LONDON_ Tottenham returns to UEFA Cup action on Thursday against Dinamo Zagreb with its fortunes almost entirely reversed since its last European match two weeks ago.
A poor start to the season culminated in a 2-0 loss at Udinese that prompted Tottenham to fire manager Juande Ramos. Since then, his successor, Harry Redknapp, has guided the same group of players to two wins and a draw in three matches and few would bet against that undefeated run continuing against the Croatian team.
Spurs rallied strongly in their last two games to draw 4-4 at Arsenal and then trumped previously unbeaten English Premier League leader Liverpool 2-1, with the players crediting Redknapp's positive attitude and belief in their ability for the transformation.
"I think the key is belief at the moment," goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes said. "The team is playing with more confidence now and we have picked up three very good results. We went through a difficult period but worked hard in training to put things right, so now this is a good time for the team."
Other results have meant Tottenham is still bottom of the Premier League despite seven points from three matches, so it's imperative that the team keeps its good run going since any loss of confidence could see the team cut adrift at the foot of the standings.
Not only that, but defeat to Dinamo Zagreb, which fell just one round short of reaching the Champions League group stage, could all but end Tottenham's chances of advancing in a tournament it won in 1972 and 1984.
Tottenham is last in the five-team Group D and would fall six points off the lead if it loses. It needs to finish at least third if it is to have a chance of progressing.
The first ever match between the clubs will reunite Tottenham playmaker Luka Modric, who has been rejuvenated by Redknapp, with the team where he won three straight Croatian league titles. Modric agreed to switch clubs in April and is flourishing in a more advanced role than the one he filled under Ramos.
Tottenham will be without Roman Pavlyuchenko, who hit the winning goal against Liverpool, so Modric is likely to play just behind lone striker Darren Bent _ who has scored six times this season.
Midfielder Jamie O'Hara will be suspended after he was sent off against Udinese, but Gomes is confident of a good result at White Hart Lane.
"When I first arrived here, although we had a good preseason, we didn't have the best of starts in the league," Gomes said. "But now we are playing well again and it's a great moment for the team, which is important for the newer players."
Dinamo will be hoping its squad has fully recovered, not just from the loss of Modric but from a virus that forced 10 players onto the sidelines last week. Dinamo, which rallied to beat NEC Nijmegen 3-2 in its opening UEFA Cup match, had to postpone a league match because of the severity of the illness.