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Page last updated at 12:11 GMT, Monday, 16 August 2010 13:11 UK

Spurs target Euro elite

Harry Redknapp and the European Cup
Harry Redknapp has taken Spurs into the European Cup the first time since 1962

By Sam Sheringham

It is very early in the season to be throwing around footballing clichés like "do-or-die", "make-or-break" and "win-or-bust" but Tottenham's Champions League tie with Young Boys of Berne can be described as all three.

At stake over two legs is a place in the group stages of the prestigious competition, promising riches, glamour and glory to all those clubs who make it.

And having waited 48 years for a return to Europe's top table, Spurs cannot afford to let the opportunity slip through their fingers.

A draw will be a good result but it is going to be a difficult night at White Hart Lane if Spurs lose the first leg

Graham Roberts

"It will be probably the biggest game of the season for Spurs and the season hasn't even got going yet," former Spurs centre-half Graham Roberts told BBC Sport ahead of Tuesday's first leg in Switzerland.

"If they lose, it could cost them anything from £20m to £40m, so Spurs boss Harry Redknapp will be going all guns firing to win these two games.

"Champions League football means so much to your status as a club going forward. I know the Spurs chairman won't break the wage structure, which is right, but top players will come if you are in the Champions League. Tottenham will want to do well and I think they can do well."

Tottenham's only previous appearance in the European Cup came in the 1961/62 season when a side featuring Danny Blanchflower and Jimmy Greaves advanced to the semi-finals.

The following season, they became the first British club to claim continental silverware by winning the Cup Winners' Cup.

Spurs reached the Champions League qualifying round for the first time in May by pipping Manchester City to fourth place in the Premier League, thus breaking the stranglehold of the so-called "Big Four" of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.

Dream encounters with the likes of Barcelona and Inter Milan beckon but Spurs fans will be putting the champagne on ice until the tricky double-header against the Swiss Superleague runners-up has been safely negotiated.

"It's called the Champions League for a reason - until you get to the group stage you are not really in it," Bernie Kingsley, chairman of the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters' Trust, told BBC Sport.


"Let's not get carried away. We haven't really got anywhere yet. There's no point in being in the Champions League unless you get to the group stage. It's very early in the season but it's a vitally important game for the club."

Spurs are desperate to avoid the fate suffered by Everton, who sneaked fourth spot ahead of Merseyside rivals Liverpool in 2005 but agonisingly missed out on a place in the group stage after losing their qualifying play-off against Villarreal of Spain.

After a 2-1 defeat in the home leg, Everton thought they had forced the tie into extra-time when Duncan Ferguson found the net with a header. But Italian referee Pierluigi Collina controversially ruled out the goal and Diego Forlan's late winner merely added to the pain.

"Anything can happen," said Roberts. "One mistake can cost you as Everton found out.

"Although Tottenham are a better side than Everton were back then, they can still make mistakes and have to be very wary. If they lose the away leg, they will be very, very nervous."

On paper, Spurs were handed one of the easiest draws possible for their play-off tie, avoiding more illustrious names like Sampdoria, Dynamo Kiev and Auxerre.

But the Swiss outfit overcame Turkish Champions League regulars Fenerbahce in the previous round and have a formidable home record on their artificial pitch.

Last season, they won 15 and lost only one of their 18 home matches as they finished three points behind champions FC Basel.

Tottenham celebrate Peter Crouch's winner
Spurs reached the Champions League with a 1-0 win over Man City in May

Yet despite that impressive record, Roberts, who scored a penalty in Tottenham's shootout victory over Anderlecht in the 1984 Uefa Cup final, expects Redknapp to stick to his attacking principles in Berne.

"Harry likes his teams to entertain and have a go and I think he will go to win the game in Switzerland," said Roberts, who was also part of the Spurs side that won the FA Cup in both 1981 and 1982.

"A draw will be a good result but it is going to be a difficult night at White Hart Lane if Spurs lose the first leg."

Whatever happens against Young Boys, perhaps the biggest test for Spurs this season is to repeat the feat of making it into the top four.

With Manchester City poised to take their summer spending beyond £100m with the signing of Aston Villa midfielder James Milner and Liverpool determined to prove that last season's seventh place was just a blip, competition for next season's Champions League places is certain to be fierce.

"Maintaining a high position in the Premier League is as important as the Champions League," said Kingsley.

"Realistically, the chances of us winning the Champions League are very low - there are some great sides in there - but that doesn't mean we don't want to have a good crack at it."

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see also
Redknapp plays down Euro pressure
16 Aug 10 |  Europe
Young Boys 3-2 Tottenham
17 Aug 10 |  Europe
Tottenham 0-0 Man City
14 Aug 10 |  Premier League
Spurs face Young Boys in Europe
06 Aug 10 |  Europe
Redknapp looking to bolster Spurs
02 Aug 10 |  Tottenham
Redknapp hails Spurs achievement
06 May 10 |  Tottenham

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