Given the number (and profile) of Tottenham Hotspur players at the World Cup, there was always likely be at least one champion amongst the squad, and indeed Cristian Romero returns to London as a winner. The rest will have some level of disappointment, especially Hugo Lloris and Harry Kane, but for everyone the focus must turn back to club football.
Previously On: Spurs sit fourth in the table through 15 matches, eight points behind Arsenal (who has a match in hand, though so much of the season remains). To squeeze in 23 more league fixtures, however long the FA Cup run goes, and the Champions League (the knockout phase begins in February) into the schedule means many weeks will feature two matches.
It all picks back up again on Boxing Day against a decent Brentford side. The Bees were significantly less impacted by the World Cup than Tottenham was, and it is not exactly clear who will or will not be available for the visitors. If it is not Monday, though, then expect most of the regulars to be back soon, as the schedule is not going to slow down.
Brentford (t-9th, 19 pts) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (4th, 29pts)
Date: Monday, December 26
Time: 7:30 am ET, 12:30 pm UK
Location: Brentford Community Stadium, London, England
TV: USA Network (US), Amazon Prime Video (UK)
Brentford wrapped up the opening part of the season with an expected goal difference of exactly zero and an actual goal difference of -2, which fits the team’s place on the table. Wins against both Manchester clubs are testament to the Bees’ ability to beat anyone, and they finished the last month before the break going 2-3-1.
Ivan Toney remains the biggest threat, having scored 10 of the team’s 23 goals thus far. He is unlikely to get too many chances given Brentford’s style of play (though who knows if Spurs will actually want the possession themselves), but Toney is someone the backline will need to keep well contained, especially being likely without Romero.
Hard to say too much without knowing exactly who is available, but some of the same old storylines will come back to the forefront with the season resuming. At some point there will be a debate about which of the four main attackers to sit, but with Richarlison unfortunately injured, that can wait until another day.
Instead, the main drama will be regarding the number of central midfielders. The reality is that none of Spurs’ four options had a taxing December, meaning Antonio Conte can approach this however he likes. Brentford is unlikely to overrun Tottenham in the middle of the park, but having a third body in the middle might help keep things moving and help break down the defense.
Right wingback will also gather a lot of attention, especially as Matt Doherty has been quite productive during the recent friendlies. Probably no one needs any reminding that Emerson Royal has just not been cutting it, and this is an area to watch during the upcoming transfer window. A big effort from Doherty on Monday could see him get a fair trial, however, and the opportunity should be there.