Thanks to the format of the Europa Conference League, Tottenham Hotspur got in on European action early on with a trip to Portugal on Thursday. Nuno Espirito Santo decided to roll out a heavily, heavily rotated side, and the result was a 1-0 defeat to the home side Paços de Ferreira in Portugal.
Balancing domestic and international fixtures is nothing new for this club, and that is a consideration nearly every month of the year. Nuno seemed particularly keen on keeping his best legs fresh, so Sunday’s match should feature something fairly close to a full-strength starting XI.
Nuno had about the best opening match imaginable, as Spurs outplayed defending champion Manchester City 1-0 at home despite not having Harry Kane available. After a drawn-out manager search and drama-filled transfer window, this win felt like a validation that everything will end up ok going forward. But as great as last week was, this Sunday’s fixture may be of even more importance to the new man in charge.
Wolverhampton Wanderers (t-11th, 0 pts) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (t-1st, 3 pts)
Date: Sunday, August 15
Time: 9:00 am ET | 2:00 pm UK
Location: Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton, England
TV: NBCSN (USA)
After impressive seventh-place finishes in both 2018/19 and 2019/20, Wolverhampton Wanderers took a big step back last season, ending in just 13th place. As a result, the club and Nuno mutually agreed to part ways, with the Portuguese Bruno Lage coming over from Benfica to assume the manager position.
Spurs took four points against Wolves last year. After holding on to an opening minute Tanguy Ndombele goal for nearly the whole match, Tottenham predictably conceded a late equalizer at the Molineux in December to make it four straight matches without a win. The reverse fixture did go a little better though, with a 2-0 win at home securing a key three points last May.
Wolves dropped their opener 1-0 at Leicester last weekend, although like most squads, they did not have 100 percent of their starters available. One player who did play was Raul Jimenez, who missed much of last season with a head injury after leading the team with 17 league goals the year before. The return of Jimenez and the addition of Francisco Trincão, who is on loan from Barcelona, should help the team look a little more competitive than last season.
- As exciting and well-played as the win over City was, it is clear that Tottenham needs a true No. 9. Heung-Min Son just does better outside of the lone striker role, and the obvious cure would be Kane, especially against a team that should be well organized in defense. There may be someone else soon succeeding the star striker, but for now he would be a helpful addition back into the lineup.
- The other substantial opportunity for improvement was in central midfield. All things considered, Oliver Skipp played passably given the circumstances, but there should be better options like Giovanni Lo Celso and Tanguy Ndombele to start next to Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. Lo Celso just went 90 minutes against Paços, though, and Ndombele has already been declared out this weekend, which likely only furthers the mutual frustration.
- Nuno joined Wolves for the 2017/18 season and led them to a Championship title. He followed that up with two impressive Premier League finishes, as well as a Europa League Quarterfinals appearance, before last season’s disappointment. Some of this can be blamed on personnel availability, so while he may not have been Tottenham’s first choice this summer, he is by no means a bad option at the helm.