Tottenham vs. Leicester City, FA Cup Third Round 10-1-16
Tottenham: Vorm, Tripper, Alderweireld, Wimmer, Rose, Carroll, Bentaleb, Lamela, Onomah, Chadli, Son
Leicester City: Schmeichel, Moore, Wasilewski, Huth, de Laet, Dyer, Inler, King, Gray, Okazaki, Ulloa
One of the better ties in this year’s third round sees the unlikely sounding title contenders of Tottenham hosting Leicester at White Hart Lane. Whilst Tottenham’s consistency of racking up points (albeit a little heavy on the draws) is a clear sign of progression under Pochettino, the job Ranieri is doing at Leicester City is unfathomable.
I for one was massively sceptical of Ranieri’s appointment. I thought the Leicester board had gone mad, hiring the infamous ‘tinkerman’ after his ill-fated time as the Greek national coach. OH HOW I WAS WRONG. Building on the foundations that Pearson built up by the end of last season (its own little miracle in its own right), Ranieri has created some free scoring behemoth of a team. Regardless of how many Leicester concede, their self-belief is just unshakable that they can score more and take the three points back to Leicester with them.
However, this is the FA cup not the league and you have to expect players to be rested by the Italian. Leicester’s failure to score in the their last three games is perhaps a sign that some of these players need to down tools just for one weekend after a busy Christmas and by no means in a disrespectful way to the FA cup, this could be the weekend in question. Jamie Vardy is already missing but expect the likes of Mahrez, Kante and Albrighton all to have a moment away from the spot light. Leicester City fans could potentially see their new £3.7 million acquisition Damarai Grey line up. Whilst young and untested at this level, Grey certainly represents a potential coup for Leicester for so little outlay.
For Spurs, the FA cup will also see the fringe players of the squad having some game time and this game against Leicester provides a perfect litmus test for Tottenham to see exactly where they are at with regards to how good a squad they actually have. Pochettino may have slightly softened how intense this Tottenham team should press; it nonetheless spends a lot of time running in games and with more of his players, gaining international recognition as well as the Europa League energy vacuum looming on the horizon, changes again will be expected.
What will be interesting for Tottenham fans (and for the fans of a whole host of clubs trying to stake a claim in the Top 4 this year) is how well the squad’s fringe perform in this game. It will be a shock to see Harry Kane not given a rest, like Vardy, any long time injury is unimaginable for the next half of the season for Spurs attacking focal point. Further changes could include seeing Chadli, Bentaleb and Trippier all starting for Spurs as Pochettino rotates his players for another hectic week of Premier League fixtures.
This game on paper could be a cracker and could providing a fitting close to the FA cup third round (touchwood we have good games over the weekend), but in practise the changes could potentially see a slightly disjointed affair in North London. Neither manager will intentionally want to go out the cup, especially to the opposition they are facing just 5 days later, but both Pochettino and Ranieri have admitted that this will be a different XI to the one fielded last weekend in the Premier League.
Predicting a starting XI for either team is a bit of a nightmare to be honest, but in terms of the game, if it is a question of who’s got the better squad then I think Tottenham should find themselves in the bag for the next round. Tottenham really are starting to build something with solid foundations under Pochettino and whilst tight, I find it hard to look past a home win this weekend.
Match Prediction: Tottenham 2-1 Leicester City