Tottenham narrowly missed out on a Champions League spot and now must battle Georgian side Dinamo Tbilisi for a berth in the Europa League group stage. Dinamo were recently eliminated in the third round of UCL qualifying.
Spurs opened the new Premier League campaign with a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace. Right now, however, the headlines are being dominated by Gareth Bale. Andre Villas-Boas said the star remains sidelined due to injury, but transfer talk continues to swirl.
Dinamo Tbilisi are hoping the ongoing Bale saga provides enough of a distraction to upset Tottenham. They are the defending champions in Umaglesi Liga, the top flight of football in Georgia, and should pose a solid early test for Spurs.
Let's take a glance at all of the important viewing information for the Europa clash, along with some players to watch and a prediction for the matchup's first leg.
Where: Dinamo Arena in Tbilisi, Georgia
When: Thursday, Aug. 22 at 12 p.m. ET (5 p.m. BST)
Live Stream: ITV.com
Dinamo Tbilisi Player to Watch: Giorgi Loria
If Dinamo are going to shock Tottenham to advance, Loria will need to have two tremendous performances in goal. The Georgian international goalkeeper is capable of rising to the occasion, as he did for Georgia in a narrow 1-0 loss to Spain late last year.
In all likelihood, Spurs are going to control possession and the pace of play. They are going to spend a lot of time in the attacking third, create numerous chances and quite simply put a lot of pressure on the Dinamo back line.
How Loria's defenders hold up is key, but he can help set the tone with a couple of big saves early. If he can make a few stops to keep it close, the confidence should begin to build within the underdog squad, making it far more dangerous.
Tottenham Player to Watch: Roberto Soldado
Tottenham brought in Soldado from Valencia to bolster the attack. He paid immediate dividends, scoring from the penalty spot to help Spurs claim all three points in the league opener. It was exactly the type of composure the club was hoping for in a key spot.
The veteran striker is a natural finisher with good pace and a terrific work rate. In most cases, he isn't going to dribble through an entire back line to create a chance. But when given an opportunity in a dangerous area, he usually converts.
Although it will take some time to adapt to his new surrounding, most notably building chemistry with his new teammates, the season-long outlook is promising. He should provide the finishing touch the club lacked too often last term.
Key Matchup to Watch: Battle of the midfield
The thing Tottenham are missing without Bale in the starting lineup is his versatility. His role could change throughout a match from playing out wide to a central attacking position based on how he would get more touches.
Villas-Boas is forced to shake things up without him. The onus falls on the likes of Aaron Lennon and Paulinho to control the middle of the pitch, and do it despite not having their main outlet and the club's top attacking option.
Dinamo's veteran midfield group, led by Levan Khmaladze and Giorgi Merebashvili, needs to take advantage of that lack of stability. They can't match Tottenham in terms of talent level, but they should at least be able to keep it close heading into the second leg.
Tottenham 2, Dinamo Tbilisi 1
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