League One side Sheffield United will make the journey south to White Hart Lane to face Tottenham Hotspur in the first leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final. At face value it will seem like there is only one winner. Tottenham boast a squad of international footballers, playing at the highest level of the game. Meanwhile, their opposition play two divisions below them are trying to get themselves into a play-off position.
However, Sheffield United are capable of an upset. Nigel Cloughs side were last season dumped out of the FA cup only at the semi-final stage by Hull City. En route to the league cup semi this year they have seen off both West Ham and Southampton. It was also only 2 weeks ago that the Blades ran out 3-0 winners against QPR at Loftus Road. Tottenham fans will rightly expect a victory against a side two divisions below them. However, they and their players will need to be ready for a fight from a team that have seen off giants like them frequently in recent months.
Pochettino said after the win away at Sunderland that he “respects the league cup” as a trophy like he has respected every competition at every club he has managed. But, that he will be rotating the squad for the match with Sheffield United. Player who will miss out through reasons rather than squad rotation include; Nabil Bentaleb who is with Algeria at the AFCON, Ryan Mason and Erik Lamela who continue to miss out through injury although they may be available for the weekend. Meanwhile, Pochettino may have more options for rotation in defence as; Younes Kaboul. Federico Fazio and Vlad Chiriches are all doubtful but as yet not ruled out of the fixture.
Sheffield United could have Craig Alcdock back in their side for the semi final clash. The right back returned to action against MK Dons at the weekend and may keep his spot in the side. However, Stefan Scougall is a doubt for the away side after being replaced at half time against MK Dons meaning its unlikely he will feature from the start. Two players Nigel Clough will definitely be without is; Ben Davies who will once again miss out through injury and Chris O’Grady who is cup tied after appearing in the league cup already this season for Brighton & Hove Albion
Tottenham have only lost 1 of their last 10 competitive fixtures
Sheffield United meanwhile have only won 2 of their last 5. Although one of those victories was against Premier League opposition.
Tottenham have won only 2 of their last 6 matches against Sheffield United
The last time the two sides met was in 2007 at Bramall Lane. Sheffield United won the match 2-1
The two sides have faced off 94 times over the years. Tottenham have won on 37 occasions, Sheffield have won 30 of the matches and 27 have ended in a draw
The fixture has only been played 3 times in the 11 years, Sheffield have won 2 of the 3 meetings in that time
You have to go back to November 1991 for the last time Sheffield United won at White Hart Lane. The Blades won 1-0
The sides have met twice in the league cup previously. Tottenham won both meetings
Tottenham Hotspurs: Christian Eriksen
Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has said that he will be rotating the Spurs squad for the midweek clash. One player the Spurs faithful will be hoping survives the rotation is Danish talisman Christian Eriksen. The young attacking midfielder has been immense for Tottenham so far this year, showing the potential that caused Spurs to splash the cash when bringing him to London from Ajax. With 8 goals in the league so far Eriksen is Tottenham’s joint top scorer in the league with Harry Kane. Not only is the Dane finding the net, but he is finding it when Spurs need it most. Eriksen has been the player Spurs have been able to look to when needing a winner in a tight game. Eriksen does only have 1 assist to his name as it stands in the league. But, the Spurs playmaker has created 51 chances this season, 21 more chances than Lamela who has created the second most with 30. Although only one of these has been converted into an assist it shows that Eriksen is finding the gaps and giving Spurs the opportunities, it up to the strikers and players around him to start converting. Spurs fans will hope Pochettino starts their Danish playmaker as they know he would be capable of carving open a defence playing levels below him.
Sheffield United: Marc McNulty
Young Scottish striker Marc McNulty has made his mark in Sheffield in his first season at the club. The 22 year signed from Livingston in the summer is the current top scorer in the squad with 10 goals for the club. The youngster from Edinburgh has already put several Premier League clubs to the sword this season. It was McNulty who scored the only goal in the match against Southampton in the last round and he also found the net in the Blades recent 3-0 victory over QPR at Loftus road. Sheffield United fans will be looking to their promising young striker to continue his fine goal scoring form and help them dump another Premier League club out of cup competition.
Sheffield United have already seen off two Premier League sides on their road to the League Cup semi-final, so it would not be wise to write them off. If there is a team you would deem capable of capitulating against lower league opposition it is Spurs. You can just see it. However, I feel that they have a bit more grit about them this year to see it out games. It’s evident from the amount of games they’ve managed to win just by a 2-1 scoreline. What also plays in Spurs favour is that the league cup semi is played over two legs. You would think that Pochettino will be looking to put the tie to bed in the home tie this week so that the away fixture allows him time to rest key players. I’d expect a Spurs win but by no means will they get it all their own way against a Sheffield United side who enjoy a cup upset.