Tottenham tactics: Spurs vs Basel preview

After a determined display saw us through at the San Siro, next up in the Europa League sees us face another tough test in Spurs vs Basel.

Like Inter and Lyon, the Swiss side have a history of being in the Champions League, so we’ll once again face a team with experience of playing at Europe’s top table.

So what can we expect in our Europa League Quarter-Final and what should be the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Basel?

Basel set up and style of play

Basel have been a tough nut for teams to crack in this season’s Europa League, especially away from home. They don’t score many, but they don’t often concede either.

Coach Murat Yakin has mixed his formations up during the competition, playing often with two strikers in either a 4-4-2 or a 4-4-1-1, but this is usually at home. On the road, they usually deploy just a lone front man and try to make themselves as difficult to break down as possible. This is one of the reasons that they have only scored twice away from home in this season’s competition, but on the flip side they’ve only conceded four on their travels.

Whatever the formation, Basel do like to attack down their right side through Philipp Degen. The former Liverpool defender is suspended for this match and will probably be replaced by Gaston Sauro. However, with either twin brother David Degen or Mohammed Salah in front of the Basel full back, the right side is their focus for getting the ball forward.

They are a team that can cross, but are more than likely to look for a through ball. Egyptian international Salah is adept at playing team mates in, as is Valentin Stocker, who can play either on the left or through the middle. Without regular number ten Marcelo Diaz who is also suspended, we may just see Stocker moved inside here, or we could see veteran Alexander Frei.

What we should be wary of is their set pieces, with five of Basel’s twelve goals in the Europa League arriving this way. Forward Marco Streller and Central defender Fabian Schar are Basel’s top scorers in the competition and both are a threat from dead-ball situations.

Whilst being a threat from set pieces, they are also likely to give plenty of these away due to the number of free kicks they concede.

Basel give away an average of 16.8 fouls per game in the Europa League, the third most amongst teams in this season’s competition. Their last two away matches have seen the opposition awarded a penalty – Dnipro scored whilst Zenit missed.

What’s more in their ten Europa League matches there have been six red cards, three for Basel and three for their opposition. Whilst they could be reduced to ten men, they have also managed to get opponents sent off like at Dnipro in the round of 32, so we need to guard against being drawn in.

So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at some of their chief protagonists.

Valentin Stocker the aggressive passer

Valentin Stocker usually operates down the left for Basel, but without the suspended Marcelo Diaz, could find himself cast in the number ten role.

Wherever he plays, the Swiss international is adept at playing team mates in, as he constantly looks to play through balls. We can see this from Basel’s 1-1 draw away to Dnipro in the round of 32.


Valentin Stocker passes played vs Dnipro.

Whilst Stocker is quite an inaccurate passer – his completion percentage is a mere 68% in the Europa League this term – he is aggressive when moving the ball. He does take a lot of corners and set pieces, but when in possession in the opposition half of the field, he is looking to play in through the channels.

We may well see quite a bit of Stocker if he gets the nod in the number ten role, but even if he doesn’t, we still need to guard against his incisive passes from the left.

The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Basel here would need to see Scott Parker try and jam him by getting on his first touch quickly if he starts centrally. Stand in right back Kyle Naughton should be quick enough to close Stocker down should the Swiss be deployed in his more natural position on the left.

Slick Mohammad Salah

Mohammad Salah is another candidate to get the start in place of the suspended Marcelo Diaz. The Egyptian usually plays down the right, but can operate anywhere across the midfield due to his flexibility.

He is an infrequent and very average crosser of the ball, having completed none of his fifteen attempts in the Europa League so far. However, he is also a threat to slide a pass in behind any defence.

We saw against Videoton in the group stages how he can be versatile enough to play across the midfield, as he moved out to both wings. He then tries to play passes in down both sides of the penalty area.

In Basel’s opening match with Sporting Lisbon, the through ball was in evidence once again. He created several chances from the inside left channel, assisting on one goal. He also played two cutbacks from either side of the box, creating another strike.


Mohammad Salah passes played against Videoton and Sporting Lisbon.

The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Basel here should see us look to keep Salah going wide in to situations where he has to cross rather than be able to slide a pass in. Both Stocker and he require getting to early as they receive possession to condense their space, rather than standing off.

Striker Marco Strellar

We probably won’t see Alexander Frei, but if we do, he may just start off the front as a number ten, as he is a threat to drop deeper, link the play and tee up a team mate. Marco Strellar on the other hand should get the start as their number nine and he is a different proposition due to his height.

He is the top scorer for Basel in this season’s Europa League, equally likely to win a header or to score with his feet. He is able to hold the ball up due to his size and ability to win balls in the air, but can also play a bit on the deck.

We saw against Dnipro how he was effective as a hold up man, taking down plenty of balls from the back. He also demonstrated his aerial ability by nodding home a corner from Valentin Stocker.


Marco Streller passes received vs Dnipro.

Strellar will be a handful, especially at set pieces where the Swiss side score a large number of their goals.

The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Basel here will need us to utilise a strong centre back pairing who are adept in the air. William Gallas has often been given a run out in the Europa League and going with the Frenchman here could be a mistake. Jan Vertonghen has often been deployed with Gallas, but Steven Caulker or Michael Dawson would be a better partner for Super Jan here.

Spurs vs Basel conceding from the full back zones

Basel like their full backs, especially down the right side, to push on. This often leaves them exposed to conceding chances generated from the zones they vacate when they are not quick enough to recover.

If we take a look at their last two away trips in the Europa League, we can see how Dnipro created several chances from the area in behind right back Philipp Degen.

At Zenit in the last round, the Russian side (who were a man up) created a host of chances through the Basel left back zone.


Dnipro and Zenit chances created against Basel.

The Swiss side have a bit of a problem for tonight’s match, as both regular full backs are suspended, so they will have to probably go with Markus Steinhofer and Gaston Sauro. How much they will be given license to get forward like regular full backs Degen and Park remains to be seen, but we need to get in behind them.

The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Basel here clearly needs to concentrate on moving the ball in to wide areas where we can cut it back or cross to score.

Spurs vs Basel outlook

This will be another tough game against a side that has experience of playing regularly in the Champions League. “We have superior players but they have experience”  Andre Villas-Boas said earlier in the week and that could well influence how this game pans out.

Basel don’t score many away from home, but they also don’t concede too often either. As against Inter, the key to whether this becomes a long night of trying to break down a stubborn opposition or not, is if we can get an early goal.

If we are to score, we would do well to attack the full back zones and look to get our wider players in behind where they can cross or cut the ball back.

Both Gareth Bale and Emmanuel Adebayor are good in the air, which will be to our benefit with space likely to be limited through the centre. The team news that Clint Dempsey is also back in the frame provides us with another threat who can get in the box and either score with his head or feet.

Spurs vs Basel could well be another very tight game settled by the odd goal.

Spurs vs Basel prediction: Spurs 1 Basel 0

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