Cast your mind back, gentle readers, to the end of November, 2021. Antonio Conte had just joined Tottenham Hotspur and after the dismal Nuno Espirito Santo era, there was something like hope in the air. There was also, unfortunately, snow. Storm Arwen had blanketed Lancashire and most of northwest England with enough wintery weather to freeze pitches and cover grass with a couple of inches of white stuff. While we in America call weather like that “a great time to beat Costa Rica,” it caused a slew of postponements across the Premier League. Tottenham’s match vs. Burnley was one of the casualties.
Now fast forward to this week. It’s taken three months, but Spurs are finally able to play one of their three matches in hand today, and against an opponent that is, to put it mildly, struggling. There are no easy away matches in the Premier League, but after an inspiring 3-2 win over Manchester City at the Etihad, a match against 19th place Burnley sure looks like a great opportunity for Tottenham to pick up some much needed momentum.
Burnley (19th, 17pts) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (8th, 39pts)
Date: Wednesday, February 23, 2022
Time: 2:30 pm ET, 7:30 pm UK
Location: Turf Moor, Burnley, England
TV: not televised
Stream: Peacock (USA)
Antonio Conte is currently in the middle of his pre-match press conference, where he’s expected to give an update on which of his players will feature against Burnley. I think it’s probably safe to assume that Japhet Tanganga and Oliver Skipp, both of whom have missed the past few weeks and have not yet returned to training, will not feature. We don’t yet know about Sergio Reguilon, who missed Saturday’s win over Manchester City — there were some suggestions that Sergio was the player who had a positive COVID test, but we don’t know and it may not ever be confirmed.
The win over City puts Tottenham right back in the conversation for top four, but the blips against Wolves and Southampton still loom large. If they’re going to really push Arsenal and Manchester United for that last Champions League spot, this is a must-win for them, as is Saturday’s match at Leeds. Moreover, Spurs are going to have to rotate at some point lest they burn out their best players. Tottenham may need to get some good production out of their subs and reserve players against one of the worst teams in the league.
- Spurs are going to have to be very wary about complacency after their huge confidence-boosting win over Manchester City. How many times in past years have we seen Tottenham follow up a huge win by laying an egg against a team they should beat? There are no easy matches in the Premier League anymore, especially on the road, and under Sean Dyche Burnley have the ability to pack men behind the ball and try and frustrate Spurs. Burnley also picked up a confidence-building win of their own this weekend, a 3-0 win on the road against Brighton with Wout Weghorst, who replaced Chris Wood in January, picking up a goal and assist. Spurs should underestimate Burnley at their peril.
- Spurs saw the biggest improvement on Saturday in their defense, which turned from a wobbly, error-prone side to one brimming with confidence and verve with the return of Eric Dier. Tottenham just look more confident and stable with Dier in the center of the back three, which also allows Cuti Romero to play in his best position as a ball-playing wide center back. Burnley’s attack isn’t anything close to that of City’s, but Weghorst and Dwight McNeil could still give Spurs’ right side some trouble, and Maxwell Cornet could surprise on the other flank.
- Tottenham’s midfield finally seemed to click on Saturday with the pairing of Rodrigo Bentancur and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. Both of them also ran their socks off and face the prospect of another match just four days later. If Antonio Conte is going to rotate, bringing in Harry Winks for Hojbjerg is an obvious choice. Winks did not impress against Southampton or Wolves, but Burnley are a narrow, compact, defend-and-counter side. Seems like a match that might even fit to Winks’ strengths. We’ll see whether Conte agrees.