It has been a turbulent few days for the sport and the upcoming football matches seem to be a side show to the main story of the European Super League. However, as Jurgen Klopp stated on Monday night, the managers and players are fully focused on the task in hand and they deserve to be respected for that. Tottenham host Southampton on Thursday evening, just days before the Carabao Cup final. Following the sacking of Jose Mourinho, they will be hoping to deliver a dominant performance and go into the weekend with some momentum.
Tottenham’s decision to sack Jose Mourinho just hours after the European Super League announcement seemed to be strange timing. There have been plenty of conspiracies about the reason for the timing, but it is likely that there is nothing sinister at play and it was the poor recent performances that forced Daniel Levy’s hand. Ryan Mason, assisted by Chris Powell, will take the reins until the end of the season. It is a huge opportunity for the 29-year-old, even if it will only be a short term appointment. He will have played with several of the current first-team squad, which makes it an interesting dynamic. For supporters, it will increase excitement for the rest of the campaign and it could breathe life into the coming months for Spurs.
For Southampton, they will be disappointed that they lost in the FA Cup semi-final to Leicester City. They failed to have a single shot on target and it was a performance that was symbolic of their struggles in 2021. Ralph Hasenhuttl is facing the biggest challenge he has faced to date, as he tries to turn their form around. They have relatively little to play for in the Premier League, but the club can’t afford to take negative momentum into the summer, as it could bleed into next season.
Harry Kane is an injury doubt for the weekend. In the last five Premier League matches without their talisman, Tottenham have taken just one point.
Southampton have been in awful form in the Premier League, losing 11 of their last 14 matches.
If Kane does miss out, there will be a focus on Son Heung-min to cause problems for the Southampton defence. It has been an excellent season for the South Korean, even if it has slowed down lately. In the previous meeting of the two teams, he scored four times to help Tottenham to a convincing early season win. Southampton won’t be as defensively naïve as they were in that fixture, but they will allow Spurs more space to operate in and it is likely to be a game that suits Son. The 28-year-old has contributed 14 goals and nine assists in the Premier League. This is already his best Premier League season, but he will be willing to improve those numbers even further. The early coverage of Ryan Mason and his approach to playing style suggests that Tottenham will play a more front-foot attacking style. This should suit Son and he could return to the form that he showed during the early months of the campaign.
This season has been a challenging one for Danny Ings, as he has suffered some injuries and he has yet to hit the rich vein of form that he displayed last year. It was unfortunate that the pandemic happened when it did, as it may have prevented the striker from experiencing a summer tournament as a member of the England squad. This time last year, he would have been one of the obvious picks to support Kane. However, over the last 12 months, injuries have hampered his form, while Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Ollie Watkins have both progressed to senior international football. Despite the stop-start nature of his season, he has still contributed nine goals and four assists, with a goal involvement every 143.5 minutes. This is a very good record and shows that he has found consistency on the South Coast. If he finishes the season strongly, he will position himself for an England recall and a summer move to a bigger club. A goal against one of the ‘top-six’ would only strengthen his appeal.
Tottenham are likely to play it safe with Kane, as they will want him to be fit for the Carabao Cup final. This means that Carlos Vinicius, Gareth Bale and Dele Alli will all be in contention to start. The managerial change means that there will be a fresh start for those on the outside. Matt Doherty is a doubt, while fellow full-back Ben Davies is expected to miss out through injury.
There are no fresh injury concerns following the FA Cup semi-final defeat. Oriol Romeu and Will Smallbone are both expected to miss the rest of the season.
The focus won’t be on the ninety minutes of football on the pitch, but Tottenham will see it as an opportunity to build some positive momentum ahead of the Carabao Cup final. The removal of Jose Mourinho should have a freeing impact on the squad and as they are coming up against an out-of-form Southampton, a home victory is likely. Despite the absence of Kane, Spurs should have enough attacking quality to get the three points.
Tottenham 2-0 Southampton