Premier League 17/18 Week 38: Tottenham Hotspur vs Leicester City – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Wembley hosts it’s final Premier League match of the foreseeable future as Tottenham welcome the Foxes to their temporary den
15:00 BST, Sunday 13th May, Wembley Stadium (London, England)
With a top-four place firmly secured, Spurs aim to seal third in their final match at a home away from home. Mauricio Pochettino’s side have made a respectably comfortable dwelling in the national stadium, winning two-thirds of their league matches this season and only losing twice, as well as beating both Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid in the Champions League. With their form falling away over the last month, Pochettino will have to summon one final push if they’re to sign out of Wembley with a happy memory.
Claude Puel is also seeking a happy memory with his time in the Premier League looking uncertain. After guiding the Foxes to their first win in 6 matches against another North London side this week, Leicester are now guaranteed to finish at least in 9th position. But with their results and quality on the pitch being heavily questioned, another defeat could prove fatally damaging for the head fox.
Last Time Out
Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Newcastle United (Premier League)
Spurs battled through a poor performance to grind out a win in a game that was lacking in quality and spectacle. The first half was a forgettable affair for Spurs as Newcastle failed to take advantage of the home side’s lethargic efforts only through a lack of composure. The half was brought to a close by a good chance for Spurs, however, Harry Kane summed up his own current form by swiping wildly at a cut-back to strike nothing but air and leave the home fans frustrated.
While the first half was lacking in quality and clinical finishing, Kane supplied just that within 5 minutes of the restart. The England striker sent a glorious shot into the corner of Newcastle’s net from the edge of the box. It was a goal worthy of winning a game and it proved to be exactly that as the match meandered towards the final whistle without too much more excitement.
Leicester City 3-1 Arsenal (Premier League)
A lively encounter saw plenty of attacking and plenty of poor defending in an open game which put an end to Leicester’s recent slump. Kelechi Iheanacho made an explosive start for Leicester and gave them a quick double advantage from this game. After opening the scoring in the 14th minute, he quickly found himself bearing down on Arsenal’s goal after the restart which resulted in a foul that reduced the Gunners to 10-men.
The game continued at a fast pace but neither side could force another goal before half-time. Helping to keep the scoreboard stationary, Eldin Jakupovic made his first league start of the season and delivered a series of impressive saves.
It was Arsenal who scored next soon after the interval, however, Leicester remained calm and trusted the improved passing which differentiated this game from their previous performances.
Substitute Demarai Gray made a quick impact when he drew a penalty soon after his introduction and Jamie Vardy made no mistake from the spot to restore the Foxes lead. A late strike from Riyad Mahrez then sealed the win in which Leicester were rewarded for their more attacking tactics in their final home match of the season.
Harry Winks (ankle) will definitely miss out while Pochettino will need to make late fitness calls on Kieran Trippier (knee) Serge Aurier (hamstring) Mousa Dembélé (ankle) Victor Wanyama (thigh) and Eric Dier (illness)
Puel must face the prospect of up to 12 first team players missing out this weekend with Kasper Schmeichel (ankle) Ben Chilwell (calf) Robert Huth (ankle) Daniel Amartey (hamstring) Wilfred Ndidi (hamstring) Matty James (Achilles) and Shinji Okazaki (ankle) all ruled out through injury and Marc Albrighton still suspended. There are also further doubts over the availability of Danny Simpson (groin) Aleksandar Dragovic (shoulder) Adrien Silva (knock) and Fousseni Diabate (knock) which could leave the Foxes short of options, especially on the bench.
Key Battle: Harry Kane (Tottenham) vs Jamie Vardy (Leicester)
Kane has continued his remarkable output despite badly struggling for form of late. His goal against Newcastle was his 4th in 6 games since returning from injury while he has notched over 20 league goals for the 4th season running. With only one more needed to match his highest return of 29, he still looks short of claiming the golden boot this year but will do everything in his power to make the unlikely, possible.
The last player to snatch the golden boot from Kane’s grasp was Vardy, another striker who continues to prove his critics wrong. His goal against Arsenal was 18th league strike of the season and while it was one of five to have come from the penalty spot, he’s also scored 9 goals from his 11 league appearances against teams in the top-six this season.
The next chapter
This has very much been a season of transition for Tottenham and very much a test that they have passed. They can now look ahead to a bright future at a new stadium and the next evolution of their team’s development.
With the difference between 3rd place and 4th being negligible in the grander scheme of UEFA’s recent Champions League revamp, Pochettino could well be tempted to field some younger players of his squad this weekend. This is a tactic which has so far not paid off for his opposite number and will need to be tempered to prevent experience coming at the price of defeat.
It would be far more valuable for some players to receive a winning experience than many to taste the bitterness of a loss.
Shedding excess weight
Summer holidays are the time to consider slimming and refinement for many people and Claude Puel is no exception to this. While his future is still uncertain, he will be thinking only of how to improve the Foxes through the current transfer window. His first main challenge will be sorting out the wheat from the chaff amongst what has become a bloated squad.
After winning the Premier League 2 years ago, Leicester made several expensive signings but many of these have yielded favourable outcomes. Islam Slimani, Kelechi Iheanacho, Adrien Silva, Ahmed Musa and Nampalys Mendy have all arrived in the Midlands for a total in excess of £100m over the last 2 season’s but none of them have come remotely close to justifying their individual price tags.
Whoever leads the club this summer will have a sizeable task in trimming the excesses and getting this current squad back into shape.
Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Leicester City
Tottenham could not reach the heights which have become expected of them since their semi-final defeat to Manchester United and look like a team in need of the summer break. With a place in the Champions League secured, a lack of motivation could cost them against a Leicester side who still have a lot to prove under their manager.
With no expectations on them and buoyed by victory over Arsenal, Leicester could pull off a surprise win to sour Tottenham’s final Wembley appearance of the season.
(Photo Credit: Reuters/Dylan Martinez)