Tottenham are the greatest team the world has ever seen and Sunday’s farewell to White Hart Lane forever proves this. Tottenham’s 2-1 triumph over Manchester United was a perfect sendoff to one of football’s most storied stadiums and the post-match tribute was enough to make even the most hardened Yid shed no less than one billion tears. It was a day of class, heart, and infinite love for a football club that means so much to so many. Kudos to those in charge who made that ceremony happen.
With the victory, Tottenham Hotspur have secured second place in the Premier League and have broken eighty points for the first time in the Premier League era. From December onward, its hard to say that anybody was better than Spurs. Thats a huge stretch of time to consider. And while it wasn’t enough to top a fantastic Chelsea side, a second place finish is something the most ardent Spurs’ supporter would have signed on for at the beginning of the season. What an exciting and constantly improving side we have on our hands.
Leicester City, on the other hand, have been decidedly less magical this season. In fact, one might suggest that they burned through their entire supply of magic for a century at least after their 2015-16 exploits. In eleventh place with forty-three points, they will finish much closer to the relegation spots (9 points clear) then they will to fourth place (27 points adrift) or to first place (47 points off).
The team can still compete though. In the majority of matches against the upper echelon of the Premier League they’ve stayed competitive, even if they haven’t accumulated too many points, while their performance in the 2016-17 Champions League was an unabashed success. Reaching the quarterfinals, Leicester fell 2-1 in aggregate to a supremely talented Atletico Madrid side. In fact, since they fired Claudio Ranieri they’ve won seven, drew two, and lost four. Its not a world beating record, but its improvement from their earlier results in the year. Not to say that the firing of Claudio Ranieri was justified, it most certainly was not, but just a nod that against good competition and over the last third, the Foxes haven’t been that bad.
Much like last year, the same core players remain Leicester’s most influential. Jamie Vardy has had a huge drop-off in production from a year ago, but he still has fifteen goals and five assists. Riyad Mahrez, a potential Tottenham Hotspur summer transfer target, has also put up good numbers with ten goals and seven assists. Islam Slimani has scored eight, seven of which came in the league, while the ageless Marc Albrighton leads the team with seven assists. Unlike last year though, the team had bled goals. Fuchs, Huth, Morgan, Simpson, and Schmeichel are all still there, but it seems this unit has simply retraced back to their norm in terms of their career performances.
The game should be fun. Pochettino will want to continue to win, but how much is really at stake when the side has already eclipsed eighty points and locked down second place? Expect the energy to be there, but from a heavily rotated side.
How to Watch
Date/time: Thursday, 7:45 p.m. (UK), 2:45 p.m. ET (USA)
Venue: King Power Stadium, Leicester, UK
Official: Michael Oliver
TV: NBCSN (NBC Sports Live Extra), Sky Sports 1/HD UK, BBC Radio, Sky Go UK (UK), Sportsnet World, Sportsnet World Now(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
If you were Mauricio Pochettino what would you do? Sprinkle in a few deserving reserves for a well earned start in the final two games of the season or give the keys to the 1957 Chevy to the kids and let them run wild?
My guess is that Poch takes the former of those two approaches and not the latter. Partially because he’ll still want to win, partially because we either don’t have depth in certain areas or have exhausted it in key spots, and also because I don’t see him bringing up guys who haven’t consistently been making the match-day eighteen bench.
I think the biggest changes will be seen in the attacking band. I believe that Poch will play a 4-2-3-1 just to get more winger types on the field. GKN, Moussa Sissoko, and especially Josh Onomah haven’t played a whole heck of a lot this term; especially Onomah. For a guy who showed promise and got some minutes in last year’s campaign, the arrival of GKN, but more likely Sissoko has completely iced the English youth international out.
And speaking of Sissoko, it will speak volumes about his future if he plays. Will Poch reward him with minutes just because he’s been part of the match-day eighteen setup or will he ice him, play guys who will be here next year, and give us the surest signal that the French international is heading to China?
The problem with picking this team is that Poch can’t get too creative with central midfield. Sure, he could play Sissoko there, but already in a 4-2-3-1 you have three candidates for two spots and Sissoko feels like a long shot. Add to the fact that both right-backs are “injured” — the quotations there are for Kyle Walker NOT Kieran Trippier who really has a concussion — and its predictable who will start in midfield. I also don’t think he gets cute with the backline. Wimmer could cameo, but Poch seems to have done everything in his power to not play the Austrian all year, so why would it change now?
Keeping all of this in mind, here is my rotated starting eleven. Hugo will start in net with Dier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, and Davies comprising the back four. Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembélé will start in central midfield with GNK, Onomah, and Moussa Sissoko in the attacking band. Vincent Janssen will start up front. Onomah will play through the middle in that attacking band and will be given creative license.
Anyways, there’s my stab at it. I’m excited to see what the commentariat has to put forth!
Brian Mechanick, the former writer of this very column, will not go quietly into the night. In fact, in his first year NOT writing the Cartilage Free Captain obligatory match preview and prediction league, he has taken over sole possession of first place in the standings with two games left. Dropping a perfect 2-1 scoreline Mechanick earned two points, while GN Punk, whose sheer hatred for Wayne Rooney directly after his goal must have been unspeakable, only won one point with his 2-0 prediction.
With lineups up in the air for the season’s final two, the road to victory still remains rocky at best.
Cartilage Free Captain Prediction League Standings
|Earl of Shoop||17|
Dustin Menno: In the words of Jose Mourinho, I don’t want to play these matches. Let’s play the kids, nick a boring draw, and try and convince Riyad Mahrez that he’d look really good in lily-white next season. 0-0 draw.
Matthew Pachniuk: Our defense and central midfielders will be relatively unchanged, so the good news is that we won’t concede much. Will our attack be coherent enough to take three points though? Probably not. 1-1 Draw.
Jake Meador: Murder the Lesters. 2-0 Spurs.
GN Punk: Rotate and play some kids these last couple of matches. Even with that, I want to win this one. 2-1 Spurs.
Brian Mechanick: One of my best friends is named Lester. After last Premier League season, I am sick of Lesters. Go Spurs. 1-0 Spurs.
Earl of Shoop: Wow, I really, really hate Lester. They stole our fairy tale season last year and for that I will never forgive them. Also Jamie Vardy is a garbage person and Lester should have been relegated this year, but apparently the universe does not care about justice. Spurs will play a slightly rotated lineup, but still go for blood here. Does Poche seem like a merciful guy to you, someone who'd take his foot off the pedal (intentionally)? No, he does not. Goals from Vertonghen (he's due!), Janssen (also him!), and Vardy's stupid face into his own goal. Spurs 3-0
Alex Greenberg: I really wish Leicester were still bad and this game was our chance to relegate them. But I guess we'll have to settle for a victory and some two-footed-tackles. 2-1 Spurs.
Pardeep Cattry: Just a bunch of teams, caring about a game that means little to their point total and final league position! Spurs will rotate, but still win. 2-0 Tottenham.
Joe Patrick: There will be no defense. 3-3.