Tottenham Hotspur welcome Bulgarian champions Ludogorets to north London on Thursday aiming to consolidate their standing at the top of Group J in the Europa League (8pm kick-off).
It is a familiar story in Europe as in the Premier League for Jose Mourinho’s men: Spurs are top of the standings. The Lilywhites launched themselves to the English summit at the weekend with a 2-0 win against Manchester City and will be hoping for a similar result on Thursday.
In the reverse fixture just before the international break, Spurs ran out comfortable 3-1 winners in Razgrad, with goals from Harry Kane, Lucas Moura and Giovani Lo Celso, leaving Ludogorets rooted to the foot of the table without a point.
And history does not point favourably for the Eagles, who have lost four of their five meetings with English clubs in all competitions (drawing once), while also conceding 16 goals in the process. In fact, their last visit to north London resulted in a 6-0 win for Arsenal in October 2016.
Mourinho would love for his side to repeat the exploits of their bitter rivals but, in football, nothing is a guarantee, and Stanislav Genchev’s side could yet throw a spanner in the works and make Group J just that bit more uncomfortable for Spurs.
Where to watch Spurs vs Ludogorets on TV:
- UK: BT Sport 2 & BT Sport Ultimate
- US: TUDN
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Spurs & Ludogorets’s previous line-ups:
- Spurs (vs Man City): Lloris; Aurier, Alderweireld*, Dier, Reguilon; Sissoko, Hojbjerg, Ndombele; Bergwijn, Son, Kane.
- Ludogorets (vs CSKA 1948): Stoyanov; Cicinho, Nedyalkov, Sa, Moti; Santana, Badji, Yankov; Tekpetey, Cauly, Keseru.
Toby Alderweireld was an enforced withdrawal during the win over City on Saturday, so Davinson Sanchez should deputise in his absence with Joe Rodon not eligible for the Europa League. Japhet Tanganga and Matt Doherty also remain out for Mourinho.
Players to watch:
- Spurs: Giovani Lo Celso started and scored in the reverse fixture, putting the gloss on a 3-1 win, but in the Premier League the Argentine has had to bide his time with the resurgence of Tanguy Ndombele. That said, when given a chance, Lo Celso has impressed, highlighted by his finish against City over the weekend, and he will be determined to follow up from that impressive cameo on Thursday. They say never change a winning team, so until Spurs come unstuck in the Premier League, Lo Celso may have to showcase his worth from the off in Europe instead. He will be expected to occupy the No.10 role and mirror the creative exploits of Ndombele on Thursday. With rotation key to dispelling any signs of complacency, Lo Celso will know he has to turn up in these tricky contests to catch the attention of Mourinho.
- Ludogorets: There is a reason Ludogorets are staring down the barrel at the bottom of Group J: they have faced more shots than any other side in the Europa League so far this season (62). It therefore does not bode well that they face Spurs, who have conversely taken on the sixth-most attempts at goal (50). So, the Bulgarians will need to tighten up at the back and look to suffocate Spurs’ ferocious frontline. To achieve that, Genchev will likely be turning to Benin international Olivier Verdon, formerly of Bordeaux, Sochaux and on loan from Alaves. Having plied his trade in Ligue 1, the 25-year-old comes with pedigree, and that experience will be needed against an attack as scintillating as Mourinho’s at present.
Scoreline prediction: Spurs 3-0 Ludogorets
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