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Jan 25, 2013

Freund shocked by Leeds' fall

Tottenham Hotspur fans Danny Keene and Daniel Wynne look back at Ricky Villa's winner in the 1981 FA Cup Final.

Tottenham assistant manager Steffen Freund has said he is "surprised" by the extent of Leeds United's fall, as his side prepare return to Elland Road for their FA Cup fourth-round tie.

Freund played in a series of high-profile ties against the Yorkshire club when a player at White Hart Lane and, having endured a time when the Championship club generally finished much higher than the league in Spurs, fears they are still capable of an upset - especially given they have won their last six successive home games.

"Of course I'm surprised. During my time here as a player, we always had difficult games at Elland Road," he said. "They were a really strong team. They finished in the semi-finals of the Champions League and they are not in the Premier League at the moment.

"That's why it's a surprise for me, but still they have a strong squad. They beat Southampton and Everton in the League Cup this season. They've got nine wins and three defeats at home [in the league]. It will be a difficult game for us.

"We drew at Elland Road [in the FA Cup in 1999], 1-1. Tim Sherwood scored, and we beat them 2-0 at home, and that was a really strong side to play against at that time. I can't wait to go there again."

Freund added that Tottenham would never suffer such a collapse because the club is too well run.

"It's difficult to say something about Leeds but they are a massive club and I'm sure they ddi something wrong after being in the semi-finals of the Champions League [in 2000-01]," he said. "I'm sure we will not do mistakes like that - Tottenham Hotspur is a solid, strong club on a fantastic financial basis plus top people up front to lead the club.

"To be at the moment with a really strong squad, with our facilities now. I'm sure you enjoy to have the press conference here. Respect to our chairman because that's the way to grow. Fantastic training ground, fantastic stadium and a strong squad."

Freund also praised Aaron Lennon as "one of the best wingers" in the Premier League - but warned the player that the real work starts now and that he must maintain his form in the most important months of the season.

Lennon has been in sparkling form lately, and was a key influence in Tottenham's comeback to equalise against Manchester United on Sunday, setting up Clint Dempsey's stoppage-time strike.

"Of course, I agree [that this is Lennon's best season]," Freund said. "But the season is not finished. I think now the season starts. Now we have the KO system in the Europa League, we are in the fourth round of the FA Cup, at Leeds at Elland Road, a difficult game, and we are fourth in the league. Nothing is done, and that's what I said. If we go all the way, we have 29 games more [including cup competitions] and that's what I said."

"For me, as a coach, it's great to see him on that level. We created 10 chances against Manchester United, he was involved in seven. That means a lot for me and the coaching staff that we have one of the best wingers at the moment in England.

"It's difficult to answer [why he is better this season] because I only arrived in July so I don't know what was happening the last few years. What I can say is that Aaron has always had the talent to be one of the best wingers and now he is playing well every game. But, again, I'm sure Aaron is happy to read about this in the paper but the most important thing is that we finish in the top four and maybe we could win some silverware again for Spurs."

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