Poor old Europa League. Unloved, neglected, a nuisance. Well not anymore. Uefa want people to take their second-tier European competition a little more seriously and their latest tactic is to offer a coveted Champions League spot to this year’s winners. It might just work, too. Tottenham, one of the stronger sides in the competition, will be keeping a keen eye on their midweek European adventures as life at the top of the Premier League becomes ever more congested.
That’s not to say boss Mauricio Pochettino won’t be plumbing the depths of his sizeable squad for this pre-group stage play-off. Those on the fringes of the first eleven should be given a run-out with Spurs the overwhelming favourites to advance given their Cypriot opponents’ relative lack of pedigree. AEL did, however, beat Zenit St. Petersburg 1-0 in the first leg of their Champions League qualifier. They went on to get overturned in Russia in the second leg but the result proves they can be a threat to big teams on home soil and will warn Pochettino against over-complacency.
This is the Argentine manager’s first taste of European football and he’ll be keen to make sure he doesn’t spoil Spurs’ record of reaching the group stages in each of the last three seasons. They should be able to get the job done in the return leg but a decent result and a couple of away goals would no doubt be most welcome.
KICK-OFF: Thursday, 5pm
AEL: Fegrouch, Nicolaou, Sielis, Tavares Carlitos, Cadu, Edmar, Bebe, Guidilleye, Sardinero, Gikiewicz, Diego Barcelos.
Subs: Pulpo, Espana, Tagbajumi, Stavrou, Miguel Carlitos, Eleftheriou, Nadeau.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Vertonghen, Dier, Naughton, Davies, Paulinho, Holtby, Townsend, Bentaleb, Soldado, Kane
Subs: Friedel, Rose, Lamela, Dembele, Dawson, Chadli, Sandro.
The sides have never played out a competitive fixture. They did, however, meet in a friendly all the way back in 1968 when Spurs ran out 7-1 winners.
Spurs have lost just one of their last seven European away fixtures.
AEL have made it through to the group stages of the Europa League once before (2012-13)
Spurs’ previous two away Europa League qualifying games have ended in 5-0 wins.
Tottenham have faced Cypriot opposition once before in European competition, beating Anorthosis Famagusta 6-1 at White Hart Lane before drawing 1-1 away.
This will be the first time AEL Limassol have faced English opposition in European competition.
AEL to win: 6.5
Tottenham to win: 1.44
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