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MATCH PREVIEW

Let’s not underestimate Maribor, eh?

A return to Europa League duties and the chance to overcome the disappointment that came with the 4-2 defeat to Chelsea on Saturday.

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A return to Europa League duties and the chance to overcome the disappointment that came with the 4-2 defeat to Chelsea on Saturday. Yes, Tottenham Hotspur are back with us again, this time live from Slovenia as the club look to get their European campaign up and running at last.

Two points earned thus far in the competition, a 0-0 stalemate at home to Lazio was followed up with a 1-1 draw with Panathinaikos, encounters that Spurs could’ve comfortably picked up maximum points and currently top Group J.

However, as it stands the North London side currently find themselves one point behind their Slovenian counterparts in a game which many believe they have to win if they are to be in with a chance of lifting the trophy come May.

Andre Villas-Boas has regularly signalled his intention to win the Europa League this season, admitting he is likely to seriously approach the competition unlike predecessor Harry Redknapp. Yet, Spurs travel to Slovenia somewhat depleted.

Mousa Dembele, Gareth Bale and Emmanuel Adebayor are all confirmed absentees for tonight’s encounter, with the Belgian the key loss of the trio as witnessed during the weekend loss to the Blues.

While Maribor hardly match up to Chelsea, no offense of course, it is still essential that Spurs are at their best if they are to really kick start their Europa League campaign. The Vijoličasti won’t be an easy proposition having picked up an opening Group J 3-0 win over Panathinaikos at the Ljudski vrt last month.

Maribor currently lead the Slovenian PrvaLiga and by some distance, having lost just once this season. While the league isn’t of similar strength to the Premier League, the chance for an upset is most definitely on the cards.

Villas-Boas will need to select a side that is more than capable of picking up maximum points in Slovenia on Thursday. However, with the aforementioned trio ruled out, fans are likely to see a number of fringe players utilised in the Europa League encounter.

Andros Townsend, Michael Dawson and Kyle Naughton are all in line for starting berths, while Villas-Boas is likely to bring in a number of first-team regulars to bring in the necessary quality that should see Spurs pick up all three points.

The added quality is vital once again, with the experience of the likes of Sandro, Jermain Defoe and Jan Vertonghen. It is pivotal not to underestimate Maribor, regardless of the so called ‘superiority’ of the Premiership. However, a blend of regulars and experienced fringe players is more than likely to be enough to see Spurs get their Europa League campaign up and running. 

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