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Origi, Lukaku face-off in Europa League

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ORIGI-WOLFBURGPARIS, October 22- A battle of Belgian strikers will enliven Everton’s Europa League clash at Lille on Thursday, while Tottenham Hotspur need a boost against high-flying Greeks Asteras Tripolis and Celtic welcome pointless Romanians Astra Giurgiu.

Everton top Group H on four points ahead of the third round of group games, two points ahead of borth FC Krasnodar and Lille and three above German side Wolfsburg.

A win in Lille would see the Toffees close in on a place in the knockout stage, but the main threat for the blue half of Merseyside could come from Lille’s 19-year-old Belgian starlet Divock Origi.

The youngster shot to fame when he scored the winner for Belgium against Russia at the World Cup in Brazil in June and was snapped up by Everton’s neighbours Liverpool soon after before being loaned back to Lille for the season.

Meanwhile, Everton, who are languihsing in 13th place in the Premier League, have their own Belgian World Cup star in their ranks in the shape of battering-ram centre-forward Romelu Lukaku.

“I admit I look up at him,” Origi, who replaced Lukaku in that game against Russia, told UEFA.com. “I admire what he has done in English football so far.”

Origi has scored three goals so far this season but otherwise Lille have struggled to put the ball in the net and lost 2-1 at home to Guingamp at the weekend.

In contrast, Everton are buoyant after a 3-0 win against Aston Villa in the Premier League, with Lukaku among the scorers, and they will be backed by a travelling support expected to number around 8,000 at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy.

The other Group H tie sees Krasnodar entertain Wolfsburg, whose Brazilian defender Felipe revealed this week that he suffered a minor stroke while watching the World Cup in the summer and needs daily blood thinners to continue playing.

Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs will have felt palpitations as they suffered a 4-1 mauling from Manchester City last weekend, and they will look to get back on track when they Group C surprise leaders Asteras Tripolis at White Hart Lane.

The Greek outfit have four points from two games thanks to goals from Facundo Parra, who buried a late volley for the equaliser against Besiktas and the winner against Partizan Belgrade. 

But if mis-firing Spurs are still waiting for Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor to start delivering, they can at least count on some fine goalkeeping from France captain Hugo Lloris, who has helped them draw both group matches so far.

Celtic Park was a cauldron of noise even when half empty as the Hoops edged past Dinamo Zagreb 1-0 in their last Europa League game and Ronny Deila’s side will feel they have a foot in the next round if they can beat Astra in Group D on Thursday.

While Celtic have toiled at times this season under Deila, Astra head into the game still without a point in the group and sacked coach Daniel Isaila last week, Ukrainian Oleg Protasov replacing him.

“If we win on Thursday against FC Astra that will put us in a strong position to get through to the next round, and that’s what we’re aiming for,” Celtic’s Norwegian international Stefan Johansen told the club’s website.

“We know that our fans expect us to beat FC Astra, but when you play for Celtic you’re used to those expectations.”

Elsewhere holders Sevilla, who are riding high in second place in La Liga, go to Belgium to play Standard Liege in Group G, who this week sacked coach Guy Luzon. 

Meanwhile, Inter Milan, who have been struggling domestically, will look to extend their perfect start in Group F when they host Saint-Etienne at the San Siro.

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