Tottenham Hotspur shift their attention back to the Premier League when they visit Villa Park to face Aston Villa on Sunday.
Jose Mourinho’s future at Tottenham Hotspur will be under the microscope as they take on Aston Villa on Sunday. It is going to be a vital game for the Lilywhites, who were shockingly knocked out of the UEFA Europa League in midweek, at the hands of Dinamo Zagreb.
The lacklustre display against the Croats mounts further pressure on Mourinho, whose side is now out of the Europa League as well as the FA Cup. Although Spurs are still alive in the Carabao Cup, they will face a stern test against league leaders Manchester City in the final at Wembley.
As a result, the Premier League remains the only means of securing European football next season, but things are bound to get difficult as their weekend opponent Aston Villa are eyeing the same prize.
Currently standing ninth in the league table, the Villans are trailing Tottenham by four points heading into this weekend’s round of fixtures. However, they do have a game in hand, meaning a win on Sunday could potentially give them the opportunity to go two points ahead of the north London giants, providing they also win their additional game.
On the flip side, though, a win for Tottenham should put them back into the top-four contention. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this important match-up in the Premier League this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
Take a look at this week's preparations for #AVLTOT. 📸
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) March 19, 2021
Having last played last weekend against Newcastle United, Aston Villa have had enough time to prepare for this encounter with Tottenham Hotspur. Interestingly, this is the first time these two teams are facing each other in the Premier League this season, so Dean Smith’s men will need to be aware of their opponent’s offensive prowess.
While Aston Villa could employ a deep defensive block, it appears they are likely to dominate the possession in this game with the midfield trio of Douglas Luiz, Morgan Sanson and John McGinn playing a vital role in the club’s ball-rotation.
Unfortunately for the Villans, Jack Grealish is unlikely to start even though Dean Smith sounded hopeful regarding his recovery on Sunday. The Englishman’s absence from the starting eleven could be detrimental for the team’s chance-creation.
The onus, therefore, will once again be on the wide attacking duo of Bertrand Traore and Anwar El Ghazi to provide the necessary supply for Ollie Watkins in the number nine position. Smith, though, simply cannot use Watkins as a target man knowing Spurs’ strength in one-on-one duels, meaning the opposition centre-backs could easily isolate the former Brentford forward.
As such, Watkins could operate deeper than usual while one of the three midfielders, Sanson being the most likely, could make driving runs into the final third to add numerical superiority in the attacking unit.
There shouldn’t be any changes defensively as Aston Villa continue with the tried and tested back-four of Matty Cash, Ezri Konsa, Tyrone Mings and Matt Targett, while Emiliano Martinez starts in goal.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett; McGinn, Luiz, Sanson; Traore, Watkins, El Ghazi
Jose Mourinho is known to be an impulsive manager who often changes his squad in the event of a bad performance. In this case, we are expecting pretty much the same, starting in the defensive unit where both the full-backs in Serge Aurier and Ben Davies are likely to be replaced by Matt Doherty and Sergio Reguilon.
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) March 20, 2021
These two players should offer more offensive impetus in the final third, with Reguilon, in particular, hoping to get back on track after his progress was derailed by an unfortunate series of injuries.
The Spaniard’s crosses from the left flank should be quite important for Tottenham’s chance-creation, especially as Mourinho deals with the potential absence of Son Heung-min. It should see Lucas Moura and Reguilon operating on the left flank, while Gareth Bale should start on the opposite flank, replacing the suspended Erik Lamela.
The return of Giovani Lo Celso was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dull last week for Mourinho. And with Dele Alli still yet to show any signs of improvement, the Argentine is likely to slot right into the attacking midfield role, just ahead of the two central midfielders in Tanguy Ndombele and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.
The return of Hojbjerg is timely as Mourinho will demand more control in midfield after a horrendous display against Dinamo Zagreb. The Dane offers that urgency, energy and aggression that could be vital in dealing with Aston Villa’s midfield trio of Luiz, McGinn and Sanson.
One further change in this Tottenham team could come in the form of Toby Alderweireld, coming in for Eric Dier. The Belgian’s experience could be vital alongside the error-prone Davinson Sanchez, although the former Ajax man does provide the strength in aerial and physical duels.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Doherty, Sanchez, Alderweireld, Reguilon; Hojbjerg, Ndombele; Bale, Lo Celso, Moura; Kane
- Tottenham Hotspur have triumphed on their last six visits to Villa Park in all competitions, doing so by an aggregate score of 17-3.
- Aston Villa have won only one of seven league games without Jack Grealish since their 2019 promotion, drawing two and losing four.
- Emiliano Martinez could equal Brad Friedel’s Premier League club record of 15 cleans sheets in a season.
- Gareth Bale scored the first league hat-trick of his senior club career when he last faced Villa, in a 4-0 away triumph in December 2012.
- Tottenham Hotspur are winless in their past five Premier League matches without Son Heung-min, drawing two and losing three.
Player to Watch
With Son Heung-min likely to be ruled out, Gareth Bale is set to play an integral role in Tottenham Hotspur’s chance-creation as they lock horns with one of the most disciplined defensive sides in the Premier League this season.
The Welshman was merely a substitute in the midweek’s Europa League clash against Dinamo Zagreb. Although he couldn’t quite make an impact after coming on, a starting role in the side against Aston Villa could be a lot more helpful, especially if we consider the impact the winger has had in recent weeks.
From a tactical standpoint, Bale will primarily be looking to move inside, thus allowing Doherty to make overlapping runs into the final third. The on-loan Real Madrid star will look to make darting runs in behind the backline, hoping to cling on to any of Kane’s attempted cross-field or through passes.
Aston Villa 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham Hotspur may struggle further following their midweek debacle in the UEFA Europa League, especially without the services of their key frontman in Son Heung-min. While Aston Villa are also likely to miss one of their own star players in Jack Grealish, we expect them to remain strong defensively, and cleverly use counter-attacks through the likes of Watkins, El Ghazi and Traore to seal a narrow victory.