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Middlesbrough vs. Tottenham Hotspur: match preview, projected lineups, predictions, and how to watch

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Middlesbrough, Moscow, and Manchester oh my...

Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur head north to face Middlesbrough in the sixth match of the 2016-17 season. Spurs notched their second straight victory in the Premier League with a 1-0 win against Sunderland last Sunday, yet their three points earned were not without struggle. While dominating possession and creating quality chances throughout, Tottenham were unable to capitalize early and made the affair a bit more tricky than anticipated.

After a promising start to the season, Middlesbrough have petered out some. They gave up three unanswered goals in a 3-1 defeat to Everton over the weekend and lost to Crystal Palace 2-1 the week before. An active transfer window, and five points from their first three fixtures looked to be a magnificent re-entry to the Premier League for Middlesbrough. Upon further examination though, the dismal form of their first three opponents, whom they took points off of (Stoke, Sunderland, WBA), and those feats look less spectacular right now. They sit in thirteenth place in the league table, just two points removed from the relegation positions.

If it was 2011, Spurs might be a bit more hesitant heading to the Riverside Stadium. Alvaro Negredo, the lone goalscorer at Goodison, leads Middlesbrough's line, Victor Valdes tends its net, and Stewart Downing patrols the left-wing. All three players had quality at one point in time and all three have landed in northeast England to resurrect their careers.

Gaston Ramirez is another player to watch on Saturday. The talented Uruguayan has never even flirted with his own potential, but he has been granted a shot as Boro's number ten and should start against Spurs. Viktor Fischer, the Danish international and former Ajax man, is a young player to watch in Middlesbrough's attack too. Finally, Bernardo Espinosa looks fit to feature. Middlesbrough backline has been somewhat porous of late and Espinosa brings some pedigree to the center-back position.

The timing of this fixture is difficult. With a massive Champions League date in Moscow midweek, and its place at the tail-end of a crowded September schedule, Tottenham have a challenge on their hands. They will try to make it three on the trot in the Premier League come Saturday.

How to Watch

Date/time: Saturday, September 24th, 2016, 3:00 p.m. (UK), 10:00 a.m. ET (USA)
Venue: The Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough, UK
Official: Graham Scott
TV: NBC Sports Live Extra (USA), Not Televised (UK), Sportsnet (Canada), Optus Sport (Australia), other listings at livesoccertv.com
Streaming NBC Sports Live Extra (USA)
Radio: Audio streamed at tottenhamhotspur.com, also often at BBC Radio LondonBBC Radio 5 Live, and TalkSport

Projected Lineup

Harry Kane's ankle ligaments were the real story in Spurs win against Sunderland and Saturday will be Spurs first Premier League test without our beloved mouth breather. Kane is expected to miss eight weeks, his longest stretch away from the first team since his epic rise two Octobers ago. Danny Rose continues to be sidelined with a hamstring injury too.

Taking their places in the first eleven will be Vincent Janssen and Ben Davies. Some have said that Harry Kane's injury could be a blessing in disguise for Tottenham Hotspur. This is dumb. Yet our summer transfer for Holland's number nine was built for a scenario like this. The signing looks to be a smart one, hopefully Janssen can confirm this over the next few months.

Not only does Tuesday's Champions League fixture against CSKA Moscow loom in the near future, but so does a home match against Premier League leading Manchester City. There was a reason why Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela played football against a middling League One side on Wednesday— so that they would be rested on Saturday and ready to go for the two huge fixtures that follow. Son, who has been on fire of late, will start out left in the attacking band in place of Eriksen, while Moussa Sisokko will spell Lamela and be granted another opportunity to impress as a starter.

The only other tough call in the starting lineup is the defensive midfield spot. Wanyama started against Sunderland, yet Eric Dier still burned ninety minutes at center-back. I believe that Poche wants his unquestioned first eleven ready for Moscow, so my gut tells me that Eric Dier will sit. Like Sissoko or Son, Wanyama is a 1B type option for Pochettino and is fully trusted to help corral three point against a bottom half Premier League side.

Spurs / Sunderland 9/18/16 - Football tactics and formations

Prediction League

Name Score
Luke Zimmermann 5
Matthew Pachniuk 5
GN Punk 5
Jake Meador 5
Dustin Menno 5
Pardeep Cattry 3
Brian Myers 3
Alex Greenberg 3
Earl of Shoop 3
Ben Daniels 3
Skipjack 3
Brian Mechanick 3
Ed F. 2
Salmon Chase 2
Bryan A. 1


Dustin Menno: Middlesbrough look like a team that should be good. They are not especially good despite signing Alvaro Negredo and Stuart Downing. Janssen gets his first non-penalty goal and Spurs romp to a big win. 3-0 Spurs.

