On Monday morning, Tottenham Hotspur learned its opponent for the Champions League Round of 16. As exciting as a matchup against AC Milan will be, there are over three months — and a World Cup — that stand between now and the first leg of the tie, which feels like a lifetime in the world of football.
The League Cup is fourth fiddle on most years, but in 2022/23 it is especially so, given all the aforementioned events already on the calendar. With Spurs clinging to the top four and headed to the knockout phase of the Champions League, as well as players certainly looking ahead to Qatar already, Wednesday’s fixture could not have less of a focus.
Nevertheless, Spurs travel to Nottingham Forest for the Third Round tie. Forest smashed League Two side Grimsby Town in August, a result which makes up a third of the club’s win total for the entire year. Antonio Conte is very likely to rotate heavily, but even so, Tottenham is still the side most likely to win.
Third Round: Nottingham Forest vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Date: Wednesday, November 9
Time: 2:45 pm ET, 7:45 pm UK
Location: The City Ground, Nottingham, England
TV: ESPN+ (US)
Forest is struggling. At 10 points through 14 matches, the newly promoted side sits level on points with Wolves at the bottom of the table, sporting the very worst goal difference in the league (-20). The last month has been slightly better with a 1-3-2 record over the past six, including a remarkable win over Liverpool, but otherwise this season has been rough.
Spurs have already played at the City Ground this season, grabbing a 0-2 win that was as straightforward as any win this season (that is to say, not so easily). Harry Kane scored very early on, but the visitors failed to pull away, partly due to a rare missed penalty by the striker. He finally sealed the game on a somewhat chaotic goal, with Richarlison finding a wide open Kane after Ryan Sessegnon was late on the initial cross.
Tottenham supporters debate every single year on the merit of trying in the League Cup, balancing the desire for a trophy vs. staying rested for more important competitions. This season the debate is fairly one-sided given how the starts in the Premier League and Champions League have gone and the World Cup coming ahead.
Spurs host Leeds on Saturday, the last match before Boxing Day. This is surely the more serious of the two fixtures this week, and even that is likely to see a few of the main players rested. But in terms of this Wednesday, the sixth-straight (!!) midweek with a match, it is hard to see anyone at the club caring too deeply.
This would be a great time to see some of the fringe players get on the pitch, including names like Bryan Gil, Oliver Skipp, Davinson Sanchez, Matt Doherty, and Fraser Forster. Conte may still choose a couple regulars, but this is probably the most rotated side Spurs will feature all year. Even with a backup XI, Tottenham should be able to win; if not, most supporters will not shed a tear.