Spurs to keep it clean in Cyprus
Ben Coley previews Thursday's Europa League games involving Premier League sides and fancies Spurs to win comfortably.
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Tottenham and Hull are the two Premier League sides in action in the Europa League on Thursday and both are faced with trips east as they set about the task of balancing domestic and European commitments.
Clearly, Spurs have greater depth among their ranks and we saw evidence of that last year as they cruised through this stage and beyond, winning their first eight games before returning in February to lose at Dnipro.
Saturday saw them fight hard for victory in Mauricio Pochettino's first competitive game in charge and they'll be full of confidence heading to AEL Limassol, who appear to have improved since last tackling this competition.
Clearly, they're a decent enough outfit and they've a particularly strong record at home, one which was further enhanced when they beat Zenit in the first leg of their Champions League rubber only to go out 3-1 on aggregate.
Given that Zenit's record since that defeat in Cyprus reads played five, won five, Limassol are certainly entitled to respect and there last foray into the Europa League saw them beat both Anderlecht and Marseille at home.
Even so, I'm sure we'd all be surprised were Spurs to come unstuck here and there's probably some value to be had in backing them to win to nil at 29/20.
The evidence for this bet stretches beyond Saturday's 1-0 win at Upton Park and even Spurs' exploits last year, when they won to nil at FC Sheriff, Tromso, Tbilisi and Anzhi before conceding a late penalty when the quality rose in Dnipro.
Pochettino's record at Southampton is surely worth considering, also. Under his management, Saints kept clean sheets in seven of their first 11 games last season and eight of their 19 away games in the Premier League. This, of course, is a different situation with a different squad, but Pochettino's approach is similar to that which served Andre Villas-Boas well in this competition and we certainly expect Spurs to tighten up from their days under Tim Sherwood.
Lokeren have won both of their home games so far this season and represent a challenge to Hull, who started their new campaign with a deserved win at Loftus Road on Saturday.
Hull's FA Cup heroics last year won't be quickly forgotten and they could make waves in this competition if they can strike the right balance.
Two clean sheets from two away games body well and they just about deserved their victory over Trencin, so all things being equal they'll probably prove a shade too good for the Belgians.
However, this is the first experience they'll have of playing a Thursday night game in Europe with a Sunday Premier League game on the horizon and it surely makes sense to check the team sheet before backing them as favourites.