Premier League 18/19: Tottenham Hotspur vs Fulham – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
The Cottagers second London derby in as many games sees them return to the scene of their Championship Playoff Final win in May.
15:00 BST, Saturday 18th August, Wembley Stadium (London, England)
Tottenham swept any concerns of a slow start under the carpet last weekend and they will be licking their lips ahead of their game against Fulham on Saturday.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side may not have strengthened during the summer but there are few doubts that their starting eleven doesn’t already contain an abundance of quality.
If fatigue and injury problems conspire against Spurs in the near future, they will need a strong start to lean on to prevent their campaign being a wash-out.
Facing them is a team who have lost six of their last seven meetings, including their most recent 3-0 defeat in the FA Cup 18 months ago.
Slavisa Jokanovic’s Cottagers returned to Premier League action with defeat to a South London side Crystal Palace last week and now they will have to travel to the North of the city in search of a better result.
They will need to show signs of improvement if they’re to accomplish this and a trip to the home of football could prove just the thing to inspire them.
Last Time Out
Newcastle United 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur (Premier League)
A repeat of last season’s opening fixture also brought a repeat result as Spurs claimed all three points in a hard-fought game.
Newcastle twice struck the woodwork as Tottenham were made to hold firm for their win but there were plenty of positives for Pochettino take away with the three points.
A fast start to the match saw them score twice in the first 18 minutes, Jan Vertonghen surprised everyone with Spurs’ first of the season before Dele Alli found space at the back post to head in the winner.
With 60% of possession, Spurs controlled long portions of the match and managed to strike five of their 15 shots on target as they regularly threatened the Magpies goal.
With several players starting the game soon after returning to training following successful World Cup runs, it was understandable that their energy levels dropped during the latter stages.
The most important thing was to claim victory and while Newcastle would feel they should have taken a point from the fixture, Tottenham’s resilience ensured the Magpies were left disappointed.
Fulham 0-2 Crystal Palace (Premier League)
There was no fairy-tale beginning as the Eagles taught their London rivals the importance of taking your chances.
Fulham began the game looking the more composed and set out playing the more impressive football. But while they took control of the first half, they were too slow in launching their attacks and caused few moments of real worry for the visitors.
Although they did force Wayne Hennessey into making six saves in the game, Fabri made eight in addition to the two goals he didn’t stop.
The main problem for Fulham, and ultimately the difference between these two teams, was the defensive fragility exposed in the Cottagers team.
While Jokanovic may not be overly concerned about how quiet Ryan Sessegnon was in his first Premier League game, his defence will have provided plenty of room for thought with a lackadaisical performance.
Tottenham Hotspur Lineup
Spurs did not recruit anyone during the transfer window, but that doesn’t mean that their squad is not filled with world-class players.
Harry Kane looked rusty last weekend against Newcastle, but he will still be expected to lead the line for Pochettino’s men.
Both Eric Dier and Lucas Moura picked up knocks last weekend but are expected to be fit for selection this weekend to alleviate Pochettino’s midfield concerns.
Injuries have ruled out Victor Wanyama (knee) Erik Lamela (muscular) and Harry Winks (ankle) while Heung-Min Son has joined up with the South Korea team to take part in the Asia Cup.
Aleksandar Mitrovic was signed by Fulham to lead the line and be a figurehead for their attacks, but they failed to utilise him properly last weekend which factored into their defeat.
Ryan Sessegnon will be expected to improve after he was kept quiet last week though the same could be said for the majority of the Fulham squad.
Alfie Mawson (knee) Tim Ream (knock) and Denis Odoi (suspended) are missing once more and will be joined on the sidelines by Joe Bryan who is carrying an ankle injury.
This could see Timothy Fosu-Mensah drafted into central defence with Maxime Le Marchand used at left-back in Bryan’s absence.
Further up the pitch, Jokanovic is unlikely to make any unforced changes as he attempts to form an understanding between his players.
Key Battle: Mousa Dembele (Tottenham) vs Tom Cairney (Fulham)
He who controls the midfield controls the game, and so this fixture may prove. Dembele suffered a dip in form last season which caused many to cast doubt on his future with the club.
Although he only played a bit-part role for Belgium at the World Cup, he was rested from the start last Saturday but could make his way into the starting XI here.
During his 22 minutes against Newcastle, the midfielder showed plenty of class to help them seal victory. Whether he can carry that form into this match and shine against legs which are not tiring still remains the big question.
Against him is a midfielder whose career is still very much on an upward trajectory. Cairney was one of Fulham’s standout players last season and is central to the way they use the ball in possession.
The Fulham captain made 90 of his 93 passes (97% completion) against Crystal Palace and will play a central role in how his side use the ball on the large Wembley pitch.
Caught between two homes
With the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium still to be completed, Wembley will be used once more to host Tottenham’s home games throughout the early months of the season.
This move may come as a surprise to many following the FA’s stance on using more than one home ground in a single competition. Richard Scudamore stated in no uncertain terms three years ago that such a move would not be permitted.
“For the integrity of the competition. You can’t have 19 home games with ten at Milton Keynes and nine at Wembley – completely, completely unfair. That won’t be allowed in our competition.”
While fan safety must always play a paramount role in such decisions, Spurs are in danger of being viewed as receiving preferential treatment which will undo the good publicity that has been sent through the media regarding the stadium development to date.
More to come
There were many good things for Jokanovic to take away from Fulham’s first taste of Premier League action in four years, however, they still have plenty of room to improve.
While they need to develop as a team, they also have several players in their squad who are yet to play this season but could have a dramatic impact on the team.
Alfie Mawson needs little introduction to fans of English football but to many, Frank-Andre Zambo Anguissa is something of an unknown wild-card.
The 22-year-old plays in the central defensive role which is vital to the type of possession-based football Fulham favour.
With stalwart, Kevin McDonald, looking like he’s gained a little weight over the summer, muscle mass, of course, Anguissa provides a different option for the team which could see them grow into the top tier.
Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 3-2 Fulham
While Spurs failed to add any new faces this summer, their squad is already fully accustomed to playing with each other and in Tottenham’s system which gives them a huge advantage over Fulham’s far-reaching changes in personnel.
With players from both sides not yet at optimal fitness, the large Wembley playing surface could see the game open up during the closing stages and there could be several goals in this match, although, a second successive defeat for the Cottagers could well be delivered with the final whistle.
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