Matthew Pachniuk: Time for our new signings to shine. Looking for Wanyama, Sissoko, and Janssen to all start and make an impact. ROTATION! Would love to see a run of play goal from Janssen and for Sonny to be dirty again. These are hopes. What I think will happen is that Tottenham Hotspur will lock it up in back and not concede. Don't know if it will be one or two, but Spurs will get three points. 2-0 Spurs.

Luke Zimmerman: Middlesbrough seemed like the darling of this promotion class heading into this season. While a classic Spurs letdown match could be in order, they've lost consecutive matches to Everton and Palace and bowed out to Fulham in their most recent EFL Cup match. Woof. Even sans a 100% Spurs lineup, it shouldn't be a particularly taxing affair. 2-0, Spurs.

Jake Meador: Spurs struggle for a bit and it's 0-0 at halftime. But after the half the team figures a few things out, scores two quick goals, and coasts through the second half. 2-0 Spurs, with goals from Janssen and Eriksen.

GN Punk: I don't see Spurs struggling in this one. They're in good form, the defense continues to play well, and even without Harry Kane, it's been proven that goals can be generated. Granted those five goals came against a League One side, but I think everything will be okay. 2-0 Spurs.

Bryan A: I'm not convinced that Middlesbrough are actually any good. Sure, they made a couple of splashy signings, but their midfield is still trash and they Ramirez aside, their front four lacks the pace to hit Spurs on the break, which they'll have to do to have any success. 2-0 Spurs

Alex Greenberg: I'm very doubtful that Boro's defense can shut down our attack. Negredo might find a way to score, but we'll win easily to keep rolling. I say 3-1 Spurs.

Ed F: Elevated to a starting role and with the monkey of finding the net now off his back, I'm really confident that Janssen can kick on and make the mantle of leading Tottenham's line his own. I predict a brace for him as Spurs secure a 2-0 win.

Ben Daniels: Middlesbrough have some good attackers but the rest of their team is basically a Championship trash heap. I can see them fluking an early goal and making us work for it, but they do not have the talent or organization to keep us out. 4-1 Spurs.

Pardeep Cattry: Middlesbrough will do their best to keep the Spurs attack out. Problem is, their best probably won't be enough, and Negredo's efforts up top won't be enough, either. A Boro own goal will do the damage in the first half, and Janssen will get his first Premier League goal midway through the second half for a comfortable victory. Tottenham 2-0.

Brian Mechanick: This game screams ugly, ugly, ugly for me. Give me a set piece goal, and a scrappy 1-0 win at the Riverside Stadium. 1-0 Spurs

Salmon Chase: As far as I am aware, this year is Middlesbrough's first time in the tip top hat division since the same year that one Bill Simmons article (he has since become trash but billionaires should pay for their own fucking football stadiums) that lead to me falling in love with this team. My greater point is that they are probably still feeling good, a little toooooo good.  Maybe they think without Kane they even have a real shot. Well the don't. Have fun visiting Rotherham next year. 2-0 Spurs.

Brian Meyers: Boro were supposed to be the super successful promoted team this year. They have not fared as well as most thought. Spurs can beat them even without Harry, 2-1 Spurs in a boring game.

Earl of Shoop: Middlesbrugh's a funny name. I read the Wikipedia entry a bit before writing this, because I was curious as to why it's called "middle" anything when it's not obviously in the middle of something (England, specifically). I learned two things from that page before quitting. First, their county name is spelled wrong in the facts chart at the top of the page (http://i.imgur.com/ehFc4PH.png), which is pretty great. And B, at least they have one thing going for them: "In 1996, Cleveland was abolished." If only.

Anyway, it's gonna be real ironic in May when Middlesbrough misses finishing in the middle of the table by many, many points. Maybe the name is fitting given their middling talent at the front, or the back, or... the middle. Whatever the reason this place/team are called Middlesbrough, it'll definitely be appropriate this weekend when they find themselves smack in the middle of a thrashing at the hands of our boys in Lilywhite (or apparently whatever the yellow color is being called). Spurs 3-0.

Skipjack: Spurs will probably win 2-1 but that won't matter because the heat death of the universe will be undefeated at the end of time.