Sports Gazette Preview: Spurs vs. Gent
Spurs host Gent at Wembley tonight looking to overturn a 1-0 first leg deficit and join Manchester United in the Europa League last-16. Sports Gazette gives the lowdown on players to watch along with some little-known facts about Spurs' Belgian opponents.
When Spurs were drawn with Gent in the Europa League last-32, many assumed that Mauricio Pochettino's men would roll past the Belgian side with ease. After all, Spurs are the second-favourites to win the competition, with Gent lying a poor eighth in the Jupiler Pro League.
Hein Vanhaezebrouck's charges obviously didn't read the script however, as they ran out 1-0 winners at the Ghelamco Arena to put the pressure on their much-fancied opponents.
In truth, it could have been worse for Spurs as a late flurry from Gent, led by substitute Kalifa Coulibaly, saw Michel Vorm called into action to limit the deficit to one goal.
While Spurs still go into tonight's match as favourites to progress, their return to Wembley, a ground that hasn't exactly treated them well this season, adds more spice to a match which was expected to be a procession.
Spurs fans responded to the first-leg loss by snapping up the last available tickets, with the club announcing that Wembley is now sold out.
Ahead of a potentially season-defining match for Spurs, Sports Gazette takes a look at Gent and brings you our preview of the game.
Did you know?
Gent’s logo is one of the most unique in European football, as is their nickname, ‘De Buffalos’, which you can hear chanted on the terraces every game.
The origins of Gent’s name and logo can be found over 100 years ago after they started life as part of the ‘Association Athletique la Gantoise’, with their football team being formed around 1900.
It was around this time that William F Cody, aka Buffalo Bill, visited Gent with his famous Buffalo Bill’s Wild West circus. The story goes that students who were involved with the newly formed football club heard the chant “Buffalo Buffalo Wild West Ra”, and adopted this for their new team.
Many years later in the 1970s, the club adopted their new crest depicting a Native American, completing the unlikely 'Buffalos' takeover.
Spurs find themselves playing European games away from White Hart Lane this season as construction on their new stadium continues. The new stadium has been in the pipeline for years and is finally coming to fruition as Spurs look to cement a place among Europe's footballing elite.
Gent's stadium, the Ghelamco Arena, is not long built itself, and it was a long road to completion for Gent too. Opened in 2013, It was the first purpose-built football stadium in Belgium since 1974. It replaced the Jules Ottenstadion, which had been De Buffalos’ home since 1920.
The stadium took a long 10 years to complete, with initial plans made in 2003 for a 2006/7 opening. Construction however did not begin until 2008, with continuing financial difficulties forcing the city of Gent to enter into a deal with real estate developer Ghelamco, who took naming rights to the new ground.
While Spurs seem to be in a sound financial position with regards to the stadium construction, they are now looking for a sponsor to complete a lucrative naming rights deal that could eclipse the £80million-a-year deal Manchester City have signed with Etihad Airways.
Players to watch
An elder statesman of both this Gent team and the Belgian League in general, Frenchman Perbet is De Buffalos’ top scorer this season with 6 goals. He was the scorer of Gent’s winning goal last week at the Ghelamco Arena and will no doubt cause Spurs problems again in the second leg. His career has taken him through France, Belgium and Turkey, while also having played for Villareal in Spain as they returned to La Liga at the first attempt.
Another of the older players in Gent’s squad, Bosnian midfielder Milicevic posed a threat in the first leg, coming close to opening the story with a stinging drive that tested Michel Vorm. The one-time Bosnia and Herzegovina international pulls the strings for Gent in midfield and Spurs will have to keep tabs on him if they want to avoid conceding any crucial away goals.
The young Nigerian arrived at Gent two years ago riding a wave of interest from across Europe, and the speedy winger was in fact linked with a move to Spurs, among many others. The Ajax academy product had an interesting start to his Gent career, being sent off just 30 seconds into his second appearance for the club. He returned from that red card with aplomb, scoring a hat-trick in his next game. He has gone on to become a key attacking player for Hein Vanhaezebrouck, with his pace and trickery sure to cause Spurs problems on the wing.