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Ivan Leko believes Tottenham won’t underestimate Royal Antwerp a second time

Belgium Soccer Europa League
(Image credit: Francisco Seco)

Royal Antwerp coach Ivan Leko believes Tottenham underestimated his side in their first Europa League meeting, but is not expecting such generosity in Thursday’s Group J decider.

The Belgian outfit stunned Spurs in Antwerp in October with a 1-0 victory, which left Jose Mourinho, who made four half-time changes, seething after the game.

That win has given Antwerp the advantage and if they can avoid defeat in north London they will head into the next stage as group winners.

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Leko, who has hinted he may prioritise an important league game against Club Brugge on Sunday, knows it will take a lot to spring a second surprise.

Asked if Spurs took his side lightly in the reverse fixture, Leko said: “Yes a little bit, to be honest, for small Antwerp to beat Tottenham who are a top team, leaders in the Premier League, there needed to be a few circumstances and one of these in the beginning was that they didn’t expect my team to be on such a level we were.

“We know that one of the reasons we won was because Tottenham was not on top and when Tottenham is top we don’t have any chance. Tomorrow knowing their coach, he wants to win absolutely everything, so I can promise that we will try to be ready and hoping for Tottenham to have a bad day.

“You need to respect the game and understand that we are playing for something historical, beating Tottenham one more time, we will try to do everything to get a result.

“This is a big moment for everyone at the club, it is fantastic to be able to come here and play tomorrow. Maybe we can surprise them one more time.

“This is a special situation, you don’t play every five minutes against Tottenham here. Playing Tottenham in the Europa League is tough, their place in European football is the Champions League.”

Former Leicester and Manchester United defender Ritchie De Laet hopes his side will get a boost from playing at Tottenham’s impressive stadium.

“It is good, like we said before when you walk into a stadium like this it gives you energy, just being able to play a game here gives you energy,” he said.

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“It is an important game for us as players and a club so that gives you another extra boost.

“It is an important game for them as well if they want to top the group, I am sure they will start with a different XI to the one that played in the first game. But we are not here just to make the numbers up.

“It would be big to finish above Spurs, it is already an achievement out of the group to progress, but it is no surprise to us.

“We know our strengths and quality. We made sure of our progress last week and now it is just trying to finish off the job.”