Antonio Conte fielded a relatively strong starting XI against Portsmouth in the Third Round of the FA Cup, and Tottenham Hotspur responded with a solid performance over the League One side, though the score line was far from lopsided. As a reward, Spurs have drawn Preston North End in the Fourth Round with the fixture set for Saturday in Lancashire.
Preston sits in the middle of the Championship table and advanced by taking down Huddersfield last round. Like Portsmouth with Dane Scarlett, this opponent also features a prominent Tottenham loanee, though Troy Parrott has just one goal in 15 league appearances this season (and of course is ineligible to face his parent club).
Getting through the Fourth Round has not be the recent challenge, as Spurs have been knocked out in the Fifth Round three straight seasons. Preston should give them a chance to either continue that streak — or hopefully move past it — as this is yet another draw that has Tottenham a big favorite to keep progressing.
Fourth Round: Preston North End vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Date: Saturday, January 28
Time: 1:00 pm ET, 6:00 pm UK
Location: Deepdale Stadium, Preston, England
TV: ESPN+ (US), BBC One(UK)
Preston sits in the bottom half of the Championship table in goal difference and owns the sixth-worst xGD, so in theory this should be an easy outing for even a rotated top-six Premier League side. Of course, Spurs supporters are well familiar with situations like these, and the current state of play has been anything but convincing.
The last time these two sides met was in 2009, as Spurs won 5-1 in the Third Round of the League Cup behind a Peter Crouch hat trick. Harry Kane would be a good bet to pass Jimmy Greaves this weekend should he get the start as he did against Portsmouth, but the hope is that Conte would be able to rest him.
Will that be the case? Chances are Tottenham will field a half-rotated side with a few names on the sheet that cause some eyes to roll. With the transfer window closing up, there should be a couple new options for Conte to deploy going forward, but do not be surprised to see a stronger-than-hoped starting XI take the pitch on Saturday (yet still not win as dominantly as it should).