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Spurs, Rangers look to clinch Europa League knockout spots

Paris (AFP) – Tottenham Hotspur head to Austria looking for the point that would take them through to the Europa League last 32 on Thursday, but the Premier League leaders will have one eye on the upcoming north London derby and the fitness of Harry Kane.

Kane has scored 13 goals this season, including six in the Europa League, but missed training on Wednesday with an unspecified injury that is set to rule him out of Thursday’s game away to LASK Linz and could make him a doubt for Sunday’s home meeting with Arsenal.

“I’m not going to tell you the nature of his injury. I think he has a good chance,” said coach Jose Mourinho when asked if Kane risked missing that match.

“I don’t want to lie, I don’t want to hide anything in relation to is he going to play or no? I think he’s going to play. My feeling is that he’s going to play.”

Spurs are top of the Premier League after 10 games on goal difference from Liverpool after drawing 0-0 with Chelsea at the weekend.

Mourinho will not want anything to get in the way of an assault on the title, and so wrapping up qualification for the round of 32 of the Europa League with a game to spare would be welcome.

Tottenham are second in Group J after four games, level on points with leaders Antwerp and three points ahead of LASK, who are second in the Austrian league and lost 3-0 on their visit to north London in October.

With Bulgarians Ludogorets bottom without a point, that means Tottenham need only draw in Linz to secure a place in the next round before their last group game at home to Antwerp next week.

Kane’s fellow forward Carlos Vinicius, Erik Lamela and left-back Sergio Reguilon are also carrying injuries, but centre-back Toby Alderweireld is close to a return after a groin injury.

– Gerrard: ‘Fantastic opportunity’ –

Arsenal have already secured their place in the next round before their last two matches in Group B. Mikel Arteta’s team also face Austrian opposition on Thursday, hosting Rapid Vienna.

Leicester City are also already through to the last 32 from Group G but they face an energy-sapping trip to deepest Ukraine to take on Zorya Luhansk.

Kasper Schmeichel, Jonny Evans, Youri Tielemans and Jamie Vardy have all been left behind to rest rather than make the trip, with Leicester facing Sheffield United on Sunday.

However, Ricardo Pereira is set to make his first appearance since March following his recovery from a knee injury.

Scottish Premiership leaders Rangers will look to secure qualification for the knockout phase for the second season running as they play host to Standard Liege at Ibrox.

Steven Gerrard’s side are unbeaten this season but squandered two-goal leads in each of their last two games, both against Benfica.

Nevertheless, a win at home to the Belgians will take them through, while a draw could also suffice as long as Lech Poznan fail to beat Benfica in Lisbon.

“The next challenge is Standard Liege, a very good and dangerous team,” Gerrard said.

“But (Thursday) is a fantastic opportunity for us to qualify for the second season on the spin and that’s the challenge and the only one we should focus on.”

In contrast Celtic are already eliminated from Group H. They face Serie A leaders AC Milan at San Siro, with the pressure growing on manager Neil Lennon.

Celtic have won just two and lost five of their last 10 matches in all competitions, picking up a solitary point so far in their Europa League group.

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