to buy black or gay players.The Liverpool manager said he would comment nearer the time. “It is a good draw for us. Zenit have invested a lot of money to win things but there are a lot of games to go before then.”
Journey to Ukraine
Newcastle also face a journey to Ukraine, and their manager, Alan Pardew, admitted Metalist Kharkiv are an unknown quantity for him. He said: “I do know it’s a long journey, and they won the group, so it’s a tough agenda.”
Chelsea supporters who were disappointed at their team’s exit from the Champions League may be appeased with a trip to Prague and a potential game against Ajax or Steaua Bucharest if they advance.
The Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris is expected to face Lyon, his former club, and Villas-Boas reiterated that Spurs are open to offers for Carlo Cudicini and Heurelho Gomes in January. However, he does not expect a busy transfer window.
Europa League draws
Round of 32
Bate Borisov v Fenerbahce; Inter Milan v CFR Cluj-Napoca; Levante v Olympiakos; Zenit St Petersburg v Liverpool; Dynamo Kiev v Bordeaux; Bayer Leverkusen v Benfica; Newcastle Utd v FC Metalist Kharkiv; VfB Stuttgart v Genk; Atletico Madrid v Rubin Kazan; Ajax v Steaua Bucuresti; Basle v Dnipro; Anzhi Makhachkala v Hannover 96; Sparta Prague v Chelsea; Borussia M’gladbach v Lazio; Tottenham v Lyon; Napoli v Plzen.
First legs to be played February 14th Second legs on February 21st
Round of 16
Napoli/Plzen v Bate/Fenerbahce; Bayer Leverkusen/Benfica v Dynamo Kiev/Bordeaux; Anzhi Mackhachkala/Hannover 96 v Newcastle/FC Metalist Kharkiv; VfB Stuttgart/Genk v Borussia M’gladbach/Lazio; Tottenham/Lyon v Inter Milan/CFR Cluj-Napoca; Levante/Olympiakos v Atletico Madrid/Rubin Kazan; Basle/Dnipro v Zenit St Petersburg/Liverpool; Ajax/Steaua Bucuresti v Sparta Prague/Chelsea.
First legs to be played March 7th
Second legs on March 14th