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Spurs Odyssey Preview - Wolfsberger AC v Spurs, 18.02.21

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Spurs' record in Europe:-
The official crest of Tottenham Hotspur
U.E.F.A Champions League
 
 P  W   D   L   F - A
45 19   9  17  82 - 68

(Finalists 2019)
 
European Cup
P   W   D   L   F - A
8   4   1   3  21 - 13
 
(Semi-Finalists 1962)
 
European Cup Winners Cup
 
P   W   D   L   F - A
33  20  5   8  65 - 34
 
(Winners 1963)
 
UEFA Cup/Europa League
 P    W   D   L   F - A
149  85  37  27  303-130 
 
(Winners 1972, 1984
 Finalists 1974)
The club logo of Wolfsberger AC
Total
 P   W   D   L   F - A
235 128 52  55  471-245

To Hungary for progress

Because of the continuing Covid-19 crisis, some teams, including Liverpool and Arsenal, are having to play their away European games on neutral territory due to travel restrictions to Germany and Portugal, respectively. We learnt late last week that our match against Wolfsberger is affected and will take place in Budapest, Hungary. The new Puskás Aréna, home of the Hungary national team, will host the match as COVID-19 regulations in Austria mean we can no longer play at the Worthersee Stadion in Klagenfurt. This will be our first official match in Hungary. Liverpool met (and beat) Leipzig last night in the same stadium in their Champions League Round of 16 game.

Spurs waited thirty years after playing Sparkasse Stockerau in the 1991-2 Cup-Winners’ Cup competition to play another Austrian team and that was LASK in our Europa League group J matches this season. Now we face a second Austrian team in the same season – Wolfsberger AC. They are commonly referred to simply as “Wolfsberg”, hence the common confusion with German Bundesliga team Vfl Wolfsburg. Another reason for the confusion is the fact that Austria’s top league is also known as the Bundesliga. This will be Wolfsberg’s first European knock-out tie, and also their first competitive meeting with an English team.

Our opponents currently sit sixth in their 12-team league with 24 points from 17 games. Their top scorer is 21-year-old Serbian under-21 International Dejan Joveljic, who has scored 8 league goals and two in the Europa League. Wolfsberger finished second in Group K with 10 points, 4 points less than Dinamo Zagreb. One interesting piece of trivia is that the third-placed team in their group was Feyenoord, who we met in the quarter-final of that 1991-92 UEFA Cup after beating Stockerau on the way. Famously, Feyenoord beat us in the 1974 UEFA Cup Final, which entailed a stressful trip to Rotterdam for hordes of Spurs fans, me included. Wolfsberger beat Feyenoord 4-1 away and 1-0 at home in their group games. Joveljic scored in both games.

Wolfsberger become the fourth Austrian team we have met in competition. The first was Austria Vienna in our successful UEFA Cup competition of 1983-84. Alan Brazil scored at home and away in those games when we won 2-0 at home and drew 2-2 away. Steve Archibald scored the other home goal, and Ossie Ardiles scored our second in the away draw. The Stockerau game in 1991 was a preliminary round tie, and we won both legs 1-0. Gordon Durie scored away, and Gary Mabbutt got our home goal.

Dejan Joveljic’s career began with Crvena Zvezda, for whom he played in 2017-8 and 2018-19, but by the time we played them in 2019, he had signed for Eintracht Frankfurt. Joveljic remains a Frankfurt player but spent time on loan last season with Anderlecht and now with Wolfsberger.

Wolfsberger won their league's second tier title in 2011-12, beating LASK in the last game of that season. This season they have lost 3-1 away to LASK, and three weeks go lost 3-0 at home to the team we beat 3-0 at home and against whom we drew away. On form then, you would expect Spurs to win this tie. Having said that, our current form is bad as we have lost five of our last six games in league and cup games. Wolfsberger won on Saturday, at home, beating bottom club Admira 2-1. Joveljic scored one of those goals. The other was scored by central defender Gustav Henriksson, making his club debut, after being signed from Elfsborg in Sweden, which is Henriksson’s country of birth.

Joveljic is one of three ever-presents in Wolfsberger’s 17 league matches. The others are 35-year-old midfielder Michael Liendl, whose one senior International was a friendly in 2014. Liendl has scored 12 goals for his club this season in all competitions, which include 8 penalties. The other ever-present (in league games remember) is 25-year-old German left back Jonathan Scherzer. Other regular team members who have missed only one or two league games include defenders Dominik Baumgartner (24), Luka Lochoshvili (22), and Michael Novak (30-year-old right back). Then there is 20-year-old midfielder Matthaus Taferner and 22-year-old forward Dario Vizinger. 34-year-old Alexander Kofler appears to be the first choice goalkeeper.

Spurs' sixth appearance in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase is a record for an English club. They became the first Premier League side to chalk up 50 matches in the competition proper on Matchday 2. We are one of six former UEFA Cup winners in this season's round of 32 – along with Ajax, Bayer Leverkusen, Napoli, PSV Eindhoven and Shakhtar Donetsk. Manchester United (2016/17) are the only club in the field to have won the UEFA Europa League. We all know who was in charge then!

Jose has said that Sergio Reguilon is not quite ready, so has not travelled. It is hoped that Sergio might be ready for West Ham, or next week’s return match. That will be an early kick-off next Wednesday. First things first, we are off to Hungary in our quest for progress in a competition which surely now has to be the club’s priority in the hope of gaining a Champions League place next season. We are also travelling without Serge Aurier and Giovani Lo Celso. As we can name 12 subs Jose is also taking Dane Scarlett, Dennis Cirkin, Marcel Lavinier and Jamie Bowden. I am sure Jose will be seeking to field a strong team, and I hope our team comes back with a win under their belts. Tomorrow’s match kicks off at 5.55pm UK time and can be seen in the UK on BT Sport.

Match referee Ali Palabiyik and his team of officials are from Turkey. Mr. Palabiyik was in charge of our Third qualifying round game against Shkendija in September when we won 3-1. Lamela, Son and Kane scored our goals. The referee scored 6.4 on the spursometer, so he was obviously favourably received. Since our previous meeting, this referee has had charge of Nations League and Champions League games.

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