Tottenham will be looking at returning to winning ways this weekend against an out of form Sunderland side who have been lacking goals recently. With hopes of claiming a place in the top four, Tottenham need to avoid dropping points too frequently and they would have been disappointed to lose against Crystal Palace. They haven’t been the best at home this season with the likes of Newcastle and Stoke inflicting defeats on them there. Meanwhile, their opponents are in the relegation fight as they have found wins difficult to come by this season. They have only won once in their last eleven matches.
Mauricio Pochettino wouldn’t have seen Champions League as the be all and end all this season. Instead the Argentine would have been hoping forsteady progress as the club get used to his style of play and while he gets to know the squad at his disposal. Their recent run – and especially their win against Chelsea – saw expectations rise and the loss at Palace was a huge blow, especially in a week when Manchester United lost at home. There shouldn’t be any pressure on the ex-Southampton boss even if they don’t finish in the top four, as this season was one for laying the foundations. Spurs have the base of a good team and with two or three quality additions, could become bigger challengers for the top four.
Sunderland are sitting just one point above the relegation zone and it looks bleak for them unless they start to find the back of the net. Only Aston Villa have scored less than them and they have tried to correct that with the signing of Jermain Defoe, which is a huge risk given the fee, length of contract and his age. However, if the striker scores the goals to fire Sunderland to safety, it will be a worthy investment. A big strength of Sunderland’s is that they can be difficult to beat, which is highlighted by their eleven draws, a league high.
At the Stadium of Light, the two sides drew 2-2. Adam Johnson and a Harry Kane own goal were responsible for the home side’s goals, while Nacer Chadli and Christian Eriksen found the net for Spurs. Last season, Spurs ran out 5-1 winners in the corresponding fixture, despite going behind to a Lee Cattermole goal. Emmanuel Adebayor (2), Harry Kane, Eriksen and Gylfi Sigurdsson got the goals for the home side that day.
The defeat against Crystal Palace was Tottenham’s first in seven matches. They will be hoping they can return to the form they showed before that to continue their European challenge.
Sunderland have only won three games in the league this season which is the worst record of any side in the top flight. They need to start turning draws into wins otherwise they will be in huge danger of going down.
Harry Kane has continued to press his claims for an England call up in recent weeks and has become the player in the side that Spurs’ players look to for inspiration, even more so than Christian Eriksen recently. As well as having an eye for goal, Kane has a really good understanding of the tactical side of the game, as shown by some of his runs and his general positioning. He has football intelligence in spades. Although some expect him to drop off sooner rather than later, the striker has everything in his arsenal to become a consistent player for Tottenham for years to come. They should still be in the market for a proven goalscorer as Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor are just not up to the job, but the homegrown striker should be seen as a crucial part of the club’s future. He has scored 8 goals in 17 matches, and has scored a goal every 134.1 minutes, which is two goals every three matches, an exceptional strike rate for a player in his breakthrough season. Kane has also had two assists. He will cause Sunderland problems this weekend with his dangerous runs and finishing abilities, plus his confidence is at an all time high.
Adam Johnson hasn’t been as good as many expected him to be when he joined Sunderland. It’s obvious that the years on the sidelines at Manchester City have stunted his development and he never became the regular that he should have become in the England squad, but with some consistency, he could get back into Roy Hodgson’s thinking. Stewart Downing has proven that there is a way back into the England squad after a disappointing period at a big club, therefore a return to the England fold isn’t beyond Johnson. Sunderland have struggled for goals this season and Johnson has been their most dangerous player in the final third. He scored the crucial winner in the Tyne-Wear derby showing people that he still has the ability to perform in the biggest, most pressurised matches. With four goals, he is currently the joint top scorer for Sunderland in the league, but he has no assists this season. That is an area of his game that he needs to work on in the second half of the season and with Jermain Defoe joining the club, he has a proven goalscorer to supply.
Ryan Mason and Erik Lamela are facing late fitness tests ahead of the match against Sunderland. Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen will be back in the starting eleven after beginning from the bench in the FA Cup replay. Nabil Bentaleb won’t be available as he is at the African Cup of Nations. Paulinho and Etienne Capoue are pushing for a starting place after impressing in midweek.
Sunderland could have Jermain Defoe available if his transfer is confirmed in time, and that would be a huge boost and the striker will be keen to make his debut at his former club. Steven Fletcher, Lee Cattermole, Jack Rodwell and Anthony Reveillere could all be available after injury. Jozy Altidore won’t be involved as he is going in the opposite direction to Defoe. Liam Bridcutt is suspended after getting sent off against Liverpool.
I’m not expecting lots of goals in this match. Spurs need to bounce back after a poor performance at Palace and can’t afford another poor result at home. Sunderland come here in poor form, but they could be revitalised after the signing of Defoe, especially if he makes his debut at White Hart Lane. I think Tottenham will have enough to beat Sunderland, however it won’t be comfortable. The duo of Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane are likely to have a big influence and deliver a home win.
Tottenham 1-0 Sunderland