WILLIE DUNCAN (@Willie_Duncan) is at the controls for Tottenham’s return Europa League tie with Gent.
Tottenham v Gent | Thursday 20:05 | BT Sport
Tottenham’s European dreams are hanging by a thread following a dismal 1-0 defeat against Gent in Belgium last week.
Spurs went into the match as second favourites to be crowned as Europa League champions at the end of the current campaign but, instead, Mauricio Pochettino’s men came off second best against Hein Vanhaezebrouck’s men.
Spurs were shocking in the first leg of this tie and the only consolation for Pochettino’s men is that they only have a single goal deficit to overturn when the Belgians visit Wembley on Thursday night.
Spurs capable of turning it on
Spurs are certainly capable of doing that; in Harry Kane and Dele Alli, they boast two fine players who possess genuine quality in the final third of the pitch and there will be no shortage of confidence following Kane’s sublime hat-trick against Fulham in the FA Cup on Sunday.
Tottenham were always comfortable at Craven Cottage, with Kane the main architect of the Championship club’s downfall in west London; seeing the England striker back amongst the goals will surely warm the hearts of Spurs supporters ahead of Thursday’s tussle.
Tottenham’s home comforts
Furthermore, Spurs have won each of their last 10 matches on home turf, winning six of the last nine by at two clear goals – the margin of victory that is required if the north Londoners are to be certain of their continued participation in this competition.
Pochettino fielded a strong side in Belgium last week and the Argentine boss will be frustrated and baffled in equal measure that his approach did not reap rewards.
Spurs supporters, though, can draw comfort from the fact that their manager is taking this competition seriously – and he will, surely, do so again on Thursday night.
Spurs have suffered in European competition this season; failure to get beyond the Champions League group stages certainly stung and Pochettino’s men would feel more confident at White Hart Lane – where they remain unbeaten thus far this term – than at Wembley where their Champions League campaign crumbled with damaging defeats against both Monaco and Leverkusen.
Punters should trust Pochettino
Nevertheless, given the consistency with which the Londoners have performed so far this season, it would be a significant shock should Spurs perform as poorly as they did in Belgium and, despite a lacklustre showing last week, turning this tie around remains firmly within Spurs’ reach.
Gent aren’t great on the road; Vanhaezebrouck’s men have failed to win seven of their last eight away matches in all competitions, scoring just four goals.
The Belgians may have blown it by not beating Spurs by a more significant margin last week and punters should trust Pochettino’s players can make them pay on Thursday night.
Tottenham v Gent – Tottenham -1 handicap (19/20 Coral)