Tottenham Hotspur vs Fulham
Venue: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Referee: Peter Bankes
TV: Amazon Prime Video
The penultimate Premier League match of an eventful 2020 sees Spurs face up to relegation battlers Fulham at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
It was all very predictable after just a minute of play when Spurs met Wolves on Sunday evening. Ndombele bagged a goal before the first minute ticked over, and Spurs did not avert expectations by spending almost the entirety of the game sat back waiting out a 1-0 win. Needless to say, Wolves equalised in the last ten minutes and one could be forgiven for saying Tottenham were taking the mick by “seeing the game out” from 57 seconds onwards.
This is all because Spurs have continuously found it difficult to net a second goal since the plethora of crazy scorelines that were flooding in around the country near the beginning of the season. Tottenham have scored eight goals in the first 15 minutes of matches this campaign – more than any other team – but all too often fail to make it count for anything.
The tactics that worked against the top teams are losing their effectiveness when deployed against some of the mid-table or lower-table teams of the league. Dier and Alderweireld have been outstanding at the back for Tottenham, but the countless blocks, headers and clearances count for nothing when a single lapse in concentration costs two or three points. Spurs have won nine of their last eleven matches against Fulham, spanning ten years, so anything other than three points for Mourinho’s men will signify potentially troubling times ahead.
Fulham’s last outing was a 0-0 encounter with Southampton on Boxing Day, which wasn’t as dull as it sounds. Fulham had ten shots but one on target, while the Saints mustered only three, but had two goals ruled out for offside. There were plenty of promising signs for Scott Parker, who dialled into the match while having to self isolate.
Fulham haven’t had so much a problem with creating chances this season, and have managed to limit damage inflicted against them, but you get the impression that if they are to escape relegation they need to sign a cutting-edge forward in the January transfer window. The circus montage of missed penalties epitomises Fulham’s bluntness when faced with an eight-yard wide goal, but it’s also the poor decision making contributing to the lack of goals at Fulham.
But as mentioned, Fulham have a good chance of dragging themselves above the red zone, especially if they indeed obtain a new attacking asset in January. Some of those above them look in danger of gradually slipping into the grasps of the relegation zone. However, with escapee extraordinaire Big Sam at the helm of West Brom, the Baggies now represent a threat to the other teams looking to stay afloat this season.
It was confirmed after Giovani Lo Celso was substituted against Leicester that the Argentinian had picked up a muscle injury and would take no further part in the football festivities until the New Year. Thus, he will not be available on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Gareth Bale is a doubt having suffered an injury in the EFL Cup and not featuring against Wolves on the weekend. However, the positives for Spurs fans is that Erik Lamela could slot into the attack and defender Japhet Tanganga also seems to be back to full fitness.
Kenny Tete became a father over the festive period, and as such the Dutchman was not present for Fulham’s recent match against Southampton. However, the 25-year-old has been out with a calf injury and it looks like a return is imminent.
Meanwhile, fellow defender Terence Kongolo hasn’t played for Fulham since February with a foot injury. He recently suffered a setback in his recovery efforts.
Predicted Starting XIs
Tottenham Hotspur (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Reguilon, Dier, Alderweireld, Aurier; Hojbjerg, Sissoko; Son, Lamela, Bergwijn; Kane
Fulham (3-4-3): Areola; Adarabioyo, Andersen, Aina; Robinson, Lemina, Anguissa, Reid; Lookman, Cavaleiro, Loftus-Cheek
Score prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 1 Fulham 0
Despite the dip in form Spurs have suffered over Christmas, Fulham realistically shouldn’t be causing them too much trouble. Having said that, it’s hard to see it being a hefty scoreline given the way Mourinho has set the team up recently.