Tottenham Hotspur will be aiming to seal top spot in Group J of the 2020/21 UEFA Europa League when they play hosts to leaders Royal Antwerp on Thursday.
The final group fixtures of the 2020/21 UEFA Europa League will be played out on Thursday night. And, the top spot in Group J will be on the line when Tottenham Hotspur play hosts to Belgian outfit Royal Antwerp.
It has been a brilliant start to the new season for Tottenham, who are seated at the top of the Premier League table, have advanced to the quarterfinals of the Carabao Cup and are through to the knockout stages of the Europa League. Following their 3-3 draw against LASK last week, Spurs are currently second in the group, two points below their Thursday’s opponents.
Tottenham, though, will be in buoyant mood after having beaten Arsenal 2-0 in the first north London derby of the season this past weekend. However, they will be aware that things will be anything but straightforward against a Royal Antwerp side who are one of the only two teams to have won against Jose Mourinho’s side this term, apart from Everton.
Indeed, Antwerp eked out a narrow 1-0 win over the Lilywhites in the reverse fixture in October courtesy a first-half strike from Lior Refaelov and will be hoping to repeat that feat at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and finish as group winners. However, they head into the game on the back of a 4-2 thrashing at the hands of Genk in the Belgian League.
Let us move on to our football prediction for the aforementioned Thursday Night fixture.
Team News & Tactics
Mourinho has confirmed that Serge Aurier is out with an injury while Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg will also be given a rest. Besides, Erik Lamela remains out as well, although, there is some positive news as Tanguy Ndombele is back in contention after missing the derby due to an injury. New signing Joe Rodon is ineligible for the Europa League.
The Tottenham manager will make his customary changes for the Europa League encounter, while also ensuring that a strong team takes the field with the top spot still up for grabs. In goal, Joe Hart should replace Hugo Lloris despite his poor performance in the last game. Matt Doherty and Ben Davies ought to start as the two full-backs on the right and left sides respectively.
Toby Alderweireld, who made a return from injury at the weekend, is likely to be given a breather, but Eric Dier should start at the heart of the Tottenham defence alongside Japhet Tanganga. That would mean, Davinson Sanchez, who is facing an uncertain future at the club, misses out after a sloppy display against LASK last week.
With Hojbjerg getting a rest, Harry Winks ought to replace him in the midfield double pivot for the hosts. The England international should partner the returning in Ndombele in the centre of the park, while Dele Alli gets a rare opportunity to impress in the No. 10 role ahead of Giovani Lo Celso, who looked exhausted after the Arsenal clash.
Gareth Bale will get the nod on the right flank, while Lucas Moura will take up the opposite wing, with on-loan Brazilian striker Carlos Vinicius spearheading the Tottenham attack. Mourinho can always call upon Harry Kane and Son Heung-min if things don’t go as planned.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Hart; Doherty, Tanganga, Dier, Davies; Winks, Ndombele; Bale, Alli, Moura; Vinicius
Royal Antwerp boss Ivan Leko will be without the injured duo of Matheus and Sander Coopman for the trip to London. Pieter Gerkens also hasn’t travelled after the midfielder tested positive for coronavirus last week. The manager is unlikely to make a lot of changes to his regular lineup as the Belgians look to top the group.
— Royal Antwerp FC (@official_rafc) December 8, 2020
There could be a change in goal though, as summer signing Alireza Beiranvand could be set to make his debut for Antwerp replacing Jean Butez. The Iranian international will be shielded by a three-man backline comprising of Abdoulaye Seck, Jeremy Gelin and former Manchester United academy man Ritchie De Laet.
Koji Miyoshi, who scored in the defeat to Genk at the weekend, ought to start as the right wing-back while Simen Juklerod occupies the opposite flank. Holding the fort in the middle of the park for Antwerp should be Martin Hongla and club captain Faris Haroun.
Cristian Benavente and Lior Refaelov, who was on target in the reverse fixture, will slot in as the two attacking midfielders and look to trouble the Tottenham defence with their movement and link-up play. Spearheading the attack for the visitors ought to be seasoned campaigner Dieumerci Mbokani.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Beiranvand; Seck, Gelin, De Laet; Miyoshi, Haroun, Hongla, Juklerod; Benavente, Refaelov; Mbokani
- Including qualifiers, none of Tottenham Hotspur’s last 17 home matches in European competitions have ended in draws (W12 L5). The north Londoners have won their last three such games, scoring 14 goals in the process.
- Royal Antwerp’s last away European match in England was back in September 1994, when they lost 5-2 to Newcastle United in the UEFA Cup.
- Including qualifiers, Jose Mourinho has won 14 of his last 16 home matches in the UEFA Cup/Europa League (D1 L1).
- Royal Antwerp are looking to become the first Belgian side to win three consecutive away games in a major UEFA European competition since Anderlecht in 2011.
- Tottenham Hotspur have scored at least three goals in six of their last seven matches in the UEFA Europa League.
Player to Watch
It has been a difficult start to the season for the 24-year-old, who not so long ago was heralded as one of the best attacking midfielders in England. Having fallen out of favour under Jose Mourinho, Alli has had to feed on scraps with regard to playing minutes, with most of his opportunities coming in the Europa League.
However, the England international hasn’t always made the most of his chances. But Alli did showcase positive signs in the win over Ludogorets a fortnight ago, only to be dropped from the lineup last time against LASK. However, he did come off the bench to score a late penalty in Austria.
With the January transfer window fast approaching, Alli, whose future at the club is clouded with uncertainty, will need to take full toll of whatever chances he gets in order to either work his way back into Mourinho’s plans or attract suitors. A big game awaits the former MK Dons man.
Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Royal Antwerp
Tottenham head into the game on an eight-game unbeaten streak in all competitions since they lost to Royal Antwerp in Europe. The Belgians were in good nick prior to their defeat against Genk and having scored in their last six matches in all competitions, they will fancy their chances against a much-changed Spurs defence.
And while Mourinho will make plenty of changes, there should be enough quality in the ranks to see off the challenge posed by the visitors, especially considering that confidence within the squad will be sky-high after the derby win. The Hard Tackle, thus, predicts a 2-1 win for the North London outfit, sealing top spot in Group J.