AVB knows Tottenham can ill-afford a Sloven-ly display against Maribor

Spurs are in Europa League action tonight against the Slovenian champions Maribor

Given Andre Villas-Boas’ support for the Europa League, and his ambitions for Spurs in the competition, an exit in the group stages would be rather embarrassing.

But, as Tottenham return to continental action this evening, they will be aware that they have plenty of work to do if they are qualify for the knock-out stages.

Having been held at home by Lazio, and then carelessly thrown away the lead against Panathinaikos, Spurs currently sit in third place in Group J.

The upcoming double-header with NK Maribor should give the Lilywhites a good opportunity to pick up six points, given that their opponents were drawn from Pot Four and are theoretically the weakest outfit in the group.

“It’s a big game,” said Jan Vertonghen. “We have two points from two games so we have to win.”

That will be easier said than done though. The Slovenian champions are no pushovers, and they beat Panathinaikos 3-0 on home turf before narrowly losing 1-0 to Lazio in Rome.

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Indeed, Maribor have played four European home games this season – and they have won three of them by three-goal margins.

Having beaten FK Zeljeznicar and F91 Dudelange 4-1 in the Champions League qualifiers, they lost 3-1 on aggregate to Dinamo Zagreb and dropped into the Europa League.

Spurs have never faced Maribor, but the Slovenians met Birmingham last season – and the English side won home and away.

Tottenham will also be buoyed by Jermain Defoe’s international record against Slovenia – he hit the winner in a 2-1 friendly win in 2009 and repeated the feat in a 1-0 victory in the 2010 World Cup group stages, setting up the ill-fated meeting with Germany.

The Maribor squad is mostly made up of domestic players, but their skipper is a Brazilian striker, Marcos Taverez, who scored the final goal from the penalty spot in the home win over Panathinaikos.

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