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Hull can close on Europa League proper with play-off at Lokeren

Hull City just need to negotiate a two-legged play-off with Belgian outfit Lokeren and they will enter the Europa League proper. Like the last qualifying round, Steve Bruce’s Tigers tackle the away day first and are 6/4 favourites to take a lead back to the KC Stadium.

Against Trencin away, Hull kept things tight and a repeat 0-0 scoreline on summer signing Harry Maguire’s debut is at 15/2. They relied on home form to take them through that tie, but the Tigers have since sold striker Shane Long to Southampton for £12m, and lost recent arrival and winger Robert Snodgrass to a serious knee injury.

Despite those absences in the attacking third, Bruce has Yannick Sagbo available to play in Europe, even though he serves a domestic suspension. Odds of 11/4 say the Ivorian, or Nigeria’s Sone Aluko who netted the winner in the last round, will score anytime.

Tom Ince, meanwhile, will be charged with replacing the silky skills of Scotsman Snodgrass. He is also the same price to produce a goal, while Maguire is 10/3 to cap his bow by being on target. With the former Sheffield United centre back in his side, Bruce’s boys will carry a substantial set piece threat that Lokeren must prepare for.

More will be expected from Croatia target man Nikica Jelavic. His blossoming partnership with Long has ended before fulfilling its promise, so the mantle is now on his shoulders. Odds of 2/1 say Jelavic will net anytime.

Egypt wing back Ahmed Elmohamady has also scored in the Europe League preliminaries for Hull, and is a 7/1 shot to do so again here. Bruce has pledged to make changes from the Tigers’ 1-0 away to promoted QPR in their Premier League opener, while confirming Maguire will be blooded.

“We’ve got people like Yannick Sagbo, Robbie Brady, David Meyler, Sone Aluko, Liam Rosenior, Harry Maguire,” the Hull manager said. “It’s an ideal opportunity for him to play his first competitive game for us.

“All of those things come into my mind, and that is what I’m going to do. It’ll be a big step for Harry, but the kid has played 150 senior games. He’s played in a big cup semi-final against us last season and didn’t do badly. That was what brought him to my attention.”

It’s 29/10 that the Tigers win to nil at Lokeren, and Maguire may have a role to play in ensuring that at both ends of the pitch.