Next stop, the Stadium of Light

Image: SpursWeb

Following a disappointing loss to Liverpool just before the international break, Spurs will look to get things back on track in the Premier League tomorrow away against Sunderland. With the North London Derby only three weeks away, Saturday provides Spurs with a chance to build some confidence and continue to develop chemistry amongst themselves in what should be a tough game at the Stadium of Light. Here are my predictions for the Spurs starting XI.

Hugo Lloris GK: As always, Hugo Lloris will be the first name on the team sheet this Saturday.  He was unfortunately left in several very compromising positions against Liverpool and will no doubt be hoping to help Spurs get back on the right path. I personally see Hugo as the leading candidate for the Captaincy, and I expect he has already been told as much, so look for another great performance from the Frenchman.

Eric Dier RB: After hitting the premier League by storm in his first two games for Spurs, Eric Dier received a tough learning lesson against Liverpool. Dier is still vey young and new to the league so we should expect some growing pains, but his performances have shown great potential. The international break will have given him a rest following his unfortunate inability to play for the England U21s due to injury, so expect him to be raring to go.

Federico Fazio CB: After missing out on a chance to show for Spurs against Liverpool and a more than disappointing showing from Younes Kaboul (I still wake up in a cold sweat at night thinking about that Moreno goal), I expect Federico Fazio to make his debut for Spurs at the Stadium of light Saturday. The general consensus amongst Spurs fans is that Fazio will partner Vertonghen at the centre of Spurs’ defense this year so hopefully this can be the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership. His strength and height should help bring some solidity to Spurs’ back four, and give us another option on offensive set pieces. Spurs definitely need the help.

Jan Vertonghen CB: After Lloris, Jan Vertonghen is next on the team sheet for me. The Belgian on his day is one of the best in the Premier League, but looked poor against the Reds giving up the ball too easily. Hopefully being on duty for Belgium over the international break has restored some confidence and energy to Vertonghen.

Danny Rose LB: Despite being called up to England, Danny Rose never got a chance to feature while his counterpart Ben Davies had a great showing and even better assist to Gareth Bale out international duty for Wales. So far in the Premier League, Rose has had mixed showings, while Davies has been starting for Spurs in the Europa League. I would think that Pochettino would look to keep Rose in his back four, especially if he plans on introducing Fazio at CB. With the North London Derby three weeks away, Davies could get the start at home next week against West Brom in a more comfortable tie, giving Pochettino a chance to assess his back line for Spurs’ big match against Arsenal.

Etienne Capoue CM: Having fallen to injury last year Etienne Capoue has yet to be called up for some time to the French National side. Though the player himself will be seemingly disappointed at this, in a lot of ways, it is a good thing for Spurs. Capoue has been a regular under Pochettino as his calmness on the ball and the protection he provides to the back four have been stellar, although he still lacks any sort of presence offensively.  The midfielder will be looking to break into the French side for Euro 2016 in his homeland so hopefully Spurs can benefit from his ambitions and some great performances.

Paulinho CM: The Brazilian put in a solid performance in Spurs’ second leg against AEL in the Europa league, scoring one and providing an assist. He also should be fully rested following his exclusion from Dunga’s “new look” Brazil. I expect then that Pochettino will partner Paulinho with Capoue away at Sunderland probably at the expense of Nabil Bentaleb. Having been a regular for Spurs under Pochettino while also returning from international duty with Algeria, I would expect Nabil Bentaleb to get a break. He looked out of sorts against Liverpool, and although there are high hopes for the young midfielder at Tottenham, he often times still looks out of his depth against top opposition. This will get better with time.

Erik Lamela RM: Erik Lamela is on the up, with the exception of the Liverpool match, his showings for Spurs this season have looked very promising. His good form lead to a recall to the Argentina National side where he continued to impress. His volley against the Germans was sublime and Spurs fans are finally starting to see why Lamela is their most expensive purchase ever. Pochettino has taken him under his wing and Erik Lamela is starting to ooze confidence. He looks due for a goal and I expect him to notch one on Saturday.

Christian Eriksen CAM: Spurs’ reigning club player of the year admitted to not being at his best for Denmark in their Euro qualifier versus Armenia. His performance against Liverpool was also poor so hopefully the Dane has shaken that off as he looks to get back into the swing of things in the Premier League this Saturday. Despite his recent poor performances, Christian Eriksen is an integral part of Tottenham’s future and the club and fans alike know how great his ability to create is, whether from open play or set pieces. The Spurs faithful will be hoping that Christian Eriksen can return to top form this weekend.

Nacer Chadli LM: The Belgian followed up an exquisite performance against QPR with a seemingly average display against Liverpool. In his defense, nobody on Spurs looked good in their last match so Nacer Chadli is by no means to blame for the result. A front midfield of Nacer Chadli, Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela have looked dangerous in their little time together but the Liverpool match highlighted that they clearly aren’t there yet. Pochettino’s pressing system will take time and patience, as the players become not only accustomed to the system itself but also each other. Nacer Chadli looks set to feature again on the left, as Andros Townsend has not put in a decent performance to contest his place. If Nacer Chadli has any lingering fitness issues from the international break, look for Aaron Lennon to take his spot.

Harry Kane ST: I’m going to go off script here and predict that Harry Kane is going to get the nod on Saturday. Adebayor is without a doubt our first choice striker but having been away on international duty for Togo and played as recently as Wednesday, and Soldado ruled out, it could be a chance for young Harry Kane to step up. The timing is right as Kane produced 2 goals for the England U21s this past break, and has been putting in consistent performances spelling back to the end of last season, which also saw him score against Sunderland.

While Pochettino and the rest of the squad will be taking things week by week, the North London Derby will surely be in the back of their minds, and Sunderland away followed by West Brom at home can provide Tottenham with a chance to rebuild some confidence and potentially take maximum points before heading into the match with their rivals.

Saturday will be another test for Pochettino following his first loss of the season to Liverpool. The previous match will have hopefully served as a wake up call to Spurs, as it clearly showed that they are not playing at a top four quality yet, while also making it obvious that Pochettino is still some time away from completely imposing his system and working in the rest of the squad. For me the one thing Pochettino is still definitely working on is the mental state of the Spurs squad. They have shown the last few seasons that they are up for games against weaker opposition, but crumble against top sides. Liverpool once again highlighted this, and Pochettino will be working hard to instill a healthy and lasting sense of confidence at the club this season.

Away to Sunderland is never an easy match and they are a much-improved side from last year having added the likes of Jack Rodwell, Jordi Gomez and Ricky Alvarez on loan from Inter. With Sunderland having been in a relegation battle the past two seasons, Gus Poyet will be looking to inspire his squad to go for three points in this match. Pochettino will be doing the same, knowing how vital maximum points are, so expect a hard fought match and goals from both sides.

If Spurs can play with confidence and press and counter like they did versus QPR, I would expect them to take all three points.

Prediction: Sunderland 1 Spurs 2

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