Tottenham Hotspur will be looking to bounce back from their poor start to the season when they travel to Lokomotiv Plovdiv in the Europa League second qualifying round on Thursday evening (5pm kick-off).
A tame 1-0 Premier League loss to Everton over the weekend has set a sombre mood in north London but Jose Mourinho will be desperate to lift spirits when he travels with his squad to Bulgaria later this week for the one-off match.
The Portuguese coach has previous in this competition, winning the Europa League on two separate occasions, with both Manchester United in 2017 and Porto in 2003 when it was then known as the UEFA Cup.
Drafted in to bring silverware back to the capital, Mourinho was cherrypicked by chairman Daniel Levy to deliver where his predecessor, Mauricio Pochettino, failed, with the club still without a trophy since 2008.
Arguably the hard work starts in the group stages, but first Spurs must navigate past a tricky customer in Lokomotiv Plovdiv. If Mourinho allows complacency to creep in, the Smurfs could pull off an upset.
Where to watch Lokomotiv Plovdiv vs Spurs on TV:
- UK: Premier Sports 2
- US: B/R Live
Lokomotiv Plovdiv & Tottenham’s previous line-ups:
- Lokomotiv Plovdiv (vs Ludogorets): Lukov; Petrovic, Almeida, Masoero; Ilic, Salinas, Vitanov, Tsvetanov; Iliev, Aralica, Karagaren.
- Tottenham (vs Everton): Lloris; Doherty, Alderweireld, Dier, Davies; Hojbjerg, Winks; Lucas, Alli, Son; Kane.
Japhet Tanganga remains sidelined for Spurs with a thigh injury, while Giovani Lo Celso could make a return to the squad having missed the opener against Everton with a thigh issue of his own.
Players to watch:
- Lokomotiv Plovdiv: It will be interesting to see how Spurs line up against Lokomotiv as manager Bruno Akrapovic tends to play with a three-man defence, a formation which has caused Mourinho problems in the past. Integral to Akrapovic’s system is towering centre-back Dinis Almeida, who will be relishing the opportunity to test himself against a Premier League frontline. The Portuguese plied his trade alongside the French Riviera for Monaco between 2016 and 2019 but has since relocated to Plovdiv and won the Bulgarian Cup in his debut campaign. He will now want to follow that success up with an extended run in Europe.
- Spurs: It’s set to be a busy few weeks for Spurs with the congested fixture list doing Mourinho’s men no favours at all. That means rotation will be key, and one who could get a run out later this week is Davinson Sanchez, a player crying out for minutes and a chance to fight his way back into first-team contention. Signed by Spurs after helping Ajax reach the final of this competition three years ago, in which Mourinho’s Man Utd triumphed in the Sweden showpiece, Sanchez will be eager to leave an imprint on the competition once more and prove to his boss that he deserves a starting berth in the Premier League.