Weblog: The football punter

FA Cup success is a top priority for Tottenham

The FA Cup was way down Tottenham's list of priorities last year but it looks an important competition for them this season and they can pass the first hurdle at the second attempt by edging past Middlesbrough in north London.

At the same stage of 2019, Spurs were third in the Premier League and only nine points adrift of leaders Liverpool.

They also held a 1-0 lead over Chelsea after the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-finals and were looking forward to a Champions League tie against Borussia Dortmund.

Fast forward 12 months and they are eighth – 18 points worse off than last term - and have not had an interest in the EFL Cup since crashing out to Colchester in the third round.

Winning the Champions League looks highly unlikely, so the FA Cup offers their best chance of landing silverware.

Jose Mourinho is well aware of the situation and selected a strong team for the third-round tie at Middlesbrough despite it coming at the end of a hectic period.

He was unable to involve crocked striker Harry Kane and Tottenham's lack of a killer instinct was key to them being held to a 1-1 draw.

Injuries to Kane have been more common in recent seasons and have not always been too damaging thanks to Heung-Min Son, who relished the extra responsibility.

But Son was on the periphery at the Riverside and had a quiet game as Spurs lost 1-0 at home to Liverpool on Saturday.

Given the injuries to Kane and key midfielders Tanguy Ndombele and Moussa Sissoko, Spurs should not be too disheartened by their performance at the weekend.

They had decent chances to grab a draw but covered a lot of ground and Mourinho may have to consider freshening things up in areas where he has strength in depth.

Boro boss Jonathan Woodgate might also like to make a few changes but his small squad has been stretched by injuries.

However, Boro's confidence is on the rise after four wins and a draw from five league games.

Woodgate's attacking options are limited by the absence of star striker, Britt Assombalonga, but his team are playing with energy and look solid at the back, keeping clean sheets in three of their last five matches.

Lone striker Ashley Fletcher has lifted his game in recent weeks – scoring three goals in the last six games – and his pace looks the main threat to Spurs, who are likely play a much higher line than against Liverpool.

However, Fletcher's goal against Spurs in the original tie looked suspiciously offside and a similar effort would not count in the replay with VAR in use.

Irrespective of VAR's impact, the replay has the making of another low-scoring match.

But Spurs, even without Kane, have the greater quality at the sharp end and should get the victory.

Best bet
Tottenham and under 3.5 goals

The Football Site

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