Tottenham have had a disappointing start to the festive period with a defeat to top-four rivals Chelsea. A victory would have seen them move into the Champions League places. However, they have another opportunity to put that right on Boxing Day with a home fixture against Brighton and Hove Albion. Their run of fixtures is kind over the coming weeks and Jose Mourinho will be looking for his side to close the gap to the sides above them with a strong run of results. Meanwhile, the visitors will see this as an opportunity to earn another big result against a struggling top team.
The transition phase between Mauricio Pochettino and Mourinho was always likely to pose a challenge for the team. The former manager was so popular among the supporters and the change in the style of play was not going to be a quick transition. There has been progress and improvement under the Portuguese manager. However, their performances against Manchester United and Chelsea were both under par. The combination of players doesn’t seem quite right, with lots of doubts regarding Eric Dier being a starter. Further to that, the goalkeeper situation is a concern, with Paulo Gazzaniga not being up to standard. The absence of Hugo Lloris has led to nervousness in the defence, which isn’t aiding the upturn in form.
Brighton have made significant progress under Graham Potter since he took over from Chris Hughton. The improvement in style has been huge and the pace of the change has been remarkable. It has shown that coaches can implement these changes over a short period of time and the Seagulls are now considered to be one of the most entertaining teams to watch. They have previously performed well against the top six, with victories over Tottenham and Arsenal already this season. If they managed to do the double of Tottenham, they would to within three points of last season’s Champions League finalists at the halfway stage.
Son Heung-min has been sent off three times in the calendar year of 2019. This is the first time that a player has done this since Lee Cattermole in 2010.
Brighton have only won one in their last seven matches, and kept only one clean sheet since their previous win over Tottenham at the beginning of October.
Harry Kane usually performs well over Christmas and Tottenham will need him to increase his goal threat over the coming fixtures following the red card to Son Heung-min. The issue in recent weeks has been the striker has been playing too deep, due to the lack of creativity behind him. He has an excellent passing range for a striker and sometimes, he can be too selfless in his game. Mourinho needs to ask him to play further forward and play with the aggression that he has previously shown with his shot selection. This will be a game where he is afforded space as Brighton always look to play on the front foot, regardless of the opposition. Despite not being one of the league leaders, the England captain has contributed nine goals and two assists so far this season. It is a good record and there is a great opportunity to improve on that over the next three matches. Tottenham will need him to become more consistent in front of goal if they are to finish in the top four. This period offers him a chance to do that.
The Australian international has gone under the radar this season since joining Brighton on loan, but he has been a big part of their success. Graham Potter has now made him a key part of his team and they will be looking to make his move permanent in 2020. Arguably his best game for the club came a few weeks ago during the victory over Arsenal. He got an assist during the game and caused lots of problems with his passing range. It is in matches against the better teams that Mooy can come into his own, as there is space to release his team-mates into promising positions. Tottenham will have pressure to attack and that could benefit Brighton. The problems in the home side’s midfield is an area that the Seagulls should look to exploit, which is why the loanee will be crucial on Boxing Day.
Tottenham will be without Son Heung-min, who won’t be back until 2020 following a red card against Chelsea. Hugo Lloris remains injured, but Mourinho may be tempted to bring Michel Vorm into the team for this game. Erik Lamela and Ben Davies remain on the sidelines.
Brighton don’t have any new injury concerns. Jose Izquierdo and Solly March are the only two that will miss the trip to North London. Aaron Connolly could return to the starting eleven to face the team that he scored against twice earlier in the season.
This will be a great game to kick off proceedings on Boxing Day, as Brighton have a real opportunity to cause an upset. They will get among Tottenham and could cause problems for a team low on confidence. The pressure will be on the home side to pick up a result, as they need to start showing consistency to close the gap to those currently in the top four. The red card to Son is a real blow and they need to show that their attack can thrive without him. A narrow home win looks a good bet, but it won’t be straight forward.
Tottenham 2-1 Brighton