Spurs out to seal progress in Europa League
Tottenham Hotspur manager Andre Villas-Boas is hoping to put his side's struggles in front of goal on the domestic front behind them as they look to seal Europa League progress against Sheriff Tiraspol on Thursday.
Spurs have scored just nine times in 10 games in the Premier League this season, including three times from the penalty spot, and Sunday's 0-0 stalemate against Everton has led to increased scrutiny on their misfiring attack.
However, they have not had such problems in Europe thus far, scoring 15 goals in five matches, with Jermain Defoe netting six of those to equal Martin Chivers as the club's record scorer in continental competition.
As a result, the London outfit sit top of Group K with a maximum nine points and a win at home to the Moldovans at White Hart Lane will seal their place in the competition's knockout stages with two matches to spare, while a draw will also be enough as long as Tromso do not beat Anzhi Makhachkala in Norway in the evening's other match in the section.
That would allow Villas-Boas the chance to blood some younger players, but in the meantime he will send out a strong starting line-up, although there is some doubt as to whether Hugo Lloris will feature in goal.
Spurs were due to assess the condition of Lloris on Wednesday after the France captain was knocked out but got up to play on during the draw at Everton.
Veteran American Brad Friedel started the majority of Tottenham's Europa League matches last term, but it is understood that Lloris told Villas-Boas at the start of this season that he wanted to play in the competition this year and he has featured in all but one of the five games to date.
Nevertheless, Friedel could step into the breach with Villas-Boas and his medical staff being branded "irresponsible" by a brain injury charity for not taking the 26-year-old Lloris off after he was caught accidentally on the head by the knee of Everton's Romelu Lukaku as he dived to collect a stray ball.
Meanwhile, Swansea City could also qualify on Thursday if they win away to Kuban Krasnodar and Swiss side St Gallen lose at home to Valencia in Group A - a scenario that would see the Spaniards progress too.
Swansea lost 1-0 away to Cardiff City in the South Wales derby in the Premier League on Sunday and manager Michael Laudrup is hoping for a return to winning ways despite the arduous journey to Krasnodar, which lies more than 1300 kilometres south of Moscow.
"It's always good to have another game soon after a defeat, but we have to remember it's another competition," Laudrup told UK media.
"Fortunately the game on Thursday is only five hours' flight away and four hours' time difference!
"It's a lot of travelling, but I've said it before and I will say again the reason for the European games is that we deserve them - we won the cup last year so we are in Europe."
Swansea had to learn a hard lesson when they hosted Kuban last month, having to settle for a 1-1 draw when Djibril Cisse scored a stoppage-time penalty for the Russians.
"We will try to go to Russia and do well because we have some history with them after they scored in the last seconds against us," Laudrup added.
Elsewhere, Wigan Athletic must also travel to Russia, taking on Rubin Kazan in Group D knowing a win will see them leapfrog their opponents into first place in the section.
A host of teams can seal qualification for the last 32 on Thursday, including Fiorentina, who have maximum points in Group E as they prepare to go to Romania to face Pandurii, and Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt, who go to Israel to take on Maccabi Tel-Aviv.
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