The pressure on every side has increased as we enter the second half of the season and clubs need to prove they have the durability to achieve their goals. Spurs are pushing for the Champions League after a very consistent opening half to the campaign, but a loss against rivals Leicester will cause fans to panic that their side are set to collapse in the second half of the season again. Meanwhile, Sunderland are showing signs of revival under Sam Allardyce after successive wins put them in a much healthier position in the Barclays Premier League. This weekend’s early kick-off will set the agenda at both ends of the table. If Spurs win, then all the pressure is on the other sides in the race for the top four. However if Sunderland win, then Newcastle and Swansea will see their matches as must win.
Spurs have been lauded as potential title winners by some people in the media, including Jamie Carragher. The work done by Mauricio Pochettino has been extremely impressive as his reputation as a manager continues to increase. The club have a youthful squad, could tire towards the end of the season, which makes the next two months crucial as they must consolidate their position in the top four to avoid a nervy end to the season. Pochettino may not have been targeting a top four finish this season, but the inconsistency of Manchester United and Liverpool make it a big possibility and Spurs can’t afford to miss out.
Many people felt Sunderland were going to be relegated this season, especially as they found themselves in the bottom three again for the majority of the campaign. However, the experience of Sam Allardyce has been invaluable and the squad are used to fighting at the bottom of the table. That was evident in their last two matches against fellow strugglers Swansea and Aston Villa. They picked up maximum points and are now in touching distance of the sides above them. There is no pressure on them this weekend and they could easily cause a shock.
In the first match between the two sides this season, Tottenham managed to pick up a narrow win, thanks to a goal from Ryan Mason. In the corresponding fixture from the 2014/15 campaign, Spurs managed to win 2-1 at White Hart Lane. An own goal from John O’Shea and a late Christian Eriksen strike got them the points. Sebastian Larsson was on the scoresheet for the visitors.
Tottenham have the best defence in the league, only conceding 17 goals all season.
Sunderland have scored the most goals out of the bottom six sides, which will give them hope that they can stay in the Premier League this season.
Harry Kane has shown himself to be a genuine prospect this season. Many players have had one good goalscoring season in the Premier League, but Kane has proven that he has the ability to be an excellent player in the long term. That will be a boost for both England and Tottenham as both have struggled to find a genuine goalscorer to lead the line. At the age of 22, Kane has the potential to get even better and his future undoubtedly lies at Champions League level, but questions remain about his club’s ability to become a regular presence in the competition.
There is no doubt that there is a lot of other talented players in the squad, but they need to get Champions League football regularly in order to continue growing. The likes of Kane, Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen and Hugo Lloris will be targeted by bigger clubs if Spurs fail to finish in the top four this season. Kane has scored 11 goals this season, and is an outside bet for the Golden Boot Award. If he breaks the 20 goal mark again in the league, it will show that last season wasn’t a fluke and he can continue to be amongst the leading players in terms of goals scored year in, year out. He needs a strong finish to the season in order to secure a starting position for England ahead of the European Championships. He is fighting for a place with Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy, but Kane has to be seen as favourite to start at number nine, with Wayne Rooney playing off him.
Yann M’Vila has had an interesting career to date, with his off field actions preventing him from pushing on and fulfilling his potential. However, an excellent loan spell with Sunderland has reminded the world just how good he is and he will be bombarded with offers this summer. He has played 22 times for France and that was all before he was banned in 2012. At the age of 25, he will be hoping to break back into the French setup in the coming years. His career is now on the right track and he has been a rare positive for Sunderland this season, with his consistent performances in the middle providing cover for a vulnerable back four. He is excellent in the air, while his set pieces have been invaluable for Sunderland this season. It’s important for sides at the bottom to have players who are comfortable with the ball at their feet. The Frenchman is always open to receiving the ball, even when his side are playing poorly, while his passing is a joy to watch. He has the ability to set up counter attacks from deep, which allows the likes of Adam Johnson, Jermain Defoe and Jeremain Lens to use their pace to get in behind the opposition defence.
Ryan Mason is going to be missing again for Tottenham, but Moussa Dembele could return to the starting eleven. Nabil Bentaleb won’t be available.
Jack Rodwell is a doubt with a hamstring injury. Younes Kaboul, Adam Matthews and Steven Fletcher are all also set to miss out this weekend.
It’s going to be a very nervy game, with Tottenham needing to get a win if they are to consolidate their position in the top four. Liverpool and Manchester United are facing each other, which gives Tottenham the opportunity to move further away from one or both of their top four rivals. Sunderland will be high on confidence and Sam Allardyce has the experience to get a result from this weekend. Tottenham will be the dominant side, but the visitors have the pace and quality on the break to score goals. I think this will be a draw, with Tottenham failing to deliver when they are expected to win.
Tottenham 1-1 Sunderland.