Tottenham Hotspur and Watford are all set to lock horns in the third round of the Carabao Cup on Wednesday evening.

Tottenham Hotspur have had a topsy-turvy start to their 2018/19 campaign. After recording three wins in their first three fixtures, a stretch that included a 3-0 drubbing of Manchester United, the Lilywhites lost three back to back matches in all competitions, including a heartbreaking Champions League defeat against Inter Milan.

And last weekend’s narrow 2-1 win over Brighton was a rescue act, at the very least. But, coach Mauricio Pochettino will hope that the win can boost the confidence of the camp ahead of their midweek clash against Watford.

Speaking of Watford, they have had a pretty similar start to the season, winning four in a row before losing track following a defeat against Manchester United. Currently, the Hornets are winless in their last two fixtures with their latest game against Fulham, ending in a dismal 1-1 draw.

However, Javi Gracia’s men have beaten Tottenham earlier this season, thanks to a Troy Deeney masterclass, which coincided with the start of Spurs’ three-game winless run. Thus, Watford will be pretty keen on extending their record against the Lilywhites on Wednesday.

And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will take a closer look at both sides, before their highly-anticipated clash this midweek.

Team news & tactics

Tottenham Hotspur

Quite predictably, Pochettino is expected to make a host of changes this midweek as the Argentine mastermind is known for his tendency of rotating his squad week in week out.

With Hugo Lloris out injured, third choice keeper Paulo Gazzaniga will be presented with an excellent opportunity to showcase his talent against Watford this week. The 26-year-old has made only two competitive appearances for Tottenham prior to this fixture.

While Pochettino is likely to opt for his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, Toby Alderweireld, Danny Rose and Kieran Trippier will make way for Davinson Sanchez, Ben Davies and Serge Aurier with Jan Vertonghen being the only defender to retain his place in the squad.

Cool, calm and collected is what Colombia will need Davinson to be. (Picture Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images)

Colombian sensation Davinson Sanchez will return to the starting lineup. (Picture Courtesy – AFP/Getty Images)

In midfield, Victor Wanyama will be given his first start of the season after a spending a chunk of this season on the sidelines. He will be partnered by the calm and collected Harry Winks at the base of Tottenham’s 4-2-3-1.

All eyes will be on Dele Alli, however, who will be returning to his former stomping ground this week. It was at MK Stadium, where the English international made his initial breakthrough with his former club MK Dons and he will be keen to entertain his former supporters at the MK Stadium on Wednesday. He will be deployed on wider attacking positions along with Erik Lamela while Christian Eriksen will start as the lone playmaker.

The Tottenham attack will be led by Fernando Llorente, who will replace Harry Kane as the lone forward upfront. Kane will be given a breather in this encounter with Pochettino having one eye on the important Premier League match against Huddersfield Town on the weekend.

Probable lineups(4-2-3-1): Gazzaniga; Aurier, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Davies; Wanyama, Winks; Alli, Eriksen, Lamela; Llorente.

Watford

Unlike Pochettino, Watford coach Javi Gracia is not expected to make many changes to the side that drew against Fulham last weekend. In fact, The Spaniard is likely to prefer the same defensive line which started against Fulham with Ben Foster in goal, screened by the four-man defence consisting Daryl Janmaat, Craig Cathcart, Christian Kabasele and Jose Holebas.

However, we could expect a few alterations in midfield with Nathaniel Chalobah coming in for Etienne Capoue. The former Chelsea midfielder returned from injury to make the bench on Saturday and is highly tipped to start this midweek. He will be partnered by the dynamic Abdoulaye Doucoure at the base of Watford’s 4-2-2-2.

WATFORD, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 28: Abdoulaye Doucoure of Watford celebrates scoring the 2nd Watford goal during the Premier League match between Watford and Manchester United at Vicarage Road on November 28, 2017 in Watford, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Can Doucoure impose his authority against a strong Tottenham midfield? (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Further upfront, both Will Hughes and Roberto Pereyra are expected to retain their place in the starting lineup. Pereyra’s intelligence in half-spaces could give Watford a huge advantage while his crosses could also make a huge difference, given the Hornets are likely to play with a counter-attacking strategy this week.

Unfortunately for Watford, star striker Troy Deeney injured his toes in the draw with Fulham and will miss out this encounter. He will be replaced by Isaac Success, who will partner Andre Gray in the two-man forward line. Gray will be identified as the main target man as Watford look to play on the counter and thus, his aerial prowess could definitely come in handy this week.

Probable lineup(4-2-2-2): Foster; Janmaat, Cathcart, Kabasele, Holebas; Chalobah, Doucoure; Hughes, Pereyra; Gray, Success.

Key stats

  • Spurs have dominated this fixture of the years, winning 29 of their 46 encounters. The Hornets have eight wins to their name – including September’s 2-1 win at Vicarage Road.
  • Watford are yet to secure a victory against Spurs in the English League Cup, having tasted defeat in all three of their previous meetings.
  • Tottenham were knocked out from the third round of the EFL Cup only once in their last six campaign with their only defeat coming against Arsenal in the 2015/16 season.
  • Watford are yet to progress to the fourth round of the English League Cup since the 2008-09 season. They were knocked out by Spurs during that campaign.
  • The Hornets also have a dismal record against “top six” opposition, conceding 28 goals in their last nine matches, all of which have been played in the Premier League.

Player to watch

Dele Alli

Dele Alli was one of the heroes as Spurs thrashed Liverpool last season, but won't play a part this season. (Photo courtesy - Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

The return of the prodigal son? (Photo courtesy – Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

As iterated earlier, Dele Alli will be returning to his former stomping ground this week and thus, he will be pumped for obvious reasons. The English international initially missed games against Inter and Liverpool due to a hamstring injury but made his return against Brighton on Saturday, by appearing as a sub for the last 12 minutes.

This time, however, Alli will undoubtedly start the game for Tottenham, featuring as the right-sided winger. His dynamism and tenacity in wider positions could create a havoc for the Watford defence, keeping in mind that he will likely be up against Jose Holebas, who has already entered the final phase of his career, aged 34.

Therefore, it would be interesting to see what measures does Gracia take in order to minimize Alli’s influence in attack this week.

Prediction

Tottenham 1-2 Watford

Despite the stark qualitative difference between the two sides, Watford might emerge victorious in this encounter, largely thanks to their greater tenacity and will to fight. Tottenham, on the other hand, are already fatigued due to a gruelling schedule and it would appear very difficult for the Lilywhites to breach this disciplined Watford defence this week.

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