20:00 BST, Wednesday 25th October, Wembley Stadium (London, England), Sky Sports
Things couldn’t be more different for these two London clubs going into this EFL Round of 16 match. Tottenham are coming into the match off the back of a couple of impressive results: a 1-1 draw in the Bernabeu against current European champions Real Madrid that was swiftly followed by a 4-1 demolition job at home against a beleaguered Liverpool side. Manager Mauricio Pochettino could hardly be happier with his side’s showing this month.
Across the city in Stratford, Slaven Bilic is dealing with problems of an altogether different nature. With his club already plummeting down the table, Bilic’s position was hardly consolidated after a 3-0 defeat at home to newly-promoted Brighton and Hove Albion on Friday night.
Neither manager, then, will be happy with the timing of this game with the Croatian likely to be distracted by his Premier League predicament and Pochettino nervous about the depth of his squad. Expect a somewhat muted performance on Wednesday with both teams rotating their players heavily.
Last Time Out
Tottenham Hotspur 4-1 Liverpool (Premier League)
There can be little ignominy more damaging to a footballer’s career than being hauled off after 30 minutes having been responsible for giving away two goals. This was precisely what happened to Dejan Lovren on Sunday as his team found themselves quickly 2-0 down at Wembley Stadium. Spurs were rampant, though, and the goals from Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son were deserved.
After Jurgen Klopp’s tactical switch up, Liverpool’s ship was steadied somewhat. Against the run of play, the very one-footed Mohamed Salah managed to squeeze a shot wide of Hugo Lloris and into the far corner of his goal. But in the end, there was no stopping Spurs who closed out the first half with a goal from Dele Alli before Kane made it four on the 56th minute.
West Ham United 0-3 Brighton and Hove Albion (Premier League)
These two clubs came together having entirely reversed expectations for their respective seasons. With West Ham hoping to have got over their stadium hoodoo and Brighton newly-promoted to the Premier League, there may have been a few raised eyebrows at the result. Brighton were ahead by the 10th minute, Glenn Murray heading in a cross from the prolific provider Pascal Gross.
The Seagulls never stopped flying from this point onwards. Doubling their lead in first-half stoppage time through Jose Izquierdo, they never looked back. A third goal – a penalty from Glenn Murray after he drew a foul in the West Ham area – brought the game to a comfortable conclusion for Brighton manager Chris Hughton. Slaven Bilic, though, will feel less sanguine no doubt.
Harry Kane is likely to be rested for this one so expect to see Fernando Llorente leading the line for Spurs. This EFL fixture could be a welcome return for Erik Lamela has been out for over 6 months with injury – he will start on the bench. Despite some rotation in the back line, Spurs will likely field a strong team going forward.
West Ham Lineup
Despite finding himself under pressure, Slaven Bilic is likely to make wholesale changes to his West Ham side for this fixture. Andy Carroll reuturns after serving his suspension but the recently-injured Diafra Sakho will take his place. James Collins may also make a return on the bench for West Ham.
Key Battle: Heung-Min Son (Tottenham) vs Sam Byram (West Ham)
Any defence, let alone a struggling defence, would be nervous facing Heung-Min Son in his current form. Mauricio Pochettino brought the South Korean into his team as an additional striker beside Harry Kane – no doubt with an eye to the problems his pace could cause to a creaky Liverpool defence. In the event, he was ruthless: both early goals came from devastating counter-attacks and, within 15 minutes, Son had scored the second and put the game to bed.
Sam Byram has struggled to get first-team minutes since his move to the Hammers. He will, understandably it must be said, be feeling nervous about the fact that Son will likely drift into his channel during the game. Wanting to impress his manager, he will feel somewhat annoyed that his task will be to mark a player of Son’s ability out of the game. If it goes well, though, what better case could he make to be phased into the team?
Pochettino needs trophies
The constant criticism of Pochettino during his time at Spurs is that his trophy cabinet is as empty as the Etihad Stadium. Despite fighting on four fronts this year, it may be wise for the Argentine manager to do his best to stay in this one. A win here would get his side through to a quarterfinals in which there is a strong chance they might face a weak opponent. Even an EFL Cup could be enough to throw back at his critics? It worked for Jose Mourinho…
The woes of a struggling manager
On Wednesday, Slaven Bilic is faced with unenviable task of deciding whether to rest players for the Premier League at the risk of losing the game and his job or playing a strong side, likely losing anyway and risking injuries to his squad. In this instance, it is thought that he will take the former option. With a fixture against bottom of the table Crystal Palace coming up on Saturday, you could hardly blame him.
Prediction: Tottenham 3-0 West Ham
Of the two managers, Mauricio Pochettino has more riding on this fixture. He will start a fairly strong side, hoping to go ahead early in a bid to rest players towards the end of the game. Don’t expect much resistance from West Ham: their minds will be focussed on the six-pointer against Crystal Palace at the weekend.
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