Scotland V England Saturday 24th February. 4:45PM. BBC One Scotland v England renew their rivalry…
AEL Limassol V Tottenham Hotspur
Thursday 21st August. 5PM. ITV 4
Having led Spurs to an opening day win at West Ham on Saturday, new boss Mauricio Pochettino quickly turns his attention to continental competition as the Premier League side head to Cyprus in this Europa League play-off first-leg.
It’s no secret that the Premier League outfit want to be playing Champions League football but that will not stop them from chasing European silverware and Pochettino’s men could be a genuine contender for the trophy.
First, though, they must seal their place in the group stage; that should be a fairly effortless task.
Easy Europa League Opening For Pochettino
In truth, the new Tottenham manager couldn’t have wished for an easier first task in European competition and the White Hart Lane club should breeze through to the group stage over two legs.
However, Spurs must still put in a professional job against Limassol and they will be expected to show their dominance here.
The fact Pochettino is likely to make a number of changes from the team that claimed a dramatic late win at the Boleyn Ground could afford a number of fringe players an early chance to stake their claims for a more prominent role within the squad.
With the win over West Ham adding to a pre-season return of four wins and a draw, Pochettino’s Tottenham are still unbeaten. Spurs have enjoyed some prolonged runs in this competition, reaching the last 16 in 2013/14 before losing to eventual finalists Benfica and that European pedigree should serve them well at the Tsirion Athlítiko Kentro.
Pochettino has a wealth of talent to call upon and it should not be hard to find a winning combination in Cyprus. We may some experimentation by the new gaffer but that shouldn’t alter the outcome.
Spurs will go marching on.
Limassol Looking To Defy The Odds
Having already dropped out of the Champions League, some might think that the Cypriots should have a chance of reaching the Europa League group stage. However, there is no denying that they enter this contest as the overwhelming underdogs.
Ivaylo Petev’s man can seek inspiration from their 1-0 first-leg win over Zenit, though. Nevertheless, the Premier League side should be a class above on Thursday night and an away win is the most likely outcome.
The Cypriots are yet to start their domestic season but did warm-up for this contest with a resounding 7-1 friendly win over Doxa last week. However, the level of competition here is on a new level altogether.
It may be a case of damage limitation for the visitors. Their European adventure may not officially end until next week’s return leg but we’d expect this contest be over in Cyprus.
AEL Limassol V Tottenham Hotspur Betting
Tottenham, as expected, are the overwhelming favourites at 4/9 with Bet365. The draw is available at 3/1 whilst the underdogs can be backed to cause an upset at odds of 11/2.
As well as seeing plenty of changes to the outfield, Pochettino is likely to give Michel Vorm a competitive debut. The Dutchman will be eager to mark it with a clean sheet.
Spurs’ should enjoy the majority of possession and chances could be few and far between for the host. It could be a quiet night for the Tottenham goalkeeper.
Tottenham to win-to-nil is 5/4 with SkyBet
There is a chance that Spurs could be a little off the pace in this one but they should win regardless. However, if they hit the ground running then we could be in for a cricket score in Cyprus.
With the comfort of a second-leg at White Hart Lane to come it may be a little ambitious going for this handicap line, but there is no doubting that the visitors are capable of clearing this line.
Tottenham -2 handicap is 7/2 with Paddy Power