Tottenham Hotspur are in for yet another tricky test on Sunday as they travel to St. Mary’s Stadium to face Southampton.
Tottenham Hotspur haven’t had the best of starts in the 2020/21 campaign. The Lilywhites started off their season with a 1-0 defeat to Everton, failing to breach Carlo Ancelotti’s organised defence and lacking sharpness in attack. It was followed by a narrow 2-1 win over Lokomotiv Plovdiv, in the qualifying stages of the UEFA Europa League.
The pressure will be immense on Jose Mourinho as he looks to guide Spurs to their first Premier League win of the season on Sunday. The Portuguese tactician cited a lack of fitness as one of the reasons for the club’s defeat to Everton and given the midweek fixture, the manager may indeed have a point heading into this game.
Fortunately for Mourinho and Tottenham, their weekend opponents Southampton haven’t shown the same level of discipline that has been quite synonymous under the leadership of Ralph Hasenhuttl.
The Saints notably started their campaign with a 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace before being knocked out of the Carabao Cup in midweek at the hands of Championship outfit Brentford. As they brace themselves for a tough game against Tottenham, Hasenhuttl will be hoping to salvage at least a point.
Much of the talk in the Tottenham camp ahead of the game will centre around the impending return of Gareth Bale. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will take a look at both the sides ahead of this exciting match-up in the Premier League tomorrow.
Tactics & Team News
Southampton do not necessarily have a thin squad, but coach Ralph Hasenhuttl does have a specific core, which he didn’t bother to change even in the midweek cup game against Brentford.
Unfortunately, the Austrian will be forced to make at least one change following the injury to Nathan Redmond. The ex-Norwich City star picked up a knock in midweek and might be out against Spurs. Youth academy star Nathan Tella, Sofiane Boufal and Moussa Djenepo are potential alternatives, with Djenepo likely to get the nod at left wing.
In defence, Kyle Walker-Peters, starting at right-back, will be facing his former club Tottenham, after joining Southampton for €13 million this summer. He and Ryan Bertrand are guaranteed to occupy the full-back slots, with Jan Bednarek and Jack Stephens forming the central defensive pair.
Moving forward, the Southampton midfield will be marshalled by the combative Oriol Romeu, featuring alongside the captain James Ward-Prowse. Their contrasting styles of play could offer an added dimension to the club’s midfield department, though they both need to put in the effort in order to prevent Spurs from dominating the game.
The Saints lack proper goalscoring options aside from Danny Ings, meaning Che Adams should once again accompany the former Liverpool striker. They are likely to be supported by Djenepo and Will Smallbone, in the advanced attacking roles of Hasenhuttl’s 4-2-2-2.
Probable Lineup (4-2-2-2): McCarthy; Walker-Peters, Stephens, Bednarek, Bertrand; Ward-Prowse, Romeu; Smallbone, Djenepo; Adams, Ings
Tottenham players will understandably be tired following a long trip to Bulgaria in midweek. It could even force the two full-backs in Matt Doherty and Ben Davies to once again start, for the third consecutive time in just one week.
Fortunately, Jose Mourinho did leave behind the experienced Toby Alderweireld in London, so the Belgian international is expected to return to the fold. He is likely to assume his role at centre-back alongside Eric Dier, with Davinson Sanchez offering another option.
In midfield, all eyes will be on Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg as he returns to St. Mary’s after joining Spurs from Southampton in the summer. He is a likely starter in central midfield, but Mourinho faces a selection dilemma when it comes to finding his partner.
Tanguy Ndombele, Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko are all available to start in midfield alongside Hojbjerg. However, we expect Ndombele, who scored the winner against Lokomotiv in midweek, to get the nod ahead of the other two. The Frenchman’s technical prowess and a brilliant range of passing should combine well with Hojbjerg.
In the attack, Dele Alli is expected to replace Giovani Lo Celso in the number ten role. The Argentine needs time to settle in as he was not hugely involved in the club’s pre-season preparations while Alli was left in London for the trip to Bulgaria.
Lucas Moura is another player tipped to return to the starting lineup. He, along with Son Heung-min, could operate on the flanks with Harry Kane leading the attack.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Doherty, Alderweireld, Dier, Davies; Hojbjerg, Ndombele; Moura, Alli, Son; Kane
- Southampton’s only victory in their previous 21 opening home games of a Premier League season was against Blackburn Rovers in 2004.
- Tottenham have gone nine Premier League matches without a clean sheet against Southampton, their joint longest current run against any side, level with Liverpool.
- Tottenham’s only opening away league defeat across the past seven seasons was 1-0 at Manchester United in 2015/16.
- Spurs have only once failed to score in either of their opening two fixtures of a Premier League season, back in 1992 – which included a 0-0 draw at Southampton.
- Southampton have won their past two home league games against Tottenham, having failed to win any of the previous six.
Player to Watch
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg’s Premier League debut for Spurs:
Most passes completed (68/74)
Most attacking-third passes completed (16/19)
Most fouls committed (4)
Second most ball recoveries (9)
Second most tackles won (4/6)
Stats don’t tell the whole story… pic.twitter.com/vOtywP3wvh
— Spurs Stat Man (@SpursStatMan) September 13, 2020
As iterated earlier, Hojbjerg is set to attract the limelight upon his return to St. Mary’s on Sunday. Despite joining Spurs this summer, the Dane has already become an ever-present in Jose Mourinho’s midfield setup, having been preferred ahead of the likes of Moussa Sissoko, Tanguy Ndombele and Harry Winks.
Hojbjerg could be key for Tottenham in this game especially, as he is well aware of Southampton’s pressing style under Ralph Hasenhuttl. His insights, therefore, could help Mourinho better prepare while it will also be interesting to see how the midfielder copes against his former teammates like Oriol Romeu and James Ward-Prowse.
Besides, the ex-Bayern Munich star hasn’t had a positive start to his Spurs career so a good display against Southampton this weekend could go a long way in boosting his confidence.
Southampton 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Southampton have the firepower to trouble Tottenham in the defensive department. However, they themselves have failed to remain sturdy in defence in recent weeks so they might have difficulty dealing with the offensive threat provided by the likes of Son Heung-min, Harry Kane and Dele Alli. We expect the Lilywhites to secure a narrow 2-1 victory in this one.