Tottenham v Ludogorets: Underdogs can strike a blow

Tottenham are flying in the Premier League, but have work to do to ensure progress in Europe. Kevin Hatchard believes both teams will find the net as Tottenham take on Ludogorets.

Tottenham v Ludogorets
Thursday 26 November, 20:00
Live on BT Sport

Spurs are surprisingly serene

It's always good when a TV programme takes you in a direction you didn't expect, and after watching the trials and tribulations of Tottenham under Jose Mourinho in documentary format, the project has moved in a surprisingly harmonious and successful direction. Tottenham are top of the Premier League, have just beaten one of the best teams on the continent in Manchester City, and skipper Harry Kane is playing terrific football (seven goals and nine assists in the Premier League).

The acid test of Tottenham's progress will come between now and Christmas, as Spurs will face Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Leicester in the next few weeks. However, Mourinho is still keen to succeed in the Europa League, and the Lilywhites still have work to do to secure their place in the last 32. A 3-0 win over LASK was a great start, and Spurs won 3-1 in Bulgaria against Ludogorets, but those wins bookended a dismal defeat in Antwerp.

With a trip to Stamford Bridge on the horizon, it would be a surprise to see either Heung-Min Son or Kane start here, while Toby Aldeweireld will probably miss out through injury. Gareth Bale and Carlos Vinicius could both start, and the pair are desperate for goals - Bale's only goal since his return was the winner against Brighton, while Carlos Vinicius hasn't scored at all. Argentine midfielder Giovani Lo Celso was a goalscoring substitute against City, and could start this one.

Ludogorets drinking in last-chance saloon

Given their domination of Bulgarian football, it must always come as something of a shock to the system for Ludogorets when they fall short at continental level. They have lost all three of their matches in the group stage, and they have conceded nine goals along the way. They were dumped out of the Champions League by Danish side Midtjylland, so it's fair to say it's not been a good European campaign.

Key player Wanderson is out until next year with injury, but there is at least some firepower on show. Romanian veteran Claudiu Keseru scored in the reverse fixture, while Elvis Manu netted a hat-trick in a losing cause in the 4-3 defeat at LASK Linz. With on-loan Schalke striker Bernard Tekpetey pushing for a start, coach Stanislav Genchev could select quite an attacking line-up.

Spurs firm favourites, as they should be

Ludogorets haven't played for over a fortnight, and they have really struggled at this level. Given Tottenham's excellent form, it's no surprise to see Mourinho's men trading at 1.11 to get the win. That's obviously a tough price to get excited about, and even backing Tottenham -2.5 on the Asian Handicap only yields a skinny price of 1.73.

I think Spurs will win, but I'll be looking elsewhere for my main selection.

Ludogorets can breach hosts' rearguard

Ludogorets are best when they play on the front foot, and they have nothing to lose here.

In Keseru and Manu they have players who are capable of grabbing a goal, as Keseru did against Tottenham earlier this month.

Both Teams To Score is trading at a hefty 2.52, and that's the route I'm taking. Ludogorets have scored in all three of their UEL games this term.

Bale to break UEL duck?

Regular readers will know that I keep backing Gareth Bale to score in this competition, and it hasn't quite happened for him yet. I'd be tempted this time around, but the price of 4/7 for him to score is unappealingly short. Keep an eye on the team news, but Giovani Lo Celso is a better option at 13/5 - he scored in the reverse fixture, and has netted in two of his last three games.

For Ludogorets, Keseru is 5/1 to score at any time, while Manu is 6/1.

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