Tottenham will look to maintain their unbeaten record in domestic competitions under Antonio Conte when they take on Crystal Palace on Boxing Day.
Tottenham Hotspur brace themselves for a fixture pile-up, starting on Sunday when they play hosts to Crystal Palace. It could be a must-win encounter for the home team in their bid to enter the top four.
After appointing Antonio Conte at the helm, the north London giants have performed well as a unit. They are unbeaten in their last five matches, winning three while drawing the other two. Their last Premier League fixture saw them share points with Liverpool after a controversial 2-2 draw.
Spurs were in action earlier this week, securing a ticket to the Carabao Cup semi-finals after a 2-1 win over West Ham United. In the league, they are currently placed seventh, six points behind the fourth-placed Arsenal. However, the Lilywhites have three games in hand, thus giving them an exciting opportunity to potentially break into the top four with a sequence of wins, starting with the game against Crystal Palace this weekend.
The Eagles, though, won’t make things any easier for Conte’s men, as the south Londoners themselves look to bounce back after a spell of just one win in six matches. Although his team is comfortably outside the safety zone, manager Patrick Vieira will demand a better performance this time, up against their London rivals Tottenham.
In many ways, this is a must-win encounter for the visitors as well, especially with Brentford, Brighton & Hove Albion and Everton breathing down their necks. Another mishap this weekend could see them drop further in the league table, on par with the likes of Southampton and Leeds United.
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It's the most wonderful time of the year. ✨ pic.twitter.com/I5VbCUfVf7
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) December 24, 2021
Tottenham Hotspur are among the least affected clubs in terms of COVID-19 infections at the moment. It means only the injured players in Cristian Romero and Ryan Sessegnon are set to remain on the sidelines, giving Antonio Conte the privilege of choosing from almost a fully fit squad.
The Tottenham boss rested some key players in the cup win over West Ham United. He is expected to revert those changes, with Son Heung-min, in particular, likely to replace Steven Bergwijn in the attack. The South Korean international could thus renew his attacking partnership with Lucas Moura and Harry Kane, with the latter desperately hoping to put an end to his goalscoring woes.
In the second line of press, Conte is likely to persist with a 3-4-2-1 system with an emphasis on attack. But he could opt for a 3-5-2 with three midfielders in case he wants more stability and control in the middle of the park. Nevertheless, we are likely to witness a double-pivot, with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Oliver Skipp retaining their place in the side, ahead of Harry Winks and Dele Alli.
The duo offers an excellent combination of aggression, tenacity and passing. It could be essential as Tottenham will look to dominate the proceedings in the middle, all while relying on the wing-backs Emerson Royal and Sergio Reguilon to provide width going forward.
Defensively, there should be no changes from the team that started against West Ham in midweek. Eric Dier remains a vital cog in the three-man backline due to his experience and aerial prowess. But it will be equally important for his partners Davinson Sanchez and Ben Davies to offer adequate support, although the latter may also have the freedom to march forward during possession phases.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Lloris; Sanchez, Dier, Davies; Emerson, Hojbjerg, Skipp, Reguilon; Lucas, Son; Kane
There are no known cases of COVID-19 infections in the Crystal Palace camp either. In fact, coach Patrick Vieira is set to be boosted by the return of Joachim Andersen.
The Danish international is likely to replace James Tomkins at the heart of the Crystal Palace defence, effectively renewing his partnership with Marc Guehi. These two will have their work cut out against Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, although they could expect additional support from the full-backs Joel Ward and Tyrick Mitchell.
The boss looks ahead to Boxing Day against Tottenham 👊#CPFC
— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) December 24, 2021
Even the three midfielders could build a solid foundation in the second line of press, led by the defence-oriented figure of Chiekhou Kouyate. The former West Ham United star is likely to be in charge of providing the cover for the defensive backline, with additional support from Will Hughes and Conor Gallagher.
Gallagher, in particular, has made a name for himself with his impressive performances this term. His energy, coupled with his ability to win back possession, could give Palace the edge in midfield. He is also a weapon on the counter, thanks to his driving runs into the opposition defences.
As for the attack, Odsonne Edouard remains the focal point of the Crystal Palace frontline, but the onus will be on Wilfried Zaha and Jordan Ayew to offer additional productivity. Both the attackers were on target in the last game against Southampton and will be hoping for a similar performance this time around.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Butland; Ward, Andersen, Guehi, Mitchell; Gallagher, Hughes, Kouyate; Ayew, Edouard, Zaha
- Tottenham have won the last six Premier League home meetings with Crystal Palace by an aggregate score of 13-1.
- Tottenham are unbeaten in their last 14 Premier League fixtures on Boxing Day – the longest ongoing run in England’s top four divisions.
- Crystal Palace’s solitary away league victory in eight attempts this season came at Manchester City in October.
- Tottenham have scored nine goals in their last four Premier League matches, as many as in their first 11 fixtures this season.
- Harry Kane’s tally of eight Premier League goals on Boxing Day is one shy of the record held by Robbie Fowler. Kane has scored in all five of his top-flight Boxing Day appearances
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Tottenham. Often a habitual over-performer of underlying numbers, it's curious to see Harry Kane struggle with a finishing slump.
He has now scored just 2 goals from 4.6 Expected Goals in the Premier League this term, netting only one of the 8 'big chances' (0.35 xG+) pic.twitter.com/PWSMBRdElW
— Sporting Life Football & Infogol (@InfogolApp) December 23, 2021
Harry Kane is enduring the worst season of his career at Tottenham so far. With just two league goals in 14 appearances, the Englishman has failed to provide the productivity upfront and has converted just one of his eight big chances, per Infogol.
His poor form upfront has forced Spurs to rely on the services of Lucas and Son in terms of productivity. But as we reach the halfway point of the campaign, it is about time Kane rediscovers his goalscoring mojo, especially with the Lilywhites set for a difficult run of fixtures.
In addition to his goalscoring woes, Kane was also at the centre of attention last weekend for his foul on Andrew Robertson. He was lucky to avoid a straight red that would have ruled him out of his fixture. The striker now needs to make the most of his opportunity against a Palace team that has struggled to remain defensively resilient in recent weeks.
Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Crystal Palace
One of the most noticeable improvements Tottenham have made after the appointment of Conte is their overall work rate. The Lilywhites have appeared far more competent in almost every aspect of the game, especially in the defensive department. At the same time, they have lacked the juice upfront, with Kane, in particular, struggling to convert his opportunities.
On that note, we are expecting Tottenham to retain another clean sheet and even secure all three points against Palace. However, it promises to be a tight game, with goals or goal-scoring opportunities coming at a premium.