Portuguese Premiera Liga side Pacos de Ferreira will play hosts to Tottenham for the UEFA Europa Conference League play-offs first-leg match.
Tottenham may not have envisaged themselves being in Europe’s third-tier competition, but that’s what a 7th place finish in the Premier League gets you these days. Of course, they would have preferred the Champions League or even the Europa League, but the Conference League represents a genuine chance to end their trophy drought.
Nuno Espirito Santo will be aware of that opportunity and will take this competition seriously on all accounts. They begin their journey in this inaugural tournament with a trip to Portugal, where they square off against Pacos de Ferreira in the play-off round first leg. The second leg will take place in north London next week.
After opening their Premier League account in style with a good win over champions Manchester City in north London, Tottenham come into this clash with confidence. With the Harry Kane sage happening in the background, a trip away from England could be a welcome boost from the pressure and media frenzy for Nuno.
Their opponents Pacos de Ferreira, have returned to European football for the first time since the 2013/14 season. They qualified for this inaugural tournament courtesy of a fifth-placed finish last season in the Primeira Liga. However, their confidence might have downed after a mixed bag start to their domestic season.
Pacos opened their Premiera Liga account with a win over Famalicao and were expected to continue their run against Boavista, although unfortunately, they suffered a 3-0 defeat. Manager Jorge Simao will be deeply concerned by his team’s form in the last game, especially considering their next opponents are Spurs.
Team News & Tactics
Pacos de Ferreira
Jorge Simao has a mixed squad update ahead of the Tottenham clash. Four players have come back in contention for the game, while four others are out of the squad through various injuries.
The likes of Helder Ferreira, Ze Uilton, Joao Pedro and Doublas Tanque are all coming back into the squad. However, it remains to be seen if manager Simao considers anyone of the lot fit for the starting lineup. Joao Vigario, Mohamed Diaby, Jordi and Maracas look set to miss this important game through injuries.
Simao will also be hopeful of forward Denilson finding his form, after he has gone the last three games without scoring. The attacker did begin his campaign scoring three times in two games and is likely to find a place in the lineup against Spurs.
Simao will look to lineup his team in his preferred 4-3-3 style with Andre Ferreira guarding the goal with protection from Fernando Fonseca, Marco Baixinho, Flavio Ramos and Antunes in the back-four. Nuno Santos and Luiz Carlos are set to form the central midfield partnership with Stephen Eustaquio at the base.
As mentioned before, Denilson will lead the lineup front, with support from Lucas Silva on the left side of the attack and Juan Delgado coming in from the right. It looks like a good enough forward line to hold their own against a Premier League opponent.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ferreira; Fonseca, Baixinho, Ramos, Antunes; Carlos, Eustaquio, Santos; Delgado, Denilson, Silva
The big news coming out of the Spurs squad is the absence of Harry Kane despite being named in the squad for the clash. The forward is in the middle of a transfer tussle between Spurs and Manchester City, which saw him being absent from the opening day of the Premier League.
While Spurs coped well without the England captain in the Premier League, they are expected to do so again in Portugal. Heung-min Son is likely to take his place and lead the line, with Lucas Moura on the right side and new signing Bryan Gil expected to make his debut on the left.
Nuno Espirito Santo could give another full debut to a new signing Cristian Romero, who could start the game in central defence alongside forgotten man Cameron Carter-Vickers, with Joe Rodon missing out with an injury. New goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini could also make his competitive debut in this clash, starting in place of Hugo Lloris, who might retake the place when the Premier League resumes.
Ben Davies and Matt Doherty are set to replace Japhet Tanganga and Sergio Reguilon as full-backs. Nuno would also be glad to provide rests to midfielders Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Oliver Skipp after a battling display against Man City. Giovani Lo Celso, Moussa Sissoko and Harry Winks could all come into the side in a 4-3-3- setup.
Probable lineup (4-3-3): Gollini; Doherty, Carter-Vickers, Romero, Davies; Sissoko, Winks, Lo Celso; Moura, Son, Gil
- Pacos de Ferreira and Tottenham will meet for the first time in their history.
- Spurs have not faced Portuguese opposition since losing to Benfica over two legs in the 2013/14 Europa League last-16 round.
- Pacos de Ferreira have never met English opposition before in their history.
- Spurs are unbeaten in their last four away games against Portuguese opposition.
- Tottenham are the first-ever English side to participate in the UEFA Europa Conference League.
Player to Watch
The South Korean forward is again in the spotlight following the absence of Harry Kane. Having helped Tottenham secure all three points courtesy of his solitary strike against Manchester City, Son will be looking forward to marking his stamp on the game again on Thursday, as it seems more likely that he will be Spurs’ leading man this season.
Son has to score goals against Pacos de Ferreira early so that he can be taken off and given a rest before the weekend Premier League action. He has ample support, as shown over the weekend from the likes of Lucas Moura, but with all the goalscoring burden falling on his shoulders, he has to keep himself fit in the long run.
Pacos de Ferreira 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur
If we consider the current form, Tottenham are on a high following their win over Man City, while Pacos are not in the right momentum. While Pacos deserve all the respect for finishing fifth last season, they might have met their toughest opponent right at the play-off stage.
Tottenham are expected to breeze past their Portuguese counterparts and might do that with a healthy scoreline. Expect Spurs to score two or more goals and then follow it up with a comfortable second leg over in north London a week later.