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How will Tottenham line up against Cardiff?

Answer: probably a lot like they lined up against Barcelona.

Tottenham Hotspur v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Group B Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

You might have heard, but Tottenham Hotspur have a bunch of injuries right now. That’s the bad news. The good news is that, after a tough loss to Barcelona in the Champions League, they can put things right with a turnaround win over faltering Cardiff City at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: Cardiff are not good. Neil Warnock has said that getting Cardiff promoted has been one of the biggest accomplishments of his managerial career, and it’s not hard to see why: they’re easily a Championship caliber team, one of three that are still winless in the Premier League along with Huddersfield and Newcastle. They rank 17th in the league in xG with a staggering 6.27, which makes the four goals they have actually scored all that much worse. In a sense, Cardiff have been a touch unlucky — their expected points are at just over 7 — still not great, but meeting that would put them in a tie for 12th.

Cardiff don’t take a whole lot of shots (11.1/g) and when they do they’re rarely on target (2.6/g). In fact, they aren’t particularly good at anything. Probably the most we can expect from Cardiff is that they will try and sit back, absorb pressure, and force Spurs to play through them. Not a bad strategy against Spurs, except that no other team in the league has conceded more goals (16) than the Bluebirds (though several have equalled that ignominious stat). In fairness, they’ve also run a bit of a gauntlet over the past month, with consecutive losses to Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Burnley. In reality, Spurs are unlikely to be too troubled by Warnock’s men. Cardiff are, in short, pretty lame birds.

How will Tottenham line up against Cardiff?

At the time this article was written, there were still huge question marks over some of Spurs’ injured players. Some we know will be absent a while — Serge Aurier, Dele Alli, and Jan Vertonghen have all been more or less ruled out of the Cardiff match and we can safely assume that we won’t see them for a while. Others are a little less certain. Christian Eriksen was a no for Barça, but there have been rumors he might be ready for a return against the Bluebirds. We also don’t know anything about Mousa Dembele.

What this means is that by the time you read this article on Thursday, Mauricio Pochettino will likely have already had his pre-match press release and the club will have released team news. That could make this predicted lineup obsolete. At least I hope it does.

But barring that, and assuming the players who missed out on Wednesday don’t return, it’s very possible that we’ll see a lineup very similar to what we saw against Barcelona, with a few tweaks. Davinson Sanchez and Toby Alderweireld are a virtual lock to start. I expect Danny Rose to rotate in, and I would not be surprised if Kyle Walker-Peters comes in for Kieran Trippier. I expect Eric Dier will return to the starting lineup over Victor Wanyama, but I would guess Harry Winks will retain his place over Moussa Sissoko. I can’t see any way that Erik Lamela, Son Heung-Min, Lucas Moura, and Harry Kane don’t start again, unless of course Christian Eriksen is ready for a return. Once again, it’s not the most creative of lineups, but it’s Cardiff. They are bad, and Spurs shouldn’t have too many worries.

The bench should be somewhat interesting. Juan Foyth should be there. Oliver Skipp might as well, for the second time. It’ll be interesting to see whether Pochettino moves Michel Vorm back to the bench, or if Paulo Gazzaniga retains his position as defacto second keeper.

That’s my predicted lineup against Cardiff City. What’s yours?