Europa League: British clubs one step away from reaching group stage

Europa League play-offs take place on Thursday with Tottenham, Celtic and Rangers all in action; follow the action with our dedicated Europa League blog

HARRY KANE SCOTT BROWN
Image: Tottenham and Celtic are seeking to reach the Europa League group stage

Tottenham, Rangers and Celtic are one step away from reaching the Europa League group stages but must come through a one-legged play-off first on Thursday.

Tottenham vs Maccabi Haifa - Thursday, Kick-Off 8pm

Jose Mourinho has praised the way Dele Alli has handled being frozen out of recent Tottenham squads.

The 24-year-old has only featured in two of Spurs' six matches this season and as a result, he has been linked with a move away from Spurs before the transfer window ends.

Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur gestures during the Pre-Season Friendly match between Tottenham Hotspur and Ipswich Town at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on August 22, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images) 0:50
French football expert Jonathan Johnson says Paris Saint-Germain will only sign Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli on loan with the club uninterested in signing him permanently this summer

Mourinho refused to confirm whether he would be involved in Thursday's Europa League play-off against Maccabi Haifa, but has been impressed with his reaction to being left out of the team.

"He trained very hard. He has my respect and the respect of his team-mates so it's possible he plays."

Tottenham team news: Mourinho has revealed that his players have yet to be briefed on their Europa League play-off opponents Maccabi Haifa having less than 24 hours earlier faced Chelsea in a Carabao Cup game. Spurs are expected to make wholesale changes.

Matt Doherty, Davinson Sanchez and Ben Davies are in line to start having missed the game on Tuesday while Lucas Moura, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Harry Kane could also be selected having come on as substitutes against Chelsea.

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Spurs are also currently without Gareth Bale, who is recovering from a knee injury having returned to the Premier League following a seven-year spell with Real Madrid.

Mourinho will hope to have both Heung-Min Son and Bale available when Tottenham return to Premier League action after the international break against West Ham on the weekend of the 17-18 October.

Jose Mourinho and Frank Lampard exchanged views on the touchline during the Carabao Cup clash 1:06
Jose Mourinho and Frank Lampard explain what was said during their touchline clash during Tottenham's Carabao Cup win over Chelsea

Opposition lowdown: Maccabi Haifa are currently top of the Israeli Premier League after two wins from two, but they will not be in action again any time soon.

The league has been shut down by the Israeli government as part of a second national lockdown in response to rising coronavirus cases in the country. Haifa have been granted exemption to travel in European competitions and earned the right to play Spurs after beating Russian side FC Rostov last week.

Sarajevo vs Celtic - Thursday, Kick-Off 7pm

Celtic v Hibernian badge 2:58
Highlights of the Scottish Premiership match between Celtic and Hibernian

Celtic beat Sarajevo home and away in their first Champions League qualifier last season but Lennon does not believe it will have too much bearing on this one-off match.

Neil Lennon said: "You can compare, you can look at our team that has changed over the piece and their team as well.

"You can take bits and pieces from it but it is not going to really have an effect or be of much relevance to tomorrow night.

"They are in good form, they have won their last four games, they are a big physical team, well organised, a threat at set plays and they have a bit of pace in wider areas. So we know it is going to be a difficult game just as much as Riga was last week.

"Riga gave everything, I imagine Sarajevo will do the same and we have to match that intensity if they bring it and bring our own intensity to the game because it means as much to us as anybody else."

Albian Ajeti celebrates making it 3-1
Image: Albian Ajeti will miss Celtic's clash with Sarajevo with a hamstring injury

Celtic team news: Switzerland striker Albian Ajeti picked up a hamstring injury after scoring against Hibernian but, while he will not face Sarajevo, Lennon is hoping he will be back for the visit of Rangers after the international break. James Forrest is set to miss the Old Firm game against Rangers with an ankle complaint which is concerning Neil Lennon.

Lennon added: "Ajeti won't travel, he's not fit and not available, neither is James as we touched on before.

"We are hoping Albian will be fit for the Rangers game in a few weeks' time. James is going to be a but longer but we haven't got a certified time on that yet.

"Christopher Jullien is fit and back in the squad so only Albian is the only absentee from the weekend. In terms of injuries, we have been pretty okay so far this season."

