Weblog: The football punter

Spurs can defy injuries for Cottage win

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Tottenham had a day to forget last Sunday – losing 1-0 to Manchester United and suffering injuries to Harry Kane and Moussa Sissoko – but talk of an injury crisis has been overblown and there is a good chance the Lilywhites will respond with a victory over Fulham at Craven Cottage.

From a Fulham perspective it is undoubtedly a good time to face Spurs.

Mauricio Pochettino must come up with a different offensive plan – catering for the absence of Kane and Son Heung-Min, who is at the Asian Cup.

And midfield options are thin on the ground with Sissoko and Victor Wanyama injured and Moussa Dembele no longer at the club following his move to China.

But Tottenham's squad features plenty of flexible players and Pochettino may consider changing from a back four to a back three to maximise the team's strengths and mask their weaknesses.

Davinson Sanchez was unlucky to be left out against Manchester United and looks a likely candidate to return at the centre of a back three with Belgians Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen either side.

The system allows Pochettino to play two central midfielders instead of three and afford greater freedom to Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose, who are better going forward than they are defensively.

Options are more stretched at the top end and Lucas Moura's knee injury makes the situation more complicated.

Dele Alli could play further forward but Fernando Llorente looks likely to make his first Premier League start of the season and his lack of pace will force Spurs to change the way they like to play.

However, Llorente has done well as a substitute this season – most notably in Spurs' crucial 2-1 Champions League victory at home to PSV Eindhoven – and should be confident after scoring a hat-trick in the 7-0 FA Cup third-round success at Tranmere.

Fulham are still faced with a tough task and their defence – the worst in the Premier League – is hard to trust despite a slight improvement in recent weeks.

The Cottagers have been in the bottom three since the end of October and suffered a major blow last Saturday when losing 2-1 at relegation rivals Burnley.

Some of their football at Burnley was decent and their goal – a thunderbolt from Andre Schurrle – was the best moment of the match.

Fulham have enough offensive ability - eight-goal striker Aleksandar Mitrovic has scored more goals than any other bottom-six player and team-mate Schurrle is third on the same list.

But a lack of confidence remains an issue and Fulham seem to lack the structure and togetherness of fellow strugglers Burnley, Newcastle and Cardiff, who do not possess anywhere near the same individual quality.

Ranieri will have to come up with the answers soon because Fulham are running out of winnable games.

All three of their victories this season have come against bottom-six sides and their chances of stopping Spurs look far slimmer than the odds suggest.


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Match in Focus


Man City v Tottenham

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Man City have lost only once at home in the Premier League this season.
Expert verdict
Following their Champions League humdinger, Manchester City and Tottenham reconvene in the Premier League and the game is unlikely to be anywhere near as pulsating. With City not needing to press for early goals, they can play their usual free-flowing game and make it seven wins in nine matches against top-six opposition this season. Only one of those eight meetings so far have featured over 4.5 goals and punters should expect a narrow win for Pep Guardiola's side.