WILLIE Duncan (@Willie_Duncan) is at the controls for Tottenham’s trip to Gent.
Gent v Tottenham | Thursday 18:00 | BT Sport 1
A trip to Belgium on a Thursday night; it wasn’t supposed to be like this for Spurs this season. Mauricio Pochettino’s men were licking their lips at the prospect of taking on some of Europe’s top teams back in August as the men from White Hart Lane embarked on a bold Champions League adventure.
Sadly for Spurs, the dream fizzled out rather dramatically as the north Londoners finished behind both Monaco and Bayer Leverkusen in Group E and Tottenham have dropped into the Europa League as a result of those failings.
Spurs are Europa League veterans – they’ve played in this tournament in each of the last six seasons, but that’s not to say that they’ve enjoyed unqualified success; they were unceremoniously dumped out by Dortmund last season, while Spurs have come out on top in just one of their last seven Europa League matches away from home.
That might be reason for Pochettino to be concerned ahead of this tie, but Gent are hardly setting the heather alight themselves; indeed, the Belgians have won just two of their last 10 league matches and they suffered a dreadful 1-0 home defeat against AS Eupen on Saturday afternoon.
Hein Vanhaezebrouck’s men shipped 10 goals in two ties against Shakhtar Donetsk in the group stages and, indeed, no side remaining in the competition has conceded more frequently than the Belgian outfit.
Scoring goals, however, has been something of a struggle for Spurs in recent outings; they’ve scored just once in their last three fixtures and the north Londoners looked as if they were shell-shocked by Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at the hands of Liverpool at Anfield.
Pochettino can certainly call upon goal-getters; Harry Kane and Dele Alli are Spurs’ dynamic duo, but it would be something of a surprise should either player get much game time here, for the north Londoners have bigger fish to fry – a top four finish (at least) is certainly within grasp, while Tottenham take on Championship side Fulham on Sunday as they bid to reach the last eight of the FA Cup.
Spurs’ second string may be called upon to do a job in Belgium and the odds compilers’ offer of 22/25 for fewer than three goals to be scored is juicy enough; the selection would have landed in each of Gent’s last six competitive games, as well as in all but two of Tottenham’s last seven Europa League away fixtures.
Another tight, tense tussle looks like decent value here and punters should not expect the goals to flow during Thursday’s first leg tie.
Gent v Tottenham – Under 2.5 Goals (22/25 Marathon Bet)