Early goal is vital against Werder Bremen, warns Spurs Uefa Cup winner
FORMER Spurs defender Phil Beal has warned of Werder Bremen’s counter-attacking threat ahead of Tottenham’s Champions League clash with the Germans tomorrow night.
Beal played over 400 games for Spurs between 1963 and 1975 and won the Uefa Cup in 1972 before being a losing finalist in 1974.
Thirty-five years after his departure, Tottenham are one win from the last 16 of the Champions League.
But, as he looks ahead to this week’s showdown at White Hart Lane, Beal believes that Bremen’s visit will be tougher for Tottenham than many observers think.
“Traditionally, German teams sit deep and allow you possession of the ball and I can see Bremen adopting that kind of approach against us,” says Beal. “An increasing number of Premier League sides have come to White Hart Lane over the past few seasons and played like that. They’ve sat back and basically said to Tottenham, ‘come and break us down’ and on occasions we’ve struggled against that kind of opposition.
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“An early goal is very important against Bremen, especially as I think they could be dangerous on the break the longer the game stays 0-0.”
Beal is well qualified to comment on the merits of German opposition in Europe. During the 1973/74 season, the defender played against Cologne of old West Germany, and Lokomotive Leipzig of former East Germany, en-route to the Uefa Cup Final.
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“They were two very tricky games,” he reflects. “The thing I remember most is how hostile the atmosphere was at the two grounds in Germany. At least Tottenham have home advantage on Wednesday.”
While Beal is forecasting a tight contest, he fully expects Tottenham to pick up all three points from the game.
“One thing is for sure, Bremen won’t like coming up against the pace of the likes of Bale and Lennon,” smiles Beal. “We gave Bremen a really torrid evening in the first half of the game out there and a performance like that again on Wednesday would be perfect.
“My only one disappointment ahead of the game is that Tom Huddlestone won’t be playing because of injury. He’s been one of our best players in the Champions League this season.”
Like the rest of the football world, Beal has been full of admiration for Tottenham’s Champions League performances this season, going back to the first leg of the Play-off against Young Boys of Bern.
“Having played on Astroturf myself when I was in America, I knew that would have been a tricky match for us out in Bern,” he says. “To recover from a 3-0 deficit and return to White Hart Lane only a goal down was admirable. We did a lot better that night than people gave us credit for. Our class really told in the second leg and showed just how much of a weapon the Astroturf was for Young Boys.
“The win over Twente was brilliant and really announced us in the Champions League proper and since then, we’ve gone from strength to strength. Bar the first 30 minutes against Inter Milan away, we’ve been faultless.”
Beal will be watching on from the executive lounge where he works at White Hart Lane on Wednesday, hoping for another great result.
“There was always something special about the European nights in my playing days and it’s great to experience that kind of atmosphere once again,” he comments. “I’m really excited about the game against Bremen and, hopefully, the prospect of making it through to the knockout stages.”