Having both been involved in spectacular seven-goal affairs last weekend, Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace have a lot to live up to in Saturday’s Premier League London derby.
Ryan Mason’s side were edged out 4-3 by Liverpool at Anfield in their most recent battle, while the Eagles won by the same scoreline against fellow London rivals West Ham United.
Seven days on from their Newcastle United-inflicted mauling, a similar story appeared to be materialising for the travelling Tottenham faithful at Anfield, where Liverpool stormed into a 3-0 lead with just 15 minutes gone through Curtis Jones, Luis Diaz and Mohamed Salah.
A few supporters may have already begun drafting their applications for refunds, but Ryan Mason’s side threatened an almighty turnaround through Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Richarlison, only for Diogo Jota to sink Lilywhites hearts in added time.
Jota’s dramatic winner had come not long after he escaped a sending-off for a high boot on Oliver Skipp – leaving Mason seething – but the Spurs man was also fortunate to avoid further punishment for an earlier crunching tackle on Diaz in a contest where controversy was the name of the game.
Despite Mason’s insistence that his side were superior “by a country mile”, the scoreline is the only statistic that matters, and Spurs’ fourth successive match without a win leaves them down in sixth in the rankings, nine points behind Manchester United thanks to the Red Devils’ defeat at Brighton & Hove Albion on Thursday.
While there was a lot for Mason to feel proud about at Anfield, 15 goals conceded in Tottenham’s last four games is alarming to say the least, and since their goalless draw with AC Milan two months ago, Spurs have scored and shipped at least one goal in each of their last eight contests.
Having failed to find the back of the net against Everton or Wolverhampton Wanderers, some feared that Roy Hodgson’s powers over his Palace attackers had waned, but such concerns were laid to rest during an enthralling capital clash with West Ham last weekend.
Set-piece defending has surely been Palace’s number one priority in training this week after Tomas Soucek, Michail Antonio and Nayef Aguerd all scored from corners, but Jordan Ayew, Wilfried Zaha, Eberechi Eze and Jeffrey Schlupp all capitalised on West Ham’s own shortcomings at the back to come up trumps in a Selhurst Park extravaganza.
Thanks to a fourth win from six games since Hodgson’s homecoming, Palace have leapfrogged Chelsea into 11th place in the table on the coveted 40-point mark, and the Eagles’ Premier League safety could be assured this weekend if results below them go their way.
Hodgson’s impact in such a short space of time has been nothing short of marvellous, but two clean sheets in 10 Premier League games is not all that reassuring before a trip to Tottenham, who trounced the Eagles 4-0 at Selhurst Park back on January 4.
Boxing Day 2021 was also a pleasant affair for those in white, as Spurs eased to a 3-0 home win over Crystal Palace, who have suffered seven successive defeats away to Saturday’s hosts and are without a win on Tottenham’s territory since 1997.
Jota’s challenge on Skipp last weekend left blood streaming down the face of the Tottenham midfielder, who has now emerged as a doubt for Saturday, so Pape Sarr should be on standby.
Emerson Royal and Rodrigo Bentancur remain out with their long-term knee injuries – the same goes for Yves Bissouma (ankle) and Ryan Sessegnon (hamstring) – while first-choice goalkeeper Hugo Lloris is yet to recover from a hip problem and may not be ready for a comeback just yet either.
While his long-awaited first Premier League goal for Tottenham was in vain, Richarlison – who also picked up a yellow card for a shirt-stripping celebration – may have played his way into a start over Dejan Kulusevski, while Eric Dier’s spot may come under threat after another dissatisfactory display last weekend.
As for the Eagles, Zaha marked his return to the first XI in perfect fashion with a goal against West Ham, but the Ivorian then came off with a knock to the knee and will need a once-over ahead of this derby.
Zaha will likely be given the green light to take part this weekend, but Nathan Ferguson’s torn muscle will keep him out for the foreseeable future, while James Tomkins has been ruled out with an unspecified problem. Naouirou Ahamada will also need assessing due to an ankle injury, but Nathaniel Clyne (knee) has returned to training.
Having reverted to his strongest XI for the visit of West Ham, Hodgson should see no need to make any alterations whatsoever, as Michael Olise aims to set up a goal for the 10th time this season – no Palace player has ever reached double figures in assists for a Premier League campaign before.
Tottenham Hotspur possible starting lineup:
Forster; Romero, Dier, Davies; Porro, Hojbjerg, Skipp, Perisic; Richarlison, Kane, Son
Crystal Palace possible starting lineup:
Johnstone; Ward, Andersen, Guehi, Mitchell; Eze, Doucoure, Schlupp; Olise, Ayew, Zaha