If there’s a surprise breakout star in the Premier League, it has to be Teemu Pukki. The Finnish striker stormed out of the gate for Norwich City, scoring six goals in his first five matches, including a hat trick against Newcastle in week 2 while also helping Finland qualify for the European Championships for the first time in who knows how long.
Unfortunately for Norwich, that’s just about where the good news ends. Despite a thrilling 3-2 home win over Manchester City, the Canaries have been mostly dreadful this season, and are currently mired at the bottom of the table. It’s looking like Daniel Farke’s first season in the Premier League with Norwich is likely to be his last, unless they engineer a massive turnaround. And that could start tomorrow against Tottenham Hotspur, just 48 hours after both of them last played on Boxing Day.
If you’re a Spurs fan, there’s reason to be optimistic here. Norwich’s defense has been dreadful — they’ve given up a league worst 38 goals already this season, and only fellow promoted side (and relegation candidates) Aston Villa have a worse xGA. Norwich’s opponents are able to shoot a ton — the Canaries allow over 16 shots per game — which bodes well for a team with a player like Harry Kane who thrives when he’s able to get shots away.
On the other side of the ball things aren’t much better. Norwich are under-performing their xG, but it’s still pretty bleak — they’re third from the bottom in that metric and are averaging less than 12 shots per game, with a decent percentage of those coming from Pukki. The Canaries’ offense pretty much starts and stops with Pukki and midfielder Todd Cantwell, who combine for 14 of Norwich’s 19 total goals.
In short, Norwich is pretty bad.
But! This Norwich side has the ability to surprise the best teams — they not only knocked off the defending champions in a 5-goal thriller, but also took points at Leicester, won at Everton, and drew at home to Arsenal. They may be bottom of the table, but this is not a side that teams can afford to take lightly. They are well-drilled and well-managed, despite their relative paucity in talent compared to the rest of the league. On their day they can put together an impressive result against even the best in England.
Hopefully, y’know, they won’t tomorrow.
How will Tottenham Hotspur line up against Norwich?
Playing matches 48 hours apart and four matches in 11 days is one of the most ridiculous and potentially damaging “traditions” of the Premier League. Spurs have had the worst of it schedule-wise — they had the shortest gap between last weekend’s match and the Boxing Day fixutes of any team in the league, and now have just two days to recover and play again. Everyone’s in this boat to some extent, and everyone’s going to have to rotate.
For Spurs, it’s as much by necessity as choice. Son Heung-Min will serve the second of his three match suspension for violent conduct against Norwich, and the much-maligned midfield pairing of Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko will both be suspended after picking up their fifth yellow card of the season.
Defensively I expect much of the same from Mourinho, and I’m not even sure we’ll see a change at the back, unless Mourinho thinks the fullbacks need refreshing. Will that mean the long-awaited Juan Foyth at right back? Well, I won’t believe it until I actually see it. It’s also worth noting that academy grad and left back Dennis Cirkin has been training with the first team, though I can’t imagine Jose Mourinho will throw him into the fire tomorrow.
With Winks and Sissoko out, Mourinho’s options are Eric Dier alongside one of Tanguy Ndombele, Giovani Lo Celso, and Oliver Skipp. After Ndombele ruled himself out of the Brighton match, there are (legitimate) questions as to his fitness for tomorrow, but I suspect that he’ll be the one to come in, if not for the entire match. I’d also like to think that Lo Celso has earned himself a starting nod in the attacking band. There’s an open question as to whether players like Dele, Lucas Moura and Harry Kane are able to play 3 full matches in a week, so perhaps Christian Eriksen also gets a start, and we could see Erik Lamela come in as a relief option.
This is my predicted lineup for Tottenham Hotspur at Norwich City. What’s yours?