Tottenham Hotspur will be aiming to continue their charge up the Premier League table when they welcome Wolverhampton Wanderers to Wembley on Saturday.
The second half of the Premier League season begins this weekend. One of the first games of the weekend will feature high flying Tottenham Hotspur, who play hosts to Wolves at Wembley on Saturday afternoon, hoping to end a promising 2018 on a high.
2018 has been a year to remember for Tottenham. Mauricio Pochettino did not have a single penny to spend last summer. But, the manager has persevered with the men who were already at their disposal. And, despite being chalked out as contenders for just a top four spot, it is the Premier League title race where Spurs are making their presence felt, with five wins in a row elevating them up to second.
Wolves, on the other hand, have been highly inconsistent in their displays over the last one month or so. While they did notch up an impressive win over Chelsea, Nuno Espirito Santo’s men have managed to grab all three points just thrice in their last 11 games, a run of results that has dropped them down to 11th on the Premier League table.
The reverse fixture, played at the Molineux last month, saw Tottenham narrowly beat Wolves 3-2, with the hosts threatening to mount a late comeback. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
It wasn’t too long ago when Tottenham were only managing narrow wins, with an odd flourish lifting their spirits. But, their 2-0 win over Arsenal in the Carabao Cup seems to have turned on a switch, with Spurs scoring 11 goals in their last two games. The results though, have not been the only positives for Mauricio Pochettino lately.
Ahead of the visit of Wolves, the Tottenham boss has also greeted the return of several players, be it full fitness or simply light training. On Saturday, Pochettino will have just two players remaining on the treatment table, with Vincent Janssen still recovering from a foot injury, while Eric Dier is sidelined after having his appendix removed.
The likes of Mousa Dembele (ankle), Jan Vertonghen (thigh) and Victor Wanyama (knee) have all started light training in some capacity and will be available next month. The good news though, is that Serge Aurier (groin) has resumed full training, while Dele Alli is in contention to feature, and will face a late fitness test to determine his availability.
Meanwhile, Pochettino will likely make a few alterations to the side that strolled past Bournemouth on Boxing Day, with the likes of Ben Davies, Davinson Sanchez and Kieran Trippier likely to return to the starting lineup. Trippier, in particular, will now be on his toes, with Aurier nearing his return and Kyle Walker-Peters stepping up brilliantly earlier this week.
In midfield, Moussa Sissoko has become one of the go-to men for Pochettino, and the tireless Frenchman will hold the key against Wolves, with Harry Winks pulling the strings from a deeper slot. Up ahead in attack, Son Heung-Min is a certain starter ahead of his departure for the AFC Asian Cup.
Christian Eriksen will once again be the chief creator, with Erik Lamela likely to replace Lucas Moura. Lucas’ exclusion means Son will take up an advanced role, possibly playing further than even Harry Kane at different junctures of the game. Alli should be left on the bench, with the Tottenham manager taking no chances with his fitness.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Trippier, Sanchez, Alderweireld, Davies; Sissoko, Winks, Lamela, Eriksen, Son; Kane
Wolves have famously seen Nuno Espirito Santo make the least changes to his starting lineups this season, and that has been largely down to his side’s high fitness levels. Ahead of the trip to the capital on Saturday, the Portuguese manager will be without just two first-team players, at most, with neither being a major concern.
Leander Dendoncker, who is not a regular anyway, is recovering from a viral infection, while Diogo Jota is facing a race against time to shrug off a minor hamstring complaint. Nuno’s comments though, have suggested that his compatriot will unlikely be risked unless he is 100 percent.
Jota will thus, likely miss out against Tottenham, although the Wolves boss has enough cover in his squad to compensate for the Portuguese winger’s absence. One such alternative is Helder Costa, who should return to the starting lineup, starting in a narrow advanced role, supporting central striker Raul Jimenez, who has been in fine touch lately.
Ruben Neves should return to the starting lineup after playing no part against Fulham on Boxing Day. The youngster’s return should enable compatriot Joao Moutinho to play in a more advanced role, pulling the strings in the final third.
One player, however, who has taken his chances well, to establish himself as almost an indispensable member of the side, is Romain Saiss. The Moroccan maverick will provide company to Neves in the middle of the park, with the marauding duo of Jonny and Matt Doherty flanking them.
At the back, there is no replacing the reliable trio of Ryan Bennett, Conor Coady and Willy Boly, with Rui Patricio lining up between the sticks, on what will likely be a busy evening for him.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Rui Patricio; Bennett, Coady, Boly; Doherty, Saiss, Neves, Jonny; Joao Moutinho; Costa, Jimenez
- Saturday’s tie will be the 10th Premier League meeting between Tottenham and Wolves, with Spurs winning five of the nine previous games (D2 L2).
- are unbeaten in their last 39 Premier League matches against newly promoted outfits (W36 D3), since losing 0-1 versus QPR in April 2012.
- Wolves have 26 points at the halfway stage of the season, one more than they had managed in the whole of their last campaign in the Premier League in 2011-12.
- Having beaten Everton 6-2 and Bournemouth 5-0 in their last two games, Tottenham could equal the Premier League record of scoring at least five goals in three successive fixtures, set by Chelsea from May to August 2010 and Manchester City in September 2017.
- Wolves have won three of their nine away matches this season (W3, D3, L3). They only need one win to match their best return in a Premier League season, set in 2009-10.
Player to Watch
Ruben Neves seemed to have taken to Premier League like fish to water, with his exploits even piquing the interest of some big name clubs. But, after a strong start to the season, the Portuguese sensation has tailed off a little, and he needs to rediscover his best if he is to guide Wolves to a top half finish.
At his best, Neves provides a sense of control that helps Wolves take the game to any and every kind of opposition, as they so famously showed against the two Manchester clubs. And, a top showing could end up halting the Tottenham juggernaut, handing Liverpool further boost in their title race while also climbing into the top ten.
Tottenham Hotspur 4-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Wolves made such a brilliant start to the season that it did not even seem like they were a promoted side. But, a number of poor performances sent them in a downward spiral before they recovered somewhat in December. Tottenham though, pose a sort of challenge that Nuno Espirito Santo’s men might not have an answer to.
Mauricio Pochettino & co. have found top gear lately, with the 4-2 loss at the hands of Arsenal sparking a turnaround. Now, with the title race becoming a three-horse race, Tottenham will not want to slip up, especially with the fixture list continuing to be largely kind to them.
The irresistible form of Son Heung-min alone gives Tottenham an edge, with the likes of Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen also constantly improving. With all that in mind, The Hard Tackle expects Wolves to suffer their biggest defeat this season, with Spurs cruising to a 4-0 win on Saturday, and close the gap to Liverpool to 3 points, if only temporarily so.