It’s been a funny old start to the season.
We beat West Ham convincingly on the opening day, were reminded of our limitations in a fortunate win over Blackburn in the cup and then got hammered by Brighton in what can only be described as a diabolical effort from all involved last Sunday.
Then, just a few days ago, our fringe men stepped up to put SEVEN past Morecambe in the Carabao Cup. Our third clean sheet in four, an impressive attitude throughout and a game that saw several squad players stake a claim for a place in Steve Bruce’s side with devastating displays.
This weekend we face a trip to Spurs – a side who’ve had an equally mixed start, with them putting five past Southampton last week after looking toothless in an opening day defeat to Everton in North London.
They arrive into this one having played in a Europa League qualifier in Macedonia on Thursday night – a game which surprisingly saw Mourinho field several of his star men.
A capable side who have the ability to blow us away if they’re on and we’re off, however they also looked woeful defensively in the first half of their 2-5 win at Southampton, so there’s weaknesses to exploit here. The game will also come too soon for Real Madrid loanee Gareth Bale, so that also helps!
After Bruce got his tactics all wrong and the players downed tools in our last Premier League outing, we’ll have to hope we’re at it in all areas for this one.
Stopping Kane and Son is more than half the battle, yet we did that in our last visit to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and will be looking to replicate that memorable away-day win here.
It’ll depend on how they managed in training on Friday, but Bruce’s comments in his most recent press conference suggest both Jamal Lewis (eye) and Allan Saint-Maximin (ankle) are ‘doubts’ for this one.
A thigh injury picked up in the 0-7 win at Morecambe could keep Ciaran Clark out, while Martin Dubravka, Dwight Gayle and Matty Longstaff remain sidelined.
Paul Dummett and Fabian Schar have been spotted back in training, however it’d be a surprise to see either involved tomorrow.
Predicted line up
Predicted NUFC XI (4-2-3-1): Darlow – Manquillo, Lascelles, Fernandez, Lewis – Hayden, Shelvey, – Hendrick, Almiron, Fraser – Wilson.
Darlow is likely to continue in goal, but there’s an argument to say Gillespie should come in after two faultless displays in the cup and clean sheets in both.
Manquillo seems likely to continue at right-back, although he may be moved to the left IF Lewis‘ eye isn’t deemed right – meaning one of Yedlin or Krafth would come in at right-back.
In the middle, Clark had been pushing for a start after a few rock solid displays in midweek, however his latest knock means Lascelles and Fernandez should continue. After the gaps they left in our last league game, they’ll need to be better if we’re to keep Harry Kane quiet!
In midfield, a part of me wonders whether Bruce could opt for the harder working Hendrick over Shelvey – who was woeful against Brighton – however I don’t see him breaking up his partnership with Hayden just yet.
Down the right, he must decide whether to reward Murphy for his superb display in that 0-7 win over Morecambe, or go with a more industrious yet less dynamic Ritchie or Hendrick. Given the man on that side will have Son to worry about, I fear Bruce will play it safe and go with the latter.
I expect Fraser to come in down the left-hand side IF Saint-Maximin misses out – I personally wouldn’t risk him – and Almiron seems certain to start in the league for the first time this season (somehow!) after three assists and a goal in just 201 minutes of action in our opening four games!
Up top, Wilson will surely come back in after he was rested in that Morecambe massacre – although we may well see Joelinton join the attack at some point after his confidence boosting brace on Wednesday night.
Here’s a few ones to watch in Jose Mourinho’s Spurs side:
Son Heung-min – The South Korean couldn’t find a way past us in this fixture last season, but he’s started 2020/21 in fine form. He scored FOUR in Spurs’ 2-5 win at Southampton and followed that up with two assists and a goal in their midweek win in Macedonia.
Harry Kane – He needs no introduction, does he? We denied him of good service in our 0-1 win at Spurs in August 2019, but he proved over ‘Project Restart’ that he’ll punish us if we don’t cut off the supply and give him a yard of space.
Matt Doherty – The former Wolves star will start as a right-back but plays more like a right-winger! Who ever is starting down our left-hand side will be have to combine much better than Lewis and Saint-Maximin did against Tariq Lamptey last weekend, because Doherty will bomb on and look to ghost in at that back post at every opportunity.
Predicted Tottenham XI: (4-2-3-1) – Lloris – Doherty, Sanchez, Aldeweireld, Davies – Winks, Sissoko – Lucas, Lo Celso, Son – Kane.
I think we’ll see a response to last Sunday’s diabolical display, but will it be enough?
Bruce’s pre-match comments suggest we won’t be going toe to toe with them, meaning a more cautious approach could be adopted – even if it’s not a return to five at the back (which is still very possible).
If that’s the case, we must be efficient on the counter and take the chances when they come, but much more resolute and hard working in the other direction to stop their star men doing damage.
I back us to score and think our pace on the break could cause problems, however I fear this new formation may give Son and Kane that bit of space they don’t need a second invitation to exploit.
Prediction: Tottenham 2-1 Newcastle