Date: August 28, 2014
Venue: KC Stadium, Hull
Kick-off time: 7.45 pm BST
Hull City will look to overturn a 1-0 deficit when they welcome Lokeren in the Europa League play-off round on Thursday. Goalkeeper Allan McGregor’s mistake gifted the Belgians the only goal of the first game, and allows them to take a slender advantage to the KC Stadium.
Hull City’s form: D-L-W-W-D
Hull have made a good start to their Premier League campaign, with a 1-0 win at Queens Park Rangers followed with a battling 1-1 draw against Stoke, despite playing a large part of the latter game with ten men.
Their FA Cup final spot last season won them a place in the third qualifying round of the Europa League – their first ever European campaign – and they negotiated that with a nervy 2-1 aggregate win over Slovakian side AS Trencin.
Lokeren’s form: L-W-W-D-W
Lokeren finished fifth in the Belgian league last season to qualify for the Europa League play-off round and have made a mixed start this time round. They have had two good wins over Zulte Waregem and Lierse and a creditable draw away at Genk, but have suffered defeats against Cercle Brugge and newly promoted Westerlo.
The win over Hull City has been a high point in the season so far, but they are yet to win away from home (those two defeats and a draw in the league have all come on their travels).
Key Players/Team News
Hull have been busy in the close season, signing the likes of Jake Livermore (who spent last season on loan with the Tigers), Robert Snodgrass, Tom Ince and Michael Dawson. Snodgrass, however, was injured against QPR and is expected to be out for a few months.
They lacked a prolific goal scorer last season, with Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long (who has since gone to Southampton) their main goal getters in the league with a paltry four goals each. Steve Bruce will be looking for a stronger contribution from Jelavic and the likes of Sone Aluko and Ahmed Elmohamady this season.
Goal scoring does seem to be a problem once again, however, with only four goals in their five competitive games so far this season. With goals a must if they are to get past Lokeren, Bruce will be hoping that his strikers find their goal scoring boots soon.
They lost last season’s Belgian league top scorer, the Tunisian Hamdi Harbaoui, to Qatar Sports Club, but still retain the services of Nill De Pauw and Hans Vanaken, their other prolific players in the league last season – with the latter scoring the winning goal against Hull a week ago.
Their top scorer in the league this season is Brazilian midfielder Junior Dutra with two in five.
Hull have been grinding out results this season and one can expect them to continue to do so here. It should be a tight affair, but with Hull’s recent record helping them to sneak through. They are on offer at 2.1 with Paddy Power to qualify. Leading 1-0, expect Lokeren to park the bus here and that could imply a low-scoring game – BetVictor are offering 1.85 for less than 2.5 goals in the match.