From Champions League to Conference League play-off, it’s clear why Harry Kane wants to leave Tottenham

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 (Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty I)
(Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty I)

Tottenham's meeting with Manchester City on Sunday was supposed to show why Harry Kane wants to force his way out to join the champions.

Instead, Spurs' 1-0 win without their talisman only showed why City need the England captain, and offered a promising glimpse of a new chapter under Nuno Espirito Santo.

Kane will again be at home when Spurs return to action on Thursday night, although he will be spared chants about whether he is watching — with no away fans allowed at Pacos de Ferreira.

You could not help but wonder at Kane's thoughts as Spurs saw out a deserved win over the club he wants to join at the weekend, but there is no escaping the fact that no match better encapsulates his frustrations with his boyhood club than tomorrow's Europa Conference League play-off first leg in Portugal.

The clash in Pacos's 9,000-capacity stadium promises to ram home how far Spurs have fallen since the 2019 Champions League Final and feels ill-fitting for a club of their size and ambition.

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The Estadio Da Mata Real features four single-tier stands, the largest of which holds 2,610 supporters, some way short of Spurs' 17,000-seater South Stand.

It may be a knockout, but the contest will have a pedestrian feel, not least because Spurs have travelled with a youthful squad which was expected to include Dane Scarlett and Alfie Devine, more akin to a pre-season friendly.

Kane wants to be a winner, but the Conference League is essentially a participation trophy, introduced by Uefa to give more of their clubs and federations a taste of European football. At least one club from each of Uefa's 55 national associations will feature in the 184-team tournament.

Spurs may start as favourites to win the trophy, but there is no automatic qualification for the group stage. The 32 teams will consist of 22 winners from the play-offs and 10 sides eliminated from the final round of Europa League qualifying. Third-placed teams from the Europa League group stage will also drop into the Conference.

 (Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)
(Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

Pacos, who finished fifth in the Primiera Liga last season, are far from the most obscure side in the competition, although they have only ever won the Portuguese second tier, with perhaps their most significant recent achievement a third-placed finish in 2012-13, earning them a place in the Champions League play-offs. They lost both legs to Zenit St Petersburg.

Had Spurs followed through with plans to appoint Paulo Fonseca as boss in the summer, the game would have had an extra edge, because the former Roma coach is one Pacos's best-known recent alumni, having twice coached the club.

There is little else in a way of a narrative around the fixture, aside from Nuno's return to Portugal, where he spent the majority of his playing career and began in management with Rio Ave. Otherwise, the match feels like a rhythm-disrupting distraction for Nuno, coming between the superb win over City and the visit to his former club Wolves on Sunday.

 (Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty I)
(Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty I)

Yet, despite the absence of glamour, the Conference League is nonetheless a trophy Spurs can — and perhaps should — win, and for a club so desperate for silverware, that cannot be sniffed at.

As it stands, Jose Mourinho's Roma are the other big favourites and if they were to meet at a later stage there would be no shortage of tension and storylines.

For the time being though, perhaps it is best for Spurs that Kane stays at home, rather than face a very real reminder of his frustrations.

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