Tottenham Hotspur have a pretty important and grueling stretch of games coming up now that the international break has concluded. Spurs will play seven matches in 23 days including the next four matches away from White Hart Lane:
- Sat. October 15 - at West Brom (EPL)
- Tues. October 18 - at Bayer Leverkusen (Champions League)
- Sat. October 22 - at Bournemouth (EPL)
- Tues. October 25 - at Liverpool (EFL Cup)
- Sat. October 29 - vs. Leicester City (EPL)
- Wed. November 2 - vs. Bayer Leverkusen (Champions League)
- Sun. November 6 - vs. Arsenal (EPL)
None of these games are gimmes, which makes keeping players fresh, healthy, and fit crucially important. With two critical Champions League group stage matches and a trip to Anfield in the EFL Cup sandwiched between league matches, this might just might be one of the most critical stretches of the season for Spurs.
Mauricio Pochettino acknowledges the challenges in a recent article in the Independent, and admits that he will need to rotate his players in the coming weeks to get the most out of his team.
“We need to manage and handle all the players. We are working very hard to be right for Saturday, to take the best decisions, and not risk losing any players for the next six games. If you play one game every week, West Brom then after seven days Bournemouth, it is not a big issue. The problem is how you manage Germany, then Bournemouth, then Liverpool, it is very difficult.”
Saturday’s match against West Brom could be a potential banana-peel match for Spurs. Tottenham drew both matches against the Baggies last year, and Tony Pulis’ penchant for setting up his teams to defend deep and hit on the counterattack has proven difficult for Spurs to break down in previous matches between the two sides.
Also, this match coming at the end of a momentum-draining international break provides its own challenges, with Pochettino noting that some players like Erik Lamela and Son Heung-Min have only recently returned to the side after stints with their national teams halfway across the world.
“The City win was fantastic. If you compete [again] after three days, and Manchester City was the first game in a run of seven, fantastic because that is a big, big boost. But it was at the end. And then the players go away. And now they come, like Christian [Eriksen] is coming back very disappointed with the last result, or the England players. And now our job is to be more than coaches, to be psychologists too.”
“Saturday we know is a very important game, but we have many issues in our head. Because it is not only that we have one game, that we need three points against West Bromwich and then it is the end of the season. We have seven games in 23 days. After the international break there are players who have played a lot, that are coming back from injury, players like Erik Lamela that arrived back yesterday, or Heung-Min Son. We need to be clever in how we prepare the game.”
This implies that we might not see either Lamela or Son against West Brom tomorrow, especially with a big Champions League match in Germany coming in four days. What this likely means is that we’re unlikely to see any sort of settled “first choice XI.” This is borne both out of necessity — rotation is obviously paramount to maintaining Spurs’ hot start — but also because Pochettino truly trusts his deeper, healthier squad to be able to get results with a variety of different lineups.
It will make predicting the lineup from match to match more difficult, but could also provide fans with a lot of different lineups as Pochettino continues to tinker with his side to squeeze the most out of his squad. Few people would expect Spurs to come out of this stretch of matches completely unscathed, but if Poche plays his cards right he should be able to make it through to the next international break without running his players into the ground.