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Tottenham Hotspur vs. Crystal Palace Preview: Round two somehow begins already

The season continues to pick up speed.

Crystal Palace v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Rob Newell - CameraSport via Getty Images

It feels a bit early for Tottenham Hotspur to be playing a Premier League reverse fixture, but the schedule presses onward despite the club having endured a healthy number of postponements. A Boxing Day visit from Crystal Palace will be Spurs’ 16th league contest of the season, with six points — but also three matches — separating them from fourth-place Arsenal.

The London clubs met in September at Selhurst Park, with Nuno Espirito Santo coming off three straight 1-0 wins to open up the year. That day would be the beginning of the end, however, with Palace scoring three goals in the final 15 minutes to kick off Nuno’s downward spiral. Spurs mustered a pathetic 0.1 xG, revealing the cracks in the side that most already saw coming.

Tottenham has both stumbled mightily and bounced back impressively since that time and has a chance to make some important strides over the next week. Matches against struggling Southampton (Tuesday) and Watford (Saturday) provide a realistic opportunity for nine points, which would cap off a solid first half of the season all things considered.

Tottenham Hotspur (7th, 26pts) vs. Crystal Palace (t-11th, 20pts)

Date: Sunday, December 26
Time: 10:00 am ET, 3:00 pm UK
Location: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, England
TV: USA Network (USA)

Palace is the very definition of average, sitting near the middle of the table in points, goals scored, and goals allowed, and a goal difference of exactly zero. The Eagles are just 1-2-3 over their last six matches, though xGD might suggest that they were the better side more often than not.

Still, Spurs have to feel confident coming into this match. The squad is pretty much back to full strength and Antonio Conte has had enough time to get his system into place. Last weekend’s draw against Liverpool was one of the club’s best performances this season and Conte remains unbeaten domestically with Wednesday’s League Cup win over West Ham.

This next week will be a good test of fitness with so many matches to play. Odds are there will be some rotation in the wingbacks and in midfield, but there are not a ton of options on either the front line or back three, so players will need to both stay healthy and out of trouble. Palace is ostensibly the toughest opponent of the upcoming three, so expect a close to full-strength side.

Three themes

  1. Drawing Liverpool is no small feat after seven straight head-to-head defeats, but it sure felt like Spurs left something out there. Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son looked lethal on the counter, aside from their finishing, as while a match against Palace will be very different than against the aggressive Reds, the attacking duo seems to be coming back to life under Conte.
  2. Meanwhile, the back line has mostly done its job as a whole, but individual players are still too mistake-prone. Davinson Sanchez has been no stranger to frustrating blunders, and in the midweek it was Eric Dier who singlehandedly gifted West Ham its lone goal. Both players still offer more bad than good, but these avoidable mistakes cannot continue if the system is going to be successful.
  3. This week offers a good chance for fringe players to step up with rotation surely ahead. Both Dele Alli and Harry Winks were surprisingly effective against Liverpool, and Steven Bergwijn followed suit in the League Cup. Perhaps this stretch is the time for Tanguy Ndombele to finally break back into the lineup.