Tottenham face a difficult test on Sunday as they take the short journey to take on Fulham with a depleted squad. Although the home side find themselves in the relegation zone, they will be looking to approach the game with positivity as they will realise this is a good opportunity to get something from one of the better sides in the division. Mauricio Pochettino will be without both Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, who are the main source of goals in the Spurs’ squad. The focus will be on the likes of Erik Lamela, Lucas Moura and Dele Alli to step up in their absence.
Claudio Ranieri hasn’t had the desired impact on the Fulham squad, as they remain languishing in the bottom three facing a real possibility of relegation back to the Championship. This would be a disaster considering the money that was spent on the playing staff during the summer. In hindsight, their business was very scattergun in its approach and it could be looked back on as a very costly transfer window for the club in the long-term. They have already moved to bring in Ryan Babel this month to add attacking flair to the squad, but supporters will be concerned that the deal doesn’t address the real flaws at the club.
Although a title challenge looks to be beyond Spurs, they will be keen to keep as close as possible to the two teams above them. The loss to Manchester United was a huge blow considering the chances that they did have in the final third. It was a reminder to supporters that their team remains some distance from being able to challenge for the title and the lack of transfer business conducted over the last 12 months is a major reason for that. This week has seen Mousa Dembele depart the club on a permanent basis. If reinforcements aren’t signed this month, those concerns over recruitment will grow.
Aleksandar Mitrovic has scored in all three of his previous matches against Tottenham, including in the first meeting of the two clubs this season.
Tottenham have won the four most recent fixtures between the two clubs across all competitions.
The Serbian looks to be the main hope that Fulham supporters have when it comes to Premier League survival. Mitrovic has scored eight times in the league this season and his goals will be vital if the Cottagers are to beat the odds to survive. There were doubts about his ability to do it in the top-flight, but he has proven the critics wrong and he will know that he has a long term future at this level even if his current side are relegated in May. Tottenham are a club that he has fared well against in the past and that will give him confidence going into this weekend. Despite their poor defence, Fulham will be hoping that the visitors can be kept out on Sunday due to the absence of Kane and Son. If the home side manages to do that, the platform will be there for Mitrovic to play a starring role. He will relish the opportunity to prove his quality against a top-four side and move closer to the ten-goal mark for the season. Spurs will be worried about him this weekend.
The England international was a revelation during his early seasons in the Premier League, but his devastating form in front of goal has declined somewhat over the last 18 months. There have been several reasons for that, including a change in role. When Kane and Son both play, Alli is played in a deeper role and he isn’t able to get into goal-scoring positions as much as he would like. At this stage, he has four goals and one assist in the Premier League. The midfielder and Pochettino alike will be hoping for a much improved second half of the season in terms of productivity. The forced absences of Kane and Son mean that there is a chance for the 22-year-old to step up to take the mantle. He could be used as a striker, false nine or a number ten, all of which will mean more attacking license. It will be interesting to see what role he is used in and his level of performance against Fulham.
Ryan Babel could make his debut for the home side after joining the club this week. Alfie Mawson won’t feature as he remains on the sidelines. André-Frank Zambo Anguissa is a doubt with an ankle injury.
Harry Kane has been ruled out after suffering an injury against Manchester United, while Son Heung-min is away on international duty. Fernando Llorente will be hoping that this gives him a chance to start in the Premier League. Eric Dier and Lucas Moura could both return to the match-day squad, while Moussa Sissoko is unlikely to be fit to feature.
This is going to be a test for Tottenham as they have to show that they have strength in depth to deal with major injuries. Their problems lie in attack and central midfield and it will be interesting to see how Pochettino lines up. Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli both have to step up as key players for the visiting side. Fulham have shown some signs of life under Ranieri, but they are a side that Pochettino will be expecting to beat despite the players set to miss out. I would expect an open game with both sides getting on the score-sheet. The home team’s defence or lack of it means that Spurs should manage to return to winning ways.
Fulham 1-2 Tottenham