Tottenham Hotspur will aim to secure their place in the group stage of the UEFA Europa League when they face Maccabi Haifa on Thursday.
Tottenham Hotspur’s strenuous run of fixtures continues as they lock horns with Maccabi Haifa, in the qualifying playoff match for the UEFA Europa League. The Lilywhites will have an opportunity to seal a ticket to the group stage if they manage to secure a victory at home on Thursday.
However, this fixture comes just two days after their Carabao Cup fourth round game against Chelsea, where they progressed via penalties. The north London giants also have an important game against arch-rivals Manchester United coming up on Sunday, so manager Jose Mourinho will face a selection dilemma as he looks to cope with the hectic schedule of the 2020/21 campaign.
As far as the Europa League is concerned, Tottenham have beaten Lokomotiv Plovdiv and Shkendija in the last two matches, although both of those victories were rather narrow.
Maccabi Haifa, on the other hand, have kickstarted their Ligat Ha’Al campaign by securing wins in two of their matches. They have also beaten the likes of Zeljeznicar, Kairat and FC Rostov on their road to the final qualifying playoff tie and the Israeli giants will be looking to seal Europa League qualification with a famous victory over Spurs.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a look at both sides ahead of this fascinating encounter at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Thursday.
Team News & Tactics
Jose Mourinho has some big decisions to make as his team are due to face his former employers Manchester United on Sunday. The Portuguese tactician has already been dealt a massive injury blow to star player Son Heung-min, who has been ruled out throughout the rest of the week alongside new signing Gareth Bale.
It will only put pressure on Harry Kane, who is tipped to start on Thursday as well as on the weekend against Manchester United. The English international is most likely to be partnered by Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn, with the former coming into the side at the expense of Erik Lamela.
Mourinho might switch to a 4-2-3-1 setup this midweek, so expect Giovani Lo Celso to operate in that number ten role, although the Tottenham manager has claimed that there is a possibility Dele Alli will feature.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Harry Winks are the ones likely to form the double pivot, with the duo, along with Lo Celso, replacing Gedson Fernandes, Moussa Sissoko and Tanguy Ndombele.
In defence, Sergio Reguilon, one of Spurs’ best performers against Chelsea, should get some rest, thus paving the way for Ben Davies to return at left-back. Serge Aurier, too, is likely to be replaced by new signing Matt Doherty on the opposite flank.
Mourinho’s shift to a back four means Japhet Tanganga will have to settle for a place on the bench, with Davinson Sanchez and Toby Alderweireld forming the central defensive partnership, covering Joe Hart in goal.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Hart; Doherty, Sanchez, Alderweireld, Davies; Winks, Hojbjerg; Lucas Moura, Lo Celso, Bergwijn; Kane
Maccabi Haifa boss Barak Bakhar interestingly employed a wing-back system in last round’s fixture against FC Rostov. However, he might shift back to a familiar 4-2-3-1 in order to mirror Tottenham’s formation.
Fortunately for the Israeli coach, he doesn’t have to deal with any injury-related absentees either, although he is missing one player in Yanic Wildschut, who contracted Covid-19 earlier this month and should remain unavailable.
— Maccabi Haifa FC (@mhfootballclub) September 30, 2020
Wildschut’s absence on the left flank should be filled by Dolev Haziza, with Yuval Ashkenazi and Tjaronn Chery forming the creative trio. The Maccabi Haifa attack should be spearheaded by the club’s topscorer, Nikita Rukavytsya.
The main objective for the visitors this week will be to contain Tottenham and try to deny them as much as space as they can. The focus should also be to minimise their transition game and attack using the flanks, preferably on the counter, where the likes of Alderweireld and Sanchez can easily get overwhelmed.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Cohen; Mabouka, Habshi, Arad, Menahem; Abu Fani, Lavi; Chery, Ashkenazi, Haziza; Rukavytsya
- Thursday night’s match will be the first-ever meeting between Tottenham Hotspur and Maccabi Haifa.
- Maccabi Haifa have enjoyed some memorable nights in Europe, famously beating Manchester United 3-0 in 2002 and also reaching the Champions League group stage in 2009.
- Maccabi Haifa have been runners-up in Israel’s top flight for the past two seasons and have started well this term, seeing off Hapoel Beer Sheva 3-1 last time out in that competition.
- Maccabi Haifa have been drawing at half time and winning at full time in their last 3 matches
- Nikita Rukavytsya is the key man for Maccabi Haifa, having been involved in ten goals in all competitions so far this season.
Player to Watch
With Tottenham Hotspur once again dealing with the injury-related absence of one of their star attackers in Son Heung-min, it’s the other one in Harry Kane who needs to step up. The English striker has already done a great job so far, bagging a lot of assists in these early parts of the campaign.
However, this could particularly be an important game for Kane due to multiple reasons. His fitness, for one, will be tested as Maccabi Haifa are likely to dig deep and try to contain the Tottenham attack.
But more importantly, Kane will also need to retain his fitness for the weekend clash against Manchester United. So, it will be interesting to see how Jose Mourinho utilises his key strikers this midweek while his performance, too, could indeed go a long way in dictating his team’s fortunes.
Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Maccabi Haifa
Tottenham Hotspur haven’t fared all too well against these European opponents this summer and as they face seemingly growing fitness and fatigue issues, the Lilywhites may once again have to churn out a narrow victory this midweek. The quality in their squad should see Spurs through and we are going with a 1-0 win for Jose Mourinho & co.