Tottenham Hotspur travel to Deepdale Stadium in Lancashire tomorrow to face Championship side Preston North End in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Tottenham assistant head coach Cristian Stellini sat in place of his boss Antonio Conte for the usual pre-match press conference, with Conte continuing to take a back seat in media duties ahead of domestic cup competitions.
Stellini noted that new Tottenham loanee Arnaut Danjuma could be thrown straight into the fire against Preston, and said the team is nearly healthy. However, he did cast doubts on the availability of Harry Kane, who has been dealing with illness this week and has only recently returned to training.
“Arnaut Danjuma is available, he is a player we can use tomorrow in the game. We have only one problem, with Harry [Kane], because he played the last game full of illness. He didn’t train during the week, he trained this morning, but he wants to come with us and be available. We know very well that Harry wants to play every game, so we are happy that Harry is involved in the game, but the only situation we have to take care is this.”
After Tottenham’s 1-0 win over Fulham at Craven Cottage on Monday, it emerged that Harry Kane played, scoring the match’s only goal, while suffering from a fever. That illness is presumably the same one that has kept him out of training for a few days this week as well. It doesn’t surprise me at all that Kane would make himself available to play against Preston — that’s just the sort of play-every-minute mentality monster that he is — but in a match against a Championship side, it does seem like this is a logical match in which to rest him, or at least reserve him in an impact substitute role. Resting him would obviously mean he could not eclipse Jimmy Greaves as Tottenham’s all-time leading goal scorer.
It also begs the question of what Spurs would do in that situation. Danjuma would be one possibility as he can and has played as a central forward. Another option would be to bring on Richarlison, who has rarely started this season since his purchase from Everton this past summer. Stellini seemed to suggest that while Danjuma might be an option, he may not be immediately ready to start and be familiar with Tottenham’s tactics under Conte — he implied when asked that if he features, Danjuma might be a substitute.
“We think that every game we prepare, every game we are preparing to play we pick the best team to try to win. We can do a change, we are here enough time to have players ready to play one game and some changes where nothing happens (to the level) with some changes. The only player we can realise that is not ready like the others is Arnaut because he is a new player. We are happy but we need to give him time to understand everything.”
Preston are a team that are not exceedingly good on the offensive side of the ball, but have a stout defensive setup. That could make them tricky to break down, especially if they decide to sit deep and place player behind the ball. For that reason, and because Spurs have had nearly a week to prepare and another week before their next match against Manchester City, we could see a strong side with only a few rotations based on need or tactics. Spurs kick off at 1:00 p.m. ET / 6:00 p.m. UK; the match will be streamed on ESPN+ in the USA, and broadcast on BBC One in the United Kingdom.