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Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur Preview: The league leaders did not have the best international break

Spurs enter Saturday atop the table, but will be somewhat shorthanded.

Tottenham Hotspur v Crystal Palace - Premier League Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

There is a ton of season remaining, but it feels good to see Tottenham Hotspur alone at the top of the Premier League table three matches into the 2021/22 season. Many expected this team to end up outside the top four, but with three league wins to start the year, perhaps the ceiling is a little higher.

The schedule is about to pick up, though, with two huge derbies later this month, as well as the beginning of the Europa Conference League Group Stage and the League Cup Third Round. August Manager of the Month Nuno Espirito Santo will have some decisions to make about how to deploy his best players with six more fixtures left in September alone.

These decisions are set to be even more difficult with the past week’s national team shenanigans. No fewer than seven Spurs players had some sort of injury or Brazilian health officials incident, meaning Nuno will have to mix and match his way into a starting XI. Thankfully, Crystal Palace should not provide the toughest challenge.

Crystal Palace (t-13th, 2 pts) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (1st, 9 pts)

Date: Saturday, September 11
Time: 7:30 am ET, 12:30 pm UK
Location: Selhurst Park, London, England
TV: NBCSN (USA), BT Sport 1 (UK)

Palace have not had the best start to the season, taking a 3-0 drubbing by Chelsea the opening weekend before draws against Brentford and West Ham. In the middle was also a League Cup defeat to Watford, which all adds up to confirm the idea that there could be a relegation fight on hand.

The Eagles parted ways with Andros Townsend, Patrick van Aanholt, and Mamadou Sakho during the summer, as well as manager Roy Hodgson. The task now falls on former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira, and so far his squad has really struggled to generate anything in attack, which is unlikely to test the Tottenham defense too greatly. Even with a depleted squad, this weekend’s match looks one-sided.

Last season, Palace snagged a late equalizer at Selhurst Park (sound familiar?) to draw 1-1, though the reverse fixture was a 4-1 beatdown behind braces by Gareth Bale and Harry Kane. Spurs have yet to score more than one goal in any of their three league matches thus far, but that should change on Sunday.

Three themes

  1. Spurs may have been a bit fortunate to keep clean sheets against Manchester City and Wolves, but the second leg against Paços de Ferreira and the victory over Watford showed a side that was organized in defense. It is clear that Nuno is building his team around a strong defensive presence, and even with Davinson Sanchez set to be out this weekend, the backline is the foundation of the squad.
  2. The area that continues to need work is in midfield. With Giovanni Lo Celso unavailable and Oliver Skipp potentially missing as well, could this finally be the reintroduction of Tanguy Ndombele? Tottenham desperately needs someone who can progress the ball in the middle of the pitch and make some plays in the final third. There is no one better suited for this job than Ndombele, but there is no guarantee that he will ever have a permanent home in this lineup either.
  3. As mentioned before, the schedule is quite busy over the next two weeks across three different competitions. Nuno should be able to roll out a reserve side in Europe and in the League Cup, but getting three points on Saturday does help keep some momentum headed into next weekend’s clash against Chelsea. Plus, might as well stay atop the table for another week!