Tottenham Hotspur have endured a mediocre Europa League campaign so far and need a victory at home to Maribor on Thursday (8.05pm GMT, live on ITV4) if they are to continue harbouring realistic aspirations of reaching the knockout stages.
Spurs sit third in the group on three points, having drawn all three of their matches to date. They are two points shy of leaders Lazio and one behind Maribor. Greek side Panathinaikos are bottom on two points.
These two sides met in Slovenia two weeks ago in a match that ended 1-1. It was a flat performance from Spurs, who failed to move the ball quickly enough to penetrate the Maribor defence. They did, however, dominate possession and managed more than double the shots of their hosts.
This would suggest that at home, Andre Villas-Boas’ men should have enough to emerge victorious, but they have struggled to win at White Hart Lane so far this season. In seven home matches in all competitions Spurs have won just twice, drawn three times and lost twice. They have lost both of their last two home matches.
The second of those defeats came on Saturday against Wigan. Spurs were again very flat, lacking the drive that the injured Mousa Dembele usually provides and unable to get the two wide men, Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale, into the match. They again dominated possession, but lacked incision. Wigan were tidy and progressive on the ball and few would argue their performance did not merit the three points it yielded.
Villa-Boas has sent out strong teams in all of the club’s Europa League fixtures to date. With injuries mounting up, especially in midfield, he may be a bit more cautious on Thursday, particularly in light of the away engagement at Premier League champions Manchester City that awaits his team at the weekend.
Sandro picked up a knock that forced him to be substituted early in the defeat to Wigan, joining Dembele and Jake Livermore on the sidelines, although Livermore could yet make a late recovery to take to the field on Thursday. That leaves Tom Huddlestone and Glyfi Sigurdsson as the only senior midfielders definitely fit, so there is a high possibility youngster Tom Carroll could start having made his Premier League debut off the bench at the weekend.
French international goalkeeper Hugo Lloris will get another chance between the sticks and will know that a good performance could very well get him an opportunity in the Premier League with current first-choice Brad Friedel at fault for Wigan’s winner last weekend.
Maribor fielded a full strength eleven in a rare domestic defeat on Saturday, going down 1-2 at home to Celje, only their second home defeat of 2012. They do, however, still enjoy a three point lead at the top of the Slovenian league table with a game in hand over nearest challengers Olimpija.
Darko Milanic’s team showed in the first encounter with Spurs that they can threaten in the final third, with Dejan Mezga and goalscorer Robert Beric particularly impressive. If press reports are to be believed, Thursday’s match may not be the last White Hart Lane sees of Beric, with the 21-year old apparently having caught the eye of Villas-Boas, who is mulling over a move for the young attacker.
Spurs will also need to be wary of Brazilian striker Marcos Tavares, scorer of six goals in ten matches in domestic competition so far this season. He was the provider of a goal and two assists in Maribor’s 3-0 win at home to Panathinaikos in the opening match of their Europa League campaign.
Maribor were neat in possession two weeks ago and defended fairly solidly. Their defence has conceded just eight times in 15 league matches this season. That is significantly better than the near goal a game they conceded last season. They will not make it easy for Spurs to find a breakthrough.
Spurs v Maribor Betting Tips Verdict
Spurs have struggled to turn possession into penetration at White Hart Lane so far this season, which has often made their matches a frustrating spectacle for supporters.
Maribor are fairly good defensively and will look to make things difficult, but provided Spurs can get an early goal – something they have struggled to do in recent home matches – we feel they should go on to record a comfortable victory.
- Bet on Tottenham Hotspur -1.5 on the Asian Handicap @ 19/20 with Bet365 or BetVictor.
- With the Spurs supporters starting to get a little restless in light of some stodgy home performances we except the team to come out of the blocks quickly and look to establish an early lead. So, back Tottenham Hotspur to lead at half time @ best odds of 4/5 with Stan James.