FA Cup: Rochdale vs Tottenham – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Rochdale welcome Tottenham to the Spotland Stadium on Sunday for their FA Cup fifth round fixture.
16:00 GMT, Sunday 18th February, Spotland Stadium (Rochdale, England), BBC One
Rochdale’s reward for beating Millwall in the fourth round of the FA Cup was the chance to take on Champions League contenders Tottenham Hotspur at home on Sunday.
This is their first appearance in the fifth round of the FA Cup since 2003. After the pitch at Spotland was criticised in the aftermath of their fourth-round replay, Sunday’s game will take place on a newly-relaid pitch.
As for form, Rochdale find themselves right at the bottom of League One, 11 points off safety although they have five games in hand on Northampton Town in 20th place. They’ll be hoping that there is something of a grain of truth to the “cup run is good for league form” urban myth.
Spurs are in a fine vein of form as things stand. A midweek draw away to Juventus at the Allianz Stadium puts their foot in the door of the quarterfinals and a good run of games in the league has them knocking on the door of top four in the Premier League.
Having made the semifinals of the competition last season, Mauricio Pochettino will be hoping that he can go one further this time around and put to bed the ‘he needs a trophy’ tropes that are swirling around the New Wembley.
Last Time Out
Bristol Rovers 3-2 Rochdale (League One)
This was a game which will have left Rochdale manager Keith Hill ruing missed opportunities.
Posting ten shots on target to Bristol Rover’s five, Hill’s side were also drawing until the 79th minute, thanks to a brace from Ian Henderson cancelling out goals from Liam Sercombe and Joe Partington.
When Chris Lines scored with ten minutes to go, Rochdale were consigned to their place at the bottom of the league with only the promise of a fixture with Tottenham to brighten the mood.
Juventus 2-2 Tottenham (Champions League)
However you look at it, a recovery from a two-goal deficit at the Allianz Stadium is nothing short than remarkable.
When Spurs conceded two set pieces within seven minutes in Turin, many pundits were already consigning their Champions League run to the dustbin of history. However, when Harry Kane latched onto a Dele Alli through ball late in the first half, it looked as though Spurs could salvage something from the game.
Dominant for long stretches through the game, Tottenham did eventually salvage a draw: Christian Eriksen firing a low free kick into the net which deceived Gianluigi Buffon and sent Spurs home with a good chance of progressing when the second leg comes around in London.
But for Calvin Andrew who is suspended pending a court order, Keith Hill has a full squad to choose from. Expect Stephen Humphrys to replace Andrew alongside Ian Henderson in the striker partnership.
Mauricio Pochettino has a full squad available to him going into this fixture. However, he is likely to make wholesale changes in order to rest up his most important players in the wake of their Champions League performance in the midweek.
Key Battle: Ian Henderson (Rochdale) vs Fernando Llorente (Tottenham)
Rochdale’s 33-year-old centre forward has been a reliable presence for them this season, turning out in 24 of their 28 games in League One so far this season.
While his prolificacy in the league hasn’t been too impressive (picking up only six goals with one assist in 2,120 minutes of football), his form in the FA Cup has been remarkable.
Five goals in five games, with two of these coming against Championship side Millwall across their two fixtures, means he’ll be the focal point of Rochdale’s attack on Sunday.
Fernando Llorente has the opposite problem: appearing in each of Spurs three FA Cup games so far this season, he is yet to score.
Tottenham’s second striker conundrum is well-known. No doubt the cause is the North London club’s reticence to overpay players. If Llorente could kick off his FA Cup account with a goal or two on Sunday, that would certainly lighten the load for his teammates.
Play for keeps?
The question for all competition minnows going into fixtures like this is: should we progress or should we look for a replay fixture at Wembley?
We saw the same happening at Newport in the last round with the Welsh side pushing Tottenham all the way until Harry Kane picked up a late, late winner. That result was bittersweet because it allowed Mike Flynn’s men the chance to perform in front of their fans at Wembley.
Keith Hill will no doubt be looking for a win. But if offered the chance of a replay at Wembley he would no doubt bite your hand off.
“He needs a trophy“
Pochettino can’t win. He needs to win a trophy but he also has to win the right trophy.
First and foremost in his mind will be the Champions League and yet, if he drops out of the FA Cup early against a lower league side, the questions will start flying in.
The Argentine could also do well to avoid another replay. With a bare-bones squad, the fewer games the better if he is to progress in the cup competitions and finish in the top four.
Prediction: Rochdale 0-2 Tottenham
As much as anyone wants a giant killing (so-called), it seems unlikely that Rochdale will manage one on Sunday even against a second-string Spurs side. The newly-laid pitch could go in their favour although, most likely, it will end up benefitting the visitors more than the hosts.