The Europa League third qualifying round kicks off this weekend with a host of games. Just two rounds remain until the group stage begins and teams will play a one-off tie in the third qualifying round. Tottenham Hotspur will travel to Macedonia to play Shkendija. Spurs have not started the season in sterling fashion, but with some big-name transfers now at the club, could crack on to bigger things.
Jose Mourinho’s team continues to blow hot and cold. After losing on matchday 1 in the Premier League, Spurs thrashed Southampton 5-2 thanks to a four-goal performance from Heung-min Son. Due to the crunch of fixtures, Spurs have a week that no other Premier League team will envy.
Tottenham Hotspur played on Saturday at Southampton and will play on Thursday against Shkendija on Thursday in Macedonia. However, before that match on Thursday occurs, Spurs must play in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night versus Leyton Orient. Mourinho is likely to use different players for both fixtures with a focus on the Europa League match.
Shkendija finished third in the Macedonian league last season. Can they shock Mourinho’s team on Thursday night in the Europa League or will Spurs progress as expected?
Shkendija kicked off the Europa League in the first qualifying round. They have had to fight their way to the third qualifying round but have benefitted from the one-off ties rather than the traditional two-legged fixtures. Shkendija won away at Sumgayit in the first qualifying round, 2-0. They followed it up in the second qualifying round with a 1-0 victory over Botosani. Shkendija kept back to back clean sheets, but will play a Spurs team with an exciting attack.
Tottenham Hotspur nearly screwed up when they played in the second qualifying round of the Europa League against Lokomotiv Plovdiv. Tottenham Hotspur conceded a 71st minute goal and needed goals from Harry Kane and Tanguy Ndombele in the final 10 minutes to come from behind to win.
It is difficult to tell which Spurs team will show up this week. Will it be the side that lost to Everton, crushed Southampton or came from behind to win versus Lokomotiv Plovdiv? It should be noted that Tottenham Hotspur had to come from a goal down to beat Southampton at the weekend.
Mourinho continues to shake up the stable, fun to watch team created by Mauricio Pochettino. Claims have been made Tottenham Hotspur would never have experienced the shuffle they have had Pochettino still been in charge.
The big news surrounding Tottenham Hotspur shouldn’t be the arrival and return of Gareth Bale, but the impending departure of Dele Alli. The midfielder is on the verge of a transfer to Paris Saint-Germain as the relationship with Mourinho deteriorates further. Alli has struggled under Mourinho. He has assumed the role that Paul Pogba had at Manchester United as a player Mourinho seems adamant to push out of the team.
Bale could make his debut for the club this week against Shkendija. However, it is more likely that Mourinho will save Bale as the winger gets his fitness back. Bale has a slight knee issue that is likely to keep him out of action. A lot of media members have raved about Bale’s return. He is older and injury-prone, however. Bale’s top performances could be few and far between. Defender Japhet Tanganga is ruled out of the game through injury.
There is no doubt that Spurs are playing a week European side in the third qualifying round. Although Skhendija kept back to back clean sheet victories in the competition, they are unlikely to keep Tottenham Hotspur out of goal. Spurs have shown an ability to come from behind in their last two games.
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Tottenham Hotspur saw over 2.5 goals scored against Lokomotiv Plovdiv and Southampton. Although Spurs conceded goals in both of those games, Shkendija should struggle to keep the scoreline low. Shkendija kept back to back clean sheet wins in the Europa League combining to score 3.0 goals over the course of 180 minutes of football. They are taking a massive step up against Spurs on Thursday night.
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Tottenham Hotspur’s performances this year may not truly reflect their potential to win matches this term. Mourinho will set his side up to slow down Shkendija and keep possession of the ball. Chances should be few and far between for Shkendija. Mourinho’s player selection could affect the team’s defensive performance. Regardless of which players are selected, Tottenham Hotspur should keep a clean sheet.
Tottenham Hotspur striker Heung-min Son bagged four goals against Southampton at the weekend. He continues to be Spurs’ best attacking player. Say what you will about Harry Kane, but Son is just as important if not more important. Son could be left behind in London or played against Leyton Orient rather than make the trip to Macedonia. If he does play against Shkendija, then he could score in midweek.
Son met or exceeded his expected goals total in each of the last four seasons in the league. His four goals scored this term in the league have surpassed his expected goals figure of 1.40. He averages 0.70 expected goals per 90 minutes and 3.00 shots per 90 minutes in the Premier League. Son is a brilliant attacker and depending on if he plays against Shkendija, could continue his goalscoring streak.
Shkendija are on an eight-match unbeaten run in all competitions. They won at the weekend versus Akademija Pandev, 2-1. Shkendija will aim to take a big scalp, but should find it very difficult to win or get goals versus Spurs.
Tottenham Hotspur should pick up a win to progress to the next round. Just one step will separate Spurs to the group stage of the Europa League.
Telekom Arena in Skopje will host Thursday's Europa League qualification match between Shkendija and Tottenham.
Shkendija vs Tottenham kicks-off at 19:00 on Thursday 24 September.