Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose, Dier, Dembélé, Eriksen, Alli, Lamela, Kane
Sunderland: Mannone, Jones, O’Shea, Brown, van Aanholt, Johnson, Cattermole, M’Vila, Lens, Borini, Defore
In a league where Tottenham have been somewhat un-‘Spursy’ in their unbeaten run up till facing Newcastle a month ago, the mid-week defeat to Leicester City was further proof that this is a Spurs side that are still maturing under the tutelage of Pochettino.
Spurs have comfortably the best defence in the league, only conceding 17 goals all season. Coupled with the 6th best attack in the league, 4th place you could argue is about where you expect to see Tottenham in the League. Yet on the basis of those stats, you can’t help but feel a tad under-whelmed with Spurs 7 point behind Arsenal and only 1 ahead of West Ham. This Spurs side under Pochettino is undoubtedly one of the best in the Premier League, but they are side that have drawn too many games. With only one defeat up until mid-December, if Spurs had strung a run of wins together, they would comfortably be challenging for the title and yet, in reality, their top 4 status continues to remain uncertain.
This season, whatever your allegiance, it is incredibly hard to find Tottenham not endearing. Seeing young, English players flourish in the Premier League is a rarer sight seemingly year on year but Pochettino’s want to trust faith is reaping its rewards. With the emergence of Tom Carroll alongside the incredible impressive Dele Alli, Spurs have a youthful verve that on its day is as unplayable as it is admirable.
Sunderland however offer a very different outlook of how to succeed in the Premier League. Around a week ago I wrote myself that Sunderland seem a team destined to go down. Too many managers had brought in too many players. It was a squad fragmented by several different philosophies. Whilst I wrote this on the back of the win against Villa (a team that really seem destined to go down this year), another victory against Swansea has really turned the relegation narrative on its head.
Big Sam finally seems to be forming a team that is hard to beat, and with the likes of Jermain Defoe leading the line who has scored 5 in his last 2 games, the necessary ingredients to see Sunderland stave off the drop once more. Whilst the cynics might point to only 3 wins in 10, Sunderland did face Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City in that time and will point at games against Liverpool for example where a 1-0 defeat could have been slightly unjust on the night.
Both teams will see this as an essential three points. Some momentum now will be imperative for either club going forward. Despite Sunderland’s win against Swansea, Tottenham will have a point to prove at White Hart Lane against seeing defeat at home last time out. Moussa Dembélé could add some much needed bite and experience to Tottenham’s midfield and with no fresh injury concerns, expect Pochettino to name a host of usual faces.
As for Sunderland, expect Big Sam to name a similar line up to the team that took to the field against Swansea. Allardyce has seemingly found a strong foundation to a 4-4-2 with much the same players that Advocaat had at his exposure, coupled with the likes of Watmore and Fletcher on the bench, Sunderland look like a team that certainly has a bit more depth than Villa for example.
Despite this new found depth for Sunderland, Pochettino will certainly have his Tottenham players wanting to make amends for seeing 2 points dropped in the week. Expecting an initially tight game, but once Tottenham score, Sunderland aren’t necessarily a team who can chase a game against a potential Champions League side.
Match Prediction: Tottenham 3-1 Sunderland