With certain heart-breaking events this week, club football and pre-season has been the only thing on my and many English football fans’ minds these past few days, as the build-up to the new season goes up a gear.
Nowhere is that more apparent, than at our beloved Tottenham Hotspur, where pre-season training is underway and our first friendly is this weekend.
The squad travel to The Breyer Group Stadium (also known as Brisbane Road) to face League Two outfit Leyton Orient on Saturday in honour of Justin Edinburgh and the JE3 Foundation set up in his name.
Due to circumstances that are too painful to discuss, Harry Kane and several other international stars won’t be available and as a result, we should see quite a few players on the fringes of the squad feature on Saturday.
We are going to look at who is in line to start, position by position.
Naturally, the more established faces are likely to be in the starting XI, although we will discuss options in each position, that will likely feature later in the game, with unlimited subs and a long list of players to get minutes into.
With captain Hugo Lloris on extended leave, Paulo Gazzaniga having been released and Brandon Austin out on loan at Orlando City (and thriving, I would argue), it’s a straight shootout between Joe Hart and Alfie Whiteman for Spurs’ number 1 spot for much of this pre-season.
We anticipate both will get plenty of minutes and we could possibly see youngsters like Josh Oluwayemi or Kacper Kurylowicz make the bench. For the opener though, we expect Hart to start between the sticks.
Serge Aurier and Japhet Tanganga are expected to return to training, from international duty and injury respectively, in the coming days, but Matt Doherty is the only senior option that started pre-season from day 1.
Younger options include Jubril Okedina and TJ Eyoma, who were both deployed at centre-back and right-back at their loan clubs last term.
Okedina chipped in with a few goal contributions with the under 23s before going out to Cambridge, however, Eyoma is slightly more established having made his Spurs debut in the FA Cup a few years ago.
Both youngsters should get minutes in pre-season and perhaps in the UEFA Conference League if they don’t go out on loan, but you’d expect Doherty to start on Saturday.
A hot topic of Nuno’s tenure has been his tactics and formation, this will be the first time we see his potential team shape going forward. However, he may be forced into a back four regardless, with a number of first-team defenders still away.
Eric Dier is the only regular available and will likely partner Cameron Carter-Vickers from the start. Eyoma and Okedina again are further options, Tanganga may also be involved.
Spurs have a plethora of talent to chose from here with Reguilon and Sessegnon in contention to start. Sessegnon may be a bit more of an unknown quantity to Espirito Santo, so he may be slightly more likely to start the former Fulham man.
Both will get plenty of minutes before we travel to the Etihad on the opening day, however, youngster Denis Cirkin will hope to get up to speed with the first team before going out on loan or any minutes he may be handed in the Conference League.
Somewhere slightly less depleted is in midfield where Winks, Ndombele and the returning Skipp will all feel they are worthy of a start.
Depending on how Nuno decides to line up, all four may be competing with Lo Celso and Sissoko to partner Pierre-Emile Højbjerg in the first team.
It looks likely that Winks (and Sissoko) may be on their way out, but all will be keen to impress either the new manager or a potential new club.
Harvey White is another youngster that could feature; however, I feel Ndombele and Winks, have the most to prove to Nuno. Nile John may also feature late on.
Winks will want to perhaps suggest that he could get back to his best sooner rather than later, whilst Ndombele will be keen to show his undoubted quality. With Skipp still recovering from injury, he and White may feature later on.
I hate to repeat myself, but the shape Nuno wants to play will dictate many positions, but assuming he will go with a 4-back formation in either a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1, Dele Alli and Erik Lamela will be vying for the most advanced central role.
Lucas, Bergwijn and Clarke are all available and two of them will likely get the start with Son Heung-Min late to return. Lucas may be used up top, although I feel Nuno is more likely to want to get more minutes into a striker like Parrott or Scarlett rather than Clarke so Lucas and Bergwijn are the more likely pair out wide.
After links to Danny Ings in the last couple of days, young strikers Troy Parrott and Dean Scarlett will be keen to stake their place in Nuno’s plans.
As mentioned, Lucas or even Son may start up front, but I would love to see Parrott start and get some good minutes before a likely loan, with Scarlett to feature late on.
My predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Hart; Doherty, Carter-Vickers, Dier, Sessegnon; Winks, Ndombele; Lucas, Dele, Bergwijn; Parrott
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