Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho criticised his team's performance after a lacklustre display in a 1-0 defeat to Everton on Sunday in their Premier League opener. The side looked lethargic and leggy but they must be on their game if they are to avoid an upset against Bulgarian outift Lokomotiv Plovdiv and I expect Spurs to be ruthless on their travels. Plovdiv scraped past Montenegro side Iskra 1-0 in the last round and have been rewarded with the task of trying to topple 2019 Champions League finalists Tottenham Hotspur in a bid to make it to the next round of qualifying.
Lokomotiv Plovdiv haven't featured on the continent since 2012 when they were elimanted after two legs by Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem and they haven't faced an English team since they were beaten by Bolton in a then UEFA Cup qualfier in 2005. The Bulgarian side have never qualified for the group stage of this competition and have been dealt a particularly difficult hand in an attempt to forge a pioneering run into the Europa League. Plovdiv have played five league games domestically so far this season winning three of those but their winning run was ended by native champions Ludogorets at the weekend. Beside secondary competition appearances in the Intertoto and Marbella Cup, the hosts only appearance in Europe was in 2012 since they were beaten by Bolton in each leg 2-1 home and away 15 years ago. An inferior group of players is enough to suggest Plovdiv will struggle against Spurs but a severe lack of experience on the continent only heightens the challenge for the Bulgarian side and I can't see them causing too much trouble for their guests.
Tottenham limped to a 1-0 loss to Everton on Sunday but they have a chance to get things right with this qualification game and take another step towards the Europa League. There is no doubt that Mourinho and his players will feel they should be playing amongst Europe's elite in the Champions League but a 6th place finish last season means they will have to settle for the Europa League this term. That was Tottenham's lowest finish since the 2013/14 season and they enter the qualifying rounds of this competition for the first time in six years having went past Cypriot side AEL Limassol on that occasion. I do expect Spurs to make the group stage again this year and come through this round with relative comfort and I feel they will have start quick in order to eliminate any hope of an upset.
It's been less than 18 months since Spurs were vying for a Champions League winners medal and I suspect an aura of determination around the club as they try and restore their credibilty after such a major drop-off last season. I'm backing Tottenham half-time/full-time here.