NS Mura v Tottenham Hotspur UEFA Europa League preview: The annual trip east


Fueled by a win from behind against Leeds, Tottenham Hotspur have reason to believe things are going well. Antonio Conte started his tenure with a few wins and a draw, and the schedule ahead is busy, but winnable. Nothing sums it up better than Thursday’s trip to Slovenia.

Spurs are in second place in Group G after four matches, three points behind the Rennes leader. As a reminder, the Europa Conference League offers a knockout round of the knockout stage, so winning the group offers an advantage. This means that the game against NS Mura must be worth three points.

That’s a pretty reasonable request for Conte’s team. Tottenham sent Mura 5-1 home, a side which have also lost their other three group stage games. Sitting just fifth in the Slovenian PrvaLiga, it’s a lopsided competition that should be a good viewing for those who don’t want to see my Detroit Lions embarrass themselves on national television for the 87th year in a row.

Mura (4th, 0 pts) against Tottenham Hotspur (2nd, 7 pts)

Dated: Thursday 25 November
Time: 12:45 p.m. ET, 5:45 p.m. UK
Site: Stadion Ljudski vrt, Maribor, Slovenia
TV: Paramount + (United States), BT Sport 2 (United Kingdom)

Having only seen one Mura match before, there isn’t much to say before this one. In the home game, Spurs took the lead quickly after Dele Alli got and scored a penalty, and Giovanni Lo Celso landed one on the keeper a few minutes later. There was a bit of a lull afterwards, but the traffic was pretty much one-way.

The only exception was a superb volley from Ziga Kous, who tightened the lead to 2-1 in the second half. Nuno Espirito Santo wasn’t going to take any chances, despite being in control, and sent Harry Kane, Heung-Min Son and Lucas Moura to finish the match. Kane obliged, pulling a hat trick in under 20 minutes. Hopefully no massive action like this needs to be repeated this time around.

Three Themes

  1. Spurs showed a lot of life in the second half against Leeds and gave a glimpse of what Conte expects from an offensive perspective. This game requires a lot of rotation, so it will be curious to see if the reserves are able to pursue this vision. Fortunately, Mura shouldn’t provide a ton of resistance, and the second-choice wingers will have room to move forward.
  2. Few were thrilled to see Harry Winks replace Oliver Skipp in the lineup this weekend, with Tanguy Ndombele being the preferred option. While the Conference League is certainly not the way one would expect to use players like him and Dele Alli, this may perhaps be their chance to audition under the new manager.
  3. Mura has only scored two goals in four group stage games, so the defense shouldn’t be put to the test. Whoever makes up the last three will be able to move forward and show some of the aggression that has been lacking in this team all season. Three points are important, but style can also count for supporters.

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