LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 21: Erik Lamela of Tottenham celebrates after scoring their fifth goal during the EFL Cup Third Round match between Tottenham Hotspur and Gillingham at White Hart Lane on September 21, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images )
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Tottenham will dispatch Middlesbrough, but it won’t be easy
Tottenham travel to Middlesbrough today for what will be a tricky Premier League fixture. Expect Spurs to handle the newly promoted side, but it certainly won’t be a walk in the park.
Instead, expect for Mauricio Pochettino’s side to struggle a bit. The Spurs attack hasn’t been clicking on all cylinders this season, and the injury to Harry Kane is only going to make it tougher for the club to score.
In his place, Vincent Janssen will take his turn leading the club’s attack. The Dutch international has shown glimpses of his talent this season, but has squandered more than his share of scoring chances as well. All eyes will be on him as he gets his first solo start in a Tottenham shirt.
Don’t be completely caught up in the striker storyline though. Tottenham face some injury issues in the defensive midfield as well. Eric Dier and Moussa Dembele both face pre-match fitness tests. That could lead to a softer spine than normal against ‘Boro.
Even without several key stars, Tottenham should emerge with all three points. Read on to discover the top five reasons that Spurs will be victorious.
LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 21: Heung-Min Son of Tottenham Hotspur arrives prior to the EFL Cup Third Round match between Tottenham Hotspur and Gillingham at White Hart Lane on September 21, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)
5. Son Heung-Min is in form
Many Tottenham fans still have questions about Son’s long-term future at the club, but there’s no denying his current form. He’s been borderline dominant in his last two Premier League appearances for the club.
There’s no reason to think he won’t continue that fine play against Middlesbrough. He should enjoy plenty of time on the ball given Tottenham’s expected time of possession advantage. There’s a large likelihood that he’ll turn that time with the ball into tangible results.
Of course, Kane’s absence could also lead to Son facing more attention from the defense. The Korean attacker will need to make sure he doesn’t try to do too much. He can be just as effective passing the ball as he can taking shots from distance.
No matter what, Son will be a focal point of the Tottenham attack today. If he can find the back of the net, it could bode really well for Spurs’ chances of winning the match.
LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 17: Danny Rose of Tottenham during the Tottenham Hotspur training session at Wembley Stadium on August 17, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)
4. The back four is in tact
Tottenham will be missing several key players today, but they could get one of their most important performers back. Left back Danny Rose is likely to make his return to the club’s starting XI.
Spurs haven’t exactly struggled to defend without Rose, but his return isn’t just important to the club’s defense. The fleet-footed defender also adds significant value to his club’s attack.
Rose uses his electric pace to torment opposing defenders. Few Premier League players have the ability to combat his world-class athleticism. He may not be the most skillful player in the final third, but he is capable of putting useful balls into the box.
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His return would also allow Kyle Walker to conserve a little energy throughout the match. That will only add to his effectiveness when attacking down the right flank. When both men are on the pitch, Spurs possess a very unpredictable attack.
Even if Rose isn’t passed fit, Tottenham fans can take comfort int their normal centre back pairing of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen. The Belgian duo certainly can lead the club to a clean sheet if they’re on the top of their respective games.
LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 21: Christian Eriksen of Tottenham in action vs Gillingham during the EFL Cup Third Round match between Tottenham Hotspur and Gillingham at White Hart Lane on September 21, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images )
3. The competition in the attacking midfield
One of the best things Mauricio Pochettino has going for him at the moment is his plethora of choices in the attacking midfield. He could select quite a few different attacking trios today and no fans would whisper any criticism.
What that really means for Tottenham is that there is intense competition for those three spots. If any of the attacking midfielders suffer a drop in form, they will quickly find themselves next to Pochettino on the bench.
In other words, no Tottenham attacker can take their place in the starting XI for granted. There will be zero let down from anyone just because Spurs aren’t playing a “big club” this weekend. Everyone will give their all to ensure their selection moving forward.
That spirit of competition should lead to better and better performances as the year goes on. If the likes of Eriksen, Lamela, Sissoko and Alli want to play Champions League football this week, they need to show well against ‘Boro.
LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 21: Vincent Janssen of Tottenham in action v’s Gillingham during the EFL Cup Third Round match between Tottenham Hotspur and Gillingham at White Hart Lane on September 21, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images )
2. Vincent Janssen will come through
I have my doubts as to whether or not Janssen can replace Harry Kane for two months, but I like his chances in the short-term. Expect him to put forth a very energetic effort today against Middlesbrough.
Janssen will be desperate to prove to his teammates that he can lead the line in Kane’s absence. He managed a goal midweek against Gillingham, but that came from the penalty spot. He needs a goal from open play against a Premier League opponent to really silence the doubters.
Frankly, I don’t even believe he needs to find the back of the net today to have a successful outing. He may be of more use to the club for his ability to create chances for others. His holdup play could lead to tremendous scoring chances for whoever Pochettino elects to play in his attacking midfield.
I want to see Janssen play with energy, purpose and drive today. If he does that, and plays to his strengths, he’s going to have a successful opening match in relief of Harry Kane.
LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 18: Manager Mauricio Pochettino of Tottenham Hotspur shouts orders from the touch line during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Sunderland at White Hart Lane on September 18, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)
1. Mauricio Pochettino demands success
After the club’s 2-1 loss in their Champions League opener against Monaco, Tottenham’s manager unleashed his wrath on his dressing room. That wasn’t that long ago. Plenty of Spurs stars are still smarting over his critical remarks.
That should lead to another spirited effort today. The entire squad knows that Pochettino won’t be afraid to drop anyone if they put in a sub par effort against Middlesbrough. Just ask Christian Eriksen about being dropped due to lack of passion.
Spurs also already have their eyes on the Premier League table. For all the talk of focusing on their own squad, they know what a hot start Manchester City are off to already. Dropping points at Middlesbrough would only allow Pep Guardiola’s side to put more distance between Tottenham and a Premier League title.
Tottenham’s entire squad serves as an extension of Mauricio Pochettino when they step out onto the pitch. That means they’ll work their socks off to secure three points today.