16:00 KO (BST); Sunday 27th August; Wembley (London, England)
Despite Tottenham’s continued improvements over recent seasons, a highly regarded manager around the world and a squad which is widely agreed to contain the strongest starting eleven in the Premiership, Tottenham still have fallen down the pecking order in people’s estimations for the season ahead.
While their temporary homelessness is certainly one valid reason to support this notion, Mauricio Pochettino will be happy to once again accept the underdog label. This weekend’s fixture will see them as favourites, however, and the daunting venue of Wembley looms over Tottenham once again.
Sean Dyche caused one of the shocks of this early season already when his Burnley side threw away the form book and common sense to guide his team into scoring three goals and defeating the defending Premiership champions in the opening weekend.
After a narrow defeat by West Brom, they now find themselves facing another top-tier team away from home, with all probability pointing at a defeat for Dyche’s charges. This has been proved wrong already though and Dyche will be sure to remind his players this just before Burnley set foot on Wembley turf for the first time in their history
LAST TIME OUT
TOTTENHAM 1 – 2 Chelsea (Premiership)
Tottenham’s opening home game of the season saw more Wembley woes after they were unable to break Chelsea’s resistance. 90 minutes of pressure left Tottenham with only a late own goal by Michy Batshuayi to tick the scoreboard over in their favour, something which continued to extend Harry Kane’s poor run of August-induced bad luck.
Christian Eriksen was once again the source of much of Spurs good play, his cross being the difficult ball into the box that Batshuayi could not competently deal with in the 82nd minute. While Eriksen’s passing accuracy was 87%, a figure slightly below his usual standards, this was due in part to the doggedness with which Chelsea defended rather than a sub-par performance by the Danish winger.
Blackburn Rovers 0 – 2 BURNLEY (EFL Cup – Second round)
The battle of Lancashire ended in the Premier sides favour after a first-half performance that proved too much for Rovers. With only three players remaining in the starting eleven from last weekend, Burnley played with a mixture of youth and experience made up of players that have a reasonable chance of breaking into the first team. It proved to be a wise ploy by Burnley who never looked in any trouble of progressing passed Blackburn in this competition.
A first Claret-coloured goal for Jack Cork will help to further settle the midfielder into his new surroundings, a goal shaped and crafted by the live-wire presence of Robbie Brady who’s cross from the left was converted by Cork. It was the Irish winger who again proved to be Burnley’s most creative and most threatening player. He was a constant source of menace to Rovers until he was replaced by Gudmundsson in the 78th minute and on the evidence of the season so far, he looks to have a big future ahead of him.
Mauricio Pochettino will again be without both of his first choice full-backs as Danny Rose (knee) and Kieran Trippier (ankle) remain sidelined. Erik Lamela (hip) will also be unavailable, however, both Victor Wanyama and Heung-Min Son are expected to be fit again and ready for selection.
Dean Marney (knee) and Jon Walters (ankle) are the only players missing for Dyche. The arrival of Chris Wood from Leeds presents a decision for the Burnley manager though, with Same Vokes having scored in six of his previous seven league games, it’s unlikely that the Welshman will be left out of the squad with a switch to the favoured 4-4-2 formation the most probable answer.
Key Battle: Harry Kane vs Chris Wood
Every striker dreams of scoring at Wembley to provide a victory for their team, and Harry Kane is a player who will have many chances to do just that this season. This fixture will be Kane’s last chance to arrest the August curse which has fallen on his career. Having already hit woodwork this month, Kane will be looking to go one step better and hit the net to fire his side to victory against the Clarets.
Chris Wood has already scored once this season, however it was in the Championship with Leeds after his poor second-half debut for Burnley in the EFL Cup victory over Blackburn fell flat and failed to produce a goal for the new Burnley striker.
With 27 goals last season, it’s felt that he could be a better player than Andre Gray, the player he’s been brought in to replace. While he’s already played and scored in the Premiership, this is a chance to play at Wembley for his Premiership debut with Burnley and a chance to get the next stage of his career off to a great start.
A slow developer
Steven Defour has started both Premiership games this season so far, something that seemed implausible during the summer months after the Belgian began only once in Burnley’s final 15 Premiership fixtures. After signing for Burnley last August for a fee believed to be in the region of £7.5m, the 29-year-old has had limited time in the first-team.
While it often takes players time to adapt to the Premiership, Defour has a wealth of experience already under his belt. He also looks to have a gifted footballing brain as his assist against Chelsea proved. Now that he has a chance to establish himself in the first team, a new central combination between him and the newly arrived Jack Cork could give Burnley a whole new dimension for the season ahead.
Rising to the big occasion
Playing a team who are rated as one of the best in the country, possibly in Europe is something which can either freeze or inspire the opposition. Likewise, playing at Wembley has a certain stigma attached to it which causes a similar effect on players who grew up dreaming of one day being able to play on the hallowed Wembley turf.
While The current tenants have a much-noted string of poor results on this famous pitch, it’s possible that the reason has as much to do with their opposition raising their game rather than Tottenham falling short. Burnley will make their first ever appearance at Wembley this weekend, something which could either see their chances of victory inspired or frozen as they look to rise to the big occasion.
PREDICTION: Tottenham Hotspur 2 – 0 Burnley
Burnley already look a stronger team than they were last season and while looks can be deceiving, Sean Dyche’s team should provide a challenge for Tottenham to break down and defeat. The large pitch may make a difference in the latter stages of the game though and I can see Spurs having enough quality to come away with a Wembley win and all three points.
I also thought that Chelsea would beat Burnley but that’s a different matter altogether.
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