The beginning of the Jose Mourinho’s reign at Tottenham has done little to dispel the discussion about his decline as a top level coach. They have been inconsistent and unconvincing, but this competition could breathe life into the club. The major reason why the Portuguese head coach was targeted was his superb record as a trophy winner. He has won everywhere he has managed and Spurs desperately need some silverware to christen the new stadium. They face a tricky away trip to face an improving Middlesbrough team on Sunday to kick off their FA Cup campaign.
Middlesbrough have performed better in recent weeks, as they attempt to move away from the relegation zone in the Championship. This won’t be a priority for them, but it provides an opportunity for Jonathan Woodgate to test himself against one of the best managers in the country. The Boro boss also played for Tottenham and will want to get one over on his former club. As the home side, they have a real opportunity to make a statement on Sunday.
It was important for Jose Mourinho to get off to a good start, as supporters were suspicious of him following his appointment. Mauricio Pochettino was very popular throughout his time as Tottenham manager and it was always going to be difficult for his successor. The early bounce was encouraging, but the performances and results didn’t match. There was always a feeling that a lot of improvement was required to challenge for the top four. They only managed to take one point from matches against Norwich City and Southampton. This has increased the pressure on Mourinho already.
Middlesbrough have been knocked out in eight of their last nine FA Cup ties against Premier League opposition.
Jose Mourinho has only lost one of 14 FA Cup ties against lower league opposition as a manager.
Jonathan Woodgate has been tasked with bringing through the new generation at Middlesbrough. It is why the club stuck with him through a difficult period at the beginning of the season. Marcus Tavernier could be the best of his generation, as shown by his recent performances in an attacking midfield role. His return of two goals and two assists shows that his end product needs to improve, but his overall game has been impressive. Against Preston, he caused problems with his direct approach, completing five dribbles and making two key passes. This is an opportunity for the Boro youngsters to show their quality and the issues in the Tottenham midfield could give him a platform to star.
In usual circumstances, Son Heung-min would be rested in a game like this. The South Korean is arguably the most important player for Tottenham in the second half of the season. The side are lacking a goal threat, with Harry Kane set to miss the next few weeks of action. However, Son is returning from a three-match suspension and he will have a point to prove to Mourinho that he can be an important player for him. Over the past few years, he has missed portions of seasons for a number of reasons. He normally returns to the team and goes on a run of good goal-scoring form. Tottenham desperately need that from him over the coming weeks, as they try to build a winning mentality under the new coach. Son will have too much quality for Middlesbrough if he does start on Sunday. His current return of ten goals and eight assists across the Premier League and Champions League this season underlines his quality.
Middlesbrough will be without their captain Daniel Ayala on Sunday. However, they might have new signings Patrick Roberts and Lukas Nmecha.
Son Heung-min will be back following his suspension and could start up front. Harry Kane will be out for several weeks following a torn hamstring. Tanguy Ndombele won’t feature.
This is a very tricky fixture for Tottenham to negotiate. They have a few injury concerns and they may decide to give the young players a chance. That said, Mourinho is a winner and he will want to take this competition seriously. Son Heung-min will be fresh following his suspension and he could play a key role on Sunday. The Premier League side should progress.
Middlesbrough 1-2 Tottenham