Opposition lowdown: Sarajevo are top of their domestic league with 20 points from eight games. They have won six and drawn two with 18 goals scored and eight. The Bosnian side were knocked out of the Champions League qualifiers by Belarusian outfit Dinamo Brest.

However, their 2-1 win against Montenegro's Buducnost Podgorica in their Europa League qualifier has given them a chance to get revenge against Celtic and reach the Europa League group stages for the first time in their history. And to help them do that, the Bosnian FA allowed Sarajevo a free weekend as extra preparation.

Rangers vs Galatasaray - Thursday, Kick-Off 7.45pm

Steven Gerrard 1:01
Rangers boss Steven Gerrard says his side have respect for Galatasaray, but will not go into their Europa League qualifier with any fear

Victory for Rangers could help Scotland overtake Turkey in the UEFA coefficient rankings and secure an automatic Champions League slot for the Premiership winners.

Steve Gerrard said: "I think it will be a big boost to the country - something that we haven't had for a long time. The teams in Scotland have worked ever so hard, chipping away to improve it.

"I think we've played our part so I'm very proud of the players and what we've done as a club to improve the coefficient.

"But the main priority is to always focus on ourselves. This is a huge fixture for us and it's vitally important we get through it and come out victorious (on Thursday)."

Gerrard has already admitted his team will be the underdogs as they seek to battle through to the groups for the third year running.

Motherwell v Rangers badge 2:38
Highlights from the Scottish Premiership match between Motherwell and Rangers

Rangers team news: Rangers striker Cedric Itten is a doubt for Thursday night's winner-takes-all clash.

The Swiss frontman opened his Rangers account with a double during Sunday's 5-0 hammering of Motherwell but suffered a knee injury in training on Tuesday and is unlikely to face the Turkish giants at Ibrox.

Ryan Jack (calf) and Brandon Barker (hamstring) are both back in full training ahead of the game but Kemar Roofe (calf), Joe Aribo (ankle) and long-term absentee Nikola Katic (knee) will sit out again.

Opposition lowdown: The Super Lig leaders have travelled to Glasgow without former Barcelona and Atletico Madrid star Arda Turan but, with Radamel Falcao and his old Liverpool team-mate Ryan Babel in the Galatasaray ranks, the Ibrox chief is well aware of the quality his side will face.

Kemar Roofe celebrates after scoring to make it 1-0 against Kilmarnock
Image: Rangers striker Kemar Roofe will sit out the match one more through injury

"We here at Rangers have big respect for Galatasaray as a team, for all their individuals because they play at a real big level," added Gerrard.

"They have big experience in this type of competition. I think the main strength to Galatasaray's team is the spine. The two centre-backs (Christian Luyindama and Marcao) are big, strong, powerful and quick and that filters right through to Radamel Falcao.

"So we have big respect for the team (on Thursday). We have no fear but we have huge respect."

How to follow the Europa League play-offs

Follow live updates as Tottenham, Rangers and Celtic look to reach the Europa League group stage via our dedicated blog on SkySports.com from 6pm on Thursday.

Thursday's other fixtures:

Champions Path:

  • Young Boys (SUI) vs Tirana (ALB)
  • GNK Dinamo (CRO) vs Flora Tallinn (EST)
  • CFR Cluj (ROU) vs KuPS (FIN)
  • Ararat-Armenia (ARM) vs Crvena Zvezda (SRB)
  • Dynamo Brest (BLR) vs Ludogorets (BUL)
  • Legia (POL) vs Qarabağ (AZE)
  • Dundalk (IRL) vs KÍ (FRO)

Main Path:

  • Hapoel Beer-Sheva (ISR) vs Viktoria Plzeň (CZE)
  • Rosenborg (NOR) vs PSV Eindhoven (NED)
  • AEK Athens (GRE) vs Wolfsburg (GER)
  • Basel (SUI) vs CSKA-Sofia (BUL)
  • Sporting CP (POR) vs LASK (AUT)
  • Charleroi (BEL) vs Lech (POL)
  • Rio Ave (POR) vs AC Milan (ITA)
  • Copenhagen (DEN) vs Rijeka (CRO)
  • Malmö (SWE) vs Granada (ESP)
  • Slovan Liberec (CZE) vs APOEL (CYP)
  • Standard Liège (BEL) vs Fehérvár (HUN)
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