Tottenham Hotspur vs. AEL Limassol: Europa League preview

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Tottenham travel to Cyprus to face AEL Limassol in the first leg of their Europa League qualifier on Thursday night, expecting to make easy passage through to the competition's group stages.

With Europe's second club competition now offering a Champions League place to the winners you might think clubs will take the competition more seriously, but given the gulf in quality between participants in the group stage, it is unlikely that much will change.

However, a club like Spurs always enjoys a cup competition and will be amongst the favourites this time. They must first see off a team that must not be under-estimated.

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Unknown quantity

Cyprus is not exactly renowned as a  hotbed of football talent, and this is spelled out by the make-up of Limassol's squad. Half-a-dozen natives are joined by the stereotypical collection of unknown Brazilians and Africans, led by a Bulgarian coach, 39-year-old Ivaylo Petev.

That is not to say the club is a complete unknown - indeed, London Mayor Boris Johnson is credited as fan (albeit by Wikipedia) - and they did beat ex-Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas' Zenit St Petersberg 1-0 at home, before eventually losing 3-1 on aggregate.

Poch has plenty of selection dilemmas

Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino has a dilemma on his hands, too. With a bloated squad, there will be plenty of players clamouring for game time - some to impress the new manager, some to impress a new club. New signings Ben Davies and Michel Vorm will hope to play, as will the likes of Lewis Holtby, Andros Townsend, Roberto Soldado, Sandro, Michael Dawson, and the returnees from the World Cup, such as Paulinho and Jan Vertonghen.

The list of names proves the calibre of players Pochettino has at his disposal, but will he select players he wants to offload? What happens if they get an injury and a potential move is ruined? Will they be fully motivated? What will be the point with so many other players waiting for a chance?

One area Pochettino may worry about his defence, where Younes Kaboul's injury record not encouraging in regards to playing three games in nine days and Kyle Walker remains sidelined with a problem of his own.

European balancing act

Also, the Argentine coach has a reputation for blooding youth, something chairman Daniel Levy will be keen to see continue, and the supporters also enjoy seeing new, young and exciting players prove their worth in the perceived comfort of early cup games.

The second leg at White Hart Lane should banish any fears of an upset, but there is still an expectancy from fans and manager that the players will perform to a level associated with a Premier League club.

Spurs have, at times, made hard work of the Europa League, and with such a valuable prize waiting at the end, such carelessness will not be tolerated this time round.

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