In a surprising result, Tottenham Hotspur fell to West Ham last Friday at the Olympic Stadium. Rivalries never die and the Hammers, without a whole heck of a lot to play for, brought energy and commitment to the encounter and won three points at home for their support. This is the second consecutive match where Mauricio Pochettino threw out a head-scratcher in the first eleven. Against Arsenal, it was odd to not see Kyle Walker penciled in to start and for this match it was a bit shocking to see the absence of Mousa Dembélé in the starting lineup. In retrospect, the Walker issue is explained by the rumored row between the right-back and the manager, but the decision to not include Moose from the beginning was, quite frankly, bizarre. In a fixture against an opponent who was bound to bunker down, Mousa’s dribbling prowess and ability to move possession vertically seemed absolutely necessary to breaking down the Hammers. The double pivot of Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama was safe, sturdy, and predictable, but not really what Spurs needed to keep track with Chelsea.
Spurs can secure second place with a point in any of their three remaining matches. Unfortunately, their shot at a title, however slim it was before the West Ham match, now seems unrealistic. That said, there are three games left to watch this remarkable side in action. They have already shattered their season record for points in the Premier League with seventy-seven, they have the greatest goal differential in the Premier League at a whooping forty-eight, and have allowed just twenty-three goals all year. What a season and what results this team has produced.
With Manchester United, Leicester City, and Hull City left; Sunday’s match against United is far and away the season’s most important fixture remaining. Its United and there is late season intrigue from their end, but its the last match ever at White Hart Lane. Cartilage Free Captain has been celebrating the grandest of football stadiums this week, as has the club and Tottenham faithful across the globe. It is going to be an incredible and emotionally charged afternoon with an atmosphere that will be beyond epic. United might need three points, but they’ll have to take down a Spurs side driven by the energy, responsibility, and history of one-hundred-and-eighteen years of legends behind them. Good luck with that, Red Devils. It should be a cracker.
United sit in sixth place in the Premier League table, one point behind fifth-placed Arsenal, four behind fourth-placed Manchester City, and five points behind third-placed Liverpool, but with a game in hand. Their result over the weekend against the Gunners was dreadful. Not only did they fail to take anything from the match, but they lost three points from a direct rival. They still have a shot at the top four, but a loss to Spurs would make that chance turn from a possibility to an improbability.
With Ibra out, United are without their most mercurial threat. Credit to the thirty-five year old that top teams still breath a sigh of relief when he isn’t in the starting eleven. Dude is injured at the end of the season and still had twenty-eight goals! Thirty-five years old!
Ander Herrera has had a nice campaign for the Red Devils, while Marcus Rashford, in the chances he’s been given, has had some scintillating moments. The squad is still weird though. Henrikh Mkhitaryan was fantastic against Spurs in our fixture at Old Trafford, but hasn’t made the impact that some anticipated. Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial are massively talented, but have also been inconsistent, while the likes of Mata and Rooney feature here and there, but are on their last legs. The bottomline is that Manchester United are somewhat of an enigma in that they do have talent, but they haven’t really put it all together and its May. They can be really good for stretches, but always have that vulnerability that comes with a squad that has constantly underperformed.
How to Watch
Date/time: Sunday, 4:30 p.m. (UK), 11:30 p.m. ET (USA)
Venue: White Hart Lane, London, UK
Official: Jonathan Moss
TV: NBCSN (NBC Sports Live Extra), Sky Sports 1/HD UK, BBC Radio 5 Live, Sky Go UK (UK), Sportsnet World Now, Sportsnet World (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 London,BBC Radio 5 Live, and TalkSport
On January 31st it would have been impossible for me to believe that Danny Rose’s injury, predicted to sideline him for a month, would still see him out of the lineup on May 14th. Credit Ben Davies and Spurs’ depth that the team has been able to achieve without him, but its a bit sad that Danny has missed out on such a wonderful second half. Rose is back training, but will miss out on White Hart Lane’s finale.
Poch has thrown a wrench into some of my lineups, so I’m not going to predict what the lineup is going to be, but just state what it should be. Sonny has been so damn good for most of the season, but I think the 3-4-3 formation suits the side better, especially against upper-echelon opponents. Sonny is also a fantastic option to come off the bench, run at tired legs, and change the course of a match. I am also going to start Kyle Walker, not necessarily because I think its going to happen, but because it should happen. Forget that Walker is just significantly better than Trippier, the guy has been at Tottenham for really long time. He is the most senior player on the first team and deserves the right to usher out White Hart Lane.
For these reasons, Dier, Toby, and Jan will start across the back three, with Kyle Walker and Ben Davies playing right-back and left-back respectively. Moose will partner with Wanyama to give our attack that edge it was so sorely missing last Friday, while Eriksen, Alli, and Harry Kane will play in the attack.
None of the Masthead chose Spurs to lose to West Ham because we all have at least of sliver of self-respect pulsing through our bodies. In this regard, nothing changed. Mechanick and GN Punk still battling for sole possession of the top spot!
Cartilage Free Captain Prediction League Standings
|Earl of Shoop||17|
Dustin Menno: 1-0. Mou gonna Mou.
Matthew Pachniuk: The opposition’s manager isn’t optimal for a free flowing affair, thus it will be hard to send White Hart Lane off in style. If it wasn’t the last match at the Lane, I might have favored a boring 0-0 draw or even a 1-0 United win. Yet the spirits will be out and this squad will bring White Hart Lane the glory it deserves. 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur.
Jake Meador: 1-1 because Jose Mourinho is an evil human being.
GN Punk: 2-0 because it's the last match at the Lane and no way we lose it.
Brian Mechanick: I was already to predict a drab draw, with Spurs spirits sunk. Then I remembered it's the end of White Hart Lane. Glory is coming. 2-1 Spurs.
Earl of Shoop: 0-2 because it's the last match at the Lane and we definitely lose it.
Alex Greenberg: 2-1 Spurs. Because United don't have much to play for in the league, and because losing the last game at White Hart Lane is something too sad to even consider.
Pardeep Cattry: Spurs can't possibly lose the last game at White Hart Lane, right? Tottenham 1-0.
Joe Patrick: 1-1. We will go down early cuz we'll be too juiced. Nick one at the end.