Hull City are just one game away from reaching the group stages of the Europa League but they have it all to do at the KC Stadium as they approach this second leg needing to overturn a 1-0 deficit.
It is a similar situation to the one in which they found themselves in the previous qualifying round just three weeks ago, when they conceded an early goal in the second leg against AS Trencin. Ahmed Elmohamady and Sone Aluko bagged the goals that turned the tie that day and they are both in line to feature on Thursday, too.
If there’s one man in particular who is praying they can pull off a repeat comeback it is Allan McGregor, whose howler in the first leg meant that the Tigers came away from Belgium empty-handed. The Scot inexplicably passed the ball straight to Lokeren midfielder Hans Vanaken, who rounded the 32-year-old and rolled the ball into the net for the only goal of the game.
McGregor had been the hero in Hull’s Premier League opener, saving a penalty to ensure his side held onto three points against QPR. He was picked for Saturday’s game against Stoke but Steve Harper will be waiting in the wings in case Steve Bruce has a crisis of faith.
With the exception of last Thursday’s blunder-induced defeat, it has been a promising start to the season for Bruce’s men. They looked set to back up their opening-day victory with an unlikely 10-man win against Stoke before Ryan Shawcross grabbed a controversial late equaliser.
Steve Bruce made nine changes to his side ahead of the first leg and looks set to tinker again, but it is unsure to what extent. How much does he value a place in the group stages? The drawbacks of a Europa League campaign are well-documented but the fans tasted the joy of a cup run last year in the FA Cup and will surely want more.
KICK-OFF: Thursday, 7.45pm
Prior to last week’s first leg, the sides had never met before.
Lokeren have won on neither of their previous two trips to England, losing to Newcastle United in 2001 and to Manchester City in 2003.
Last week’s defeat was Hull’s first since the end of last season, having gone unbeaten through pre-season and the opening two Premier League games.
Hull have never played in Europe before this season.
Ahmed Elmohamady was the only player to be ever-present last season in the league for Hull, starting all 38 matches.
Hull to win: 1.56
Lokeren to win: 6.4
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