Tottenham poised for 'killer' Europa League

Martyn Wood

Paris (AFP) - Several former winners enter the Europa League picture this week as the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Inter Milan begin the long road to glory in the play-off round.

Tottenham, champions of the predecessor UEFA Cup in 1971 and 1984, travel to Cyprus where they face AEL Limassol in the first leg on Thursday.

Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino, plucked from Southampton in the summer, will make his European bow in a competition that he last season denounced as uninteresting, unattractive and one that "kills you".

However, since arriving at White Hart Lane the Argentine appears to have changed his tune, insisting that Spurs plan to take the competition seriously.

"Tottenham, in every competition that we enter, we need to think, 'We win the competition'. We need this mentality," said Pochettino.

"And if we play the Europa League, we need to play to win."

Thursday's opponents AEL, pipped to the Cypriot title by APOEL Nicosia on the final day of last season, are under no illusions as to the task that awaits them.

"(Spurs) are a massive club and it is crucial we minimise our mistakes against them because they know how to punish every little error," AEL coach Ivaylo Petev told

Captain Marios Nikolaou chimed in, acknowleding the odds are stacked against him and his teammates, but remained confident of an upset.

"We know they are a great side but we certainly don't fear them - we will look them in the eye. We will need to be at our best. We were handed a tough draw, but that is football and we need to be ready."

Hull City scraped past Slovakians Trencin in their European debut but Tigers manager Steve Bruce expects a step up in class against Belgian Cup winners Lokeren.

"It will be a different game," Bruce said of Thursday's tie in Belgium.

"Lokeren are a very, very good side from what I've seen of them and as we know, Belgium is producing some very good players. It will be a difficult game for us."

In the fixtures played Wednesday, Dnipro defeated Hajduk Split at home 2-1, and visiting Inter Milan beat hosts Stjarnan 3-0 in Reykjavik.

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