Tottenham Hotspur are looking for their third successive win in all competitions as they take on Southampton on Tuesday.
The busy Christmas period is well and truly here. After an action-packed Boxing Day that yielded 29 goals in just six matches, Premier League clubs will be in action once again in the coming midweek in what will be the final matchday before the year comes to a close.
Tottenham Hotspur have been one of the most in-form teams divisions right now, largely thanks to the appointment of Antonio Conte. The Italian tactician is unbeaten in his first six Premier League matches, securing a total of 14 points during the period. This excellent run of results has catapulted Tottenham into fifth place in the Premier League table.
While there is a sizable six-point gap between them and fourth-placed Arsenal, the Lilywhites have a whopping three games in hand. They could potentially bridge the gap to third-placed Chelsea to just three points if they can secure wins in each of those three games while extending their lead over the likes of Manchester United and West Ham in the process.
However, things won’t be made any easier by a Southampton team that bounced back to form by ousting West Ham on the weekend. It was their first victory since early November, helping Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men move ahead of Everton in the league table. The Saints are now nine points clear of the drop zone, although the likes of Watford and Burnley do have games in hand.
The hosts won’t be tagged as favourites in this encounter, but Hasenhuttl may at least look for a point that could help them remain on par with the mid-table clubs like Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Brentford. And here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of their crucial match-up at St. Mary’s Stadium on Tuesday.
Team News & Tactics
Southampton were boosted by the return of Fraser Forster in goal last weekend, but they are set to once again miss out on the services of the COVID-affected trio of Lyanco, Nathan Tella and Jack Stephens. Alex McCarthy, too, remains an absentee due to his hamstring issue.
🗣 "We never stop believing in what we are doing."
— Southampton FC (@SouthamptonFC) December 26, 2021
Hasenhuttl hinted at potential rotation as they face Tottenham within 48 hours from their win over West Ham. With that in mind, the former Leipzig coach might want to make alterations in the full-back department, with Yan Valery and Romain Perraud likely to replace Tino Livramento and Kyle Walker-Peters.
There should be no changes in central defence, as Mohamed Salisu and Jan Bednarek look to keep a close eye on the Tottenham frontmen. The two central defenders are also a threat from set-pieces, with Bednarek notably netting a 70th-minute winner against West Ham.
Moving forward, Hasenhuttl may switch to a more generic 4-4-2 with two banks of four covering Forster in goal. The change in setup, coupled with a rotation policy, should see Stuart Armstrong returning in wider midfield and partnering Ibrahima Diallo, James Ward-Prowse and Theo Walcott in the second line of press.
As for the Southampton frontline, the attack should be led by Adam Armstrong and Che Adams. The two may not offer too much in terms of physicality, but their pace and dynamism could be just the kind of combination Southampton need to breach the lines of the Tottenham backline.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Forster; Valery, Salisu, Bednarek, Perraud; S. Armstrong, Diallo, Ward-Prowse, El Younoussi; Adams, A. Armstrong
Antonio Conte won’t be averse to rotating his squad as well, given the hectic run of fixtures. However, he is more than likely to persist with the tried and tested offensive trifecta of Son Heung-Min, Harry Kane and Lucas Moura.
🎙"To play after 48 hours is not simple"
Antonio Conte previews tomorrow's game against Southampton. ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/DVRYCncrWa
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) December 27, 2021
Kane had picked up a minor knock but should be fit enough to start on Tuesday. His ability to drop deep and offer cross-field passes could go a long way in helping Spurs breach the Southampton backline. Steven Bergwijn and Bryan Gil are the likely alternatives should Conte look to rest at least one of the three.
In midfield, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s late substitution against Palace suggested that the Dane remains a favourite to start in midfield. In fact, he is likely to maintain his partnership with Oliver Skipp in the middle of the park.
There could be at least one change in the wing-back department, though, with Sergio Reguilon making way for Ben Davies. Ryan Sessegnon could have been a far better alternative for the Spanish international, but to Conte’s misfortunes, the youngster is out with a hamstring injury.
Emerson Royal, meanwhile, could make way for Matt Doherty on the right flank, although it won’t be surprising to see the former Barcelona man replacing the Irishman at half-time or around the hour mark.
Defensively, Conte may choose to avoid any taking risks by tinkering with the combination of Japhet Tanganga, Eric Dier and Davinson Sanchez. All three players performed well in the last game and are expected to retain their place in the side ahead of Joe Rodon.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Lloris; Tanganga, Dier, Sanchez; Doherty, Hojbjerg, Skipp, Davies; Lucas, Son; Kane
- Since their return to the Premier League in 2012, against no side have Southampton lost more games in the competition than Tottenham (13).
- Spurs have lost two of their last three Premier League away games against Southampton after a six-game unbeaten run at St. Mary’s in the competition. They did win this exact fixture 5-2 last season, however.
- Southampton haven’t won their final league game in any of the last ten calendar years (D5 L5) since beating Huddersfield 4-1 in League One in 2010.
- Tottenham have lost their final league game in just one of the last 12 calendar years (W7 D4), losing 3-1 at home to Wolves in 2018. Spurs are winless in their last three such games, though their last two wins in these matches both came against Southampton.
- Southampton have lost just once at home in the Premier League this season (W2 D5) and are unbeaten in their last five at St. Mary’s (W2 D3). They last had a longer unbeaten run at home between March and October 2016 (9 games).
Player to Watch
the thing where Spurs hired Antonio Conte and suddenly all their midfielders who didn't move the ball forward got good at moving the ball forward is really one of the craziest coaching effects I've seen
— Michael Caley (@MC_of_A) December 26, 2021
While all the eyes will be on Tottenham’s deadly attacking trifecta of Son, Kane and Lucas, perhaps the most important player for the visitors heading into this game is Oliver Skipp. The former Norwich City midfielder has been a revelation under Conte so far, improving his game significantly and being one of the cogs of the Spurs’ build-up play.
Skipp was always criticised for his lack of ability to push the ball forward. However, under Conte, the midfielder has looked extremely confident in possession. He has effortlessly linked up with attackers and wing-backs, even making driving runs forward to help out his team in the final third.
The 21-year-old’s performances could once again be critical as Tottenham take on Southampton. It will be particularly interesting to see whether he can maintain his good understanding alongside the ex-Saints midfielder in Hojbjerg.
Southampton 1-3 Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham Hotspur have been one of the most improved teams in Europe after the appointment of Conte. There has been a sudden shift in dynamics, with the attackers, in particular, finding their mojo in the final third. The return of Kane’s goalscoring form is another reason why the Lilywhites are the undisputed favourites to seal all three points in this counter.
The visitors may have issues regarding team fatigue as they look to deal with a packed fixture list of the Christmas period. But their overall team quality, combined with the improved defence and Southampton’s hot and cold form in the Premier League this season, should be enough to help them come out on top at St. Mary’s this midweek.