Tricky time for Spurs, Milan, Sociedad

Dual target: Real Sociedad will have one eye on its weekend LaLiga clash with Villarreal as it takes on AZ Alkmaar.  

In an unusually crammed season, the Europa League, which resumes on Thursday with 26 group games, presents clubs fighting for domestic glory with a tricky balancing act. The English, Italian and Spanish league leaders, Tottenham, Real Sociedad and AC Milan, as well as Bundesliga high-flyer Bayer Leverkusen, have all slipped up already in Europe’s second-tier competition and cannot afford another mistake.

Yet the demands of a condensed season mean their managers are walking two tightropes at once.

Real Sociedad, beaten at home by Napoli on the second matchday, has lost veteran David Silva to a hamstring injury on Sunday ahead of its trip to Group F leader AZ Alkmaar.

Yet even as it travels to the Netherlands, it needs to plan for Sunday’s crucial game against Villarreal, which is third in LaLiga.

Tottenham only leads Group J on goal difference in head-to-head matches ahead of Royal Antwerp and LASK Linz. It too lost a key veteran when centre-back Toby Alderweireld suffered a groin muscle injury against Manchester City on Saturday.

Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho came unstuck when he rotated his squad in Antwerp and lost. Yet with a visit to third-place Chelsea in the Premier League on Sunday, he may rest starters at home against winless Ludogorets.

AC Milan travels to Lille seeking not only victory, which would put it top of Group H, but also revenge. Lille won 3-0 at the San Siro on the last matchday with 23-year-old Turk Yusuf Yazici hitting his second hat-trick of this year’s competition.

Milan will be without talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who suffered a thigh muscle injury in the Serie A victory over Napoli on Sunday.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2021 11:57:41 AM |

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