Steve Bruce aims to lead his Hull side deeper into uncharted territory as they bid to reach the Europa League group stage for the first time in their history, with just a two-legged tie against Belgian side Lokeren standing in their way.
The Tigers’ manager will be eyeing a good cup run as fans continue to reap the rewards of his appointment; since joining in 2012, Bruce has clinched promotion to the Premier League, before guiding his team to an FA Cup final showdown against Arsenal in the same year. However, he has conceded that his side must be better if they are to progress in the competition, after their European adventure was almost over before it had begun, but for a late Sone Aluko volley to secure a dramatic victory over AS Trencin in the previous round.
Bruce has cause to be optimistic on that front though, as his side come into the game off the back of a great start to the season with a 1-0 away victory to Premier League new boys QPR, thanks to a James Chester second-half header.
However, the former Birmingham and Wigan manager is likely to ring the changes for the tie as he attempts to juggle the notoriously difficult task of competing domestically and continentally, and is keen to use the depth of his squad. This means that despite a heroic performance against QPR, in which he saved a Charlie Austin penalty, goalkeeper Allan McGregor is likely to be afforded a rest, with Steve Harper in line to deputise. Others who are pushing for a place in the team include George Boyd, Yannick Sagbo and Sone Aluko, who found themselves on the fringes of the team at the weekend. Meanwhile, an injury for Alex Bruce means the Hull boss will shuffle his pack at the back with Paul McShane and Maynor Figueroa in contention. The Tigers’ were also rocked by news early this week that new signing Robert Snodgrass will be sidelined for six months with a dislocated kneecap.
Lokeren on the other hand have a European dream of their own. Sitting 7 in the Jupiter League with two wins from their first four games, they will be hoping they can sink Hull’s maiden voyage into Europe by taking a positive result to the KC Stadium in the return leg next week, while Hull will be desperate to make sure it stays afloat.
KICK-OFF: Thursday, 7.30pm
The sides have never met before.
Hull have never played in Europe before this season.
Prior to Saturday's clean sheet, Hull had conceded two or more goals in each of their last five Premier League fixtures.
Ahmed Elmohamady was the only player to be ever present last season in the league for Hull, starting all 38 matches.
Hull ended their pre-season unbeaten, winning two matches and drawing the other two.
Lokeren to win: 3
Hull to win: 2.68
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