Spurs aim for a high in UEFA Cup after EPL loss

LONDON: Tottenham and Anderlecht each have a chance to secure a place in the next round of the UEFA Cup when they meet in a rerun of the 1984 final this week. 

The pair are in a cluster of clubs including Atletico Madrid, Everton and Panathinaikos who are able to join already qualified Helsingborg in the next phase when 16 more group matches are played today and tomorrow. 

Tottenham lost their opening match to Getafe in October but have won two straight to top Group G and move to the brink of qualification. 

But the two-time winners are at Anderlecht, who they beat on penalties in 1984, smarting from a 3-2 home loss to Birmingham in the Premier League on Sunday. 

Even with Juande Ramos, who won the UEFA Cup the past two seasons with Sevilla, now in charge, Tottenham conceded an injury time goal for the sixth time this season. 

Qualification for the next round tomorrow would be a welcome boost for a struggling side in the midst of their worst league start since 1976-77 – when they were relegated. 

“It’s difficult, but these things happen,” Ramos said. “We attacked well, we had many chances, much more than Birmingham, but we lost.” 

With Spurs’ defence still weak without injured captain Ledley King, Ramos is likely to keep the emphasis on attack against Anderlecht, the 1983 UEFA Cup winners. 

Striker Robbie Keane is available despite his expulsion against Birmingham, but the coach may have to slim down the three-man forward line he employed against the Blues after Darren Bent limped out of Sunday’s game. 

Six points guaranteed progress in last season’s tournament, and Bayer Leverkusen and Fenerbahce even advanced with four. With Spurs already in possession of six points, they would likely go through eventually even if they lost. 

Atletico Madrid have four points in Group B ahead of today’s game at FC Copenhagen, but their chances of advancing with victory were hit when goalkeeper Leo Franco was ruled out for three weeks after injuring a calf muscle in Sunday’s 2-0 league win against Real Betis. 

That could rule the Argentine keeper out of his team’s final group match on Dec 20 against Panathinaikos, who have six points ahead of the visit of Lokomotiv Moscow. 

Everton lead Zenit St Petersburg by a point at the top of Group A, with both able to advance after they meet today. A draw would send both through, providing Nuremberg do not beat AZ Alkmaar in the other match. 

Helsingborg became the first club to advance when they beat Austria Vienna 3-0 last week. The Swedish club play their last Group H match tomorrow at 1996 runners-up Bordeaux, who could qualify even if they lose, with veteran striker Henrik Larsson possibly set for his last European match. 

The 36-year-old former Barcelona, Celtic and Manchester United forward may retire when his contract expires at the end of 2007. 

“It feels great to go through, but I’ve been here before and I’m happier for many of my team-mates,” said Larsson, who won the 2006 Champions League with Barcelona. “I’ve not yet decided what will happen. I’m going to make my decision in the coming days and I’ll let everyone know as soon as possible.” – AP 

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