It feels like the Premier League just returned, but there is already a break on the schedule. Tottenham Hotspur could use the time to get healthy, and it helps that the lone fixture between now and the North London Derby is fairly tame. All competitions matter, but the FA Cup is pretty low down the list right now.
Spurs host League One Portsmouth in the Third Round, the clubs’ first meeting since 2010, when Portsmouth, still in the Premier League, was victorious in the semifinals. That was also the club’s last season in the top flight, and the 2022/23 season sees the visitors in the middle of the League One table.
Still, nothing comes easily for Tottenham in these tournaments. Spurs are already out of the League Cup after falling to Forest in November, and they lost to Boro in the Fifth Round of the FA Cup last season — both fixtures they were expected to win. Saturday is another match where they will be favorited, but one does have to wonder how seriously this competition will be taken.
Third Round: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Portsmouth
Date: Saturday, January 7
Time: 7:30 am ET, 12:30 pm UK
Location: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, England
TV: ESPN+ (US), BBC Sport Web (UK)
Portsmouth, of course, famously won this competition back in 2008, but obviously much has changed since then. Just this week, manager Danny Cowley was sacked after a couple seasons at the club; sitting in the middle of the table is not exactly how this season was supposed to go.
Spurs will rotate a ton this weekend, especially with the match being at home. While a few key pieces are still getting healthy, this is yet another opportunity for Antonio Conte to empty the bench and get some competitive minutes for fringe and younger players that could be called upon in the future.
Conte already did a little of this against Palace on Wednesday, giving cameos to Pape Matar Sarr and Harvey White. Djed Spence and Ryan Sessegnon are additional logical options for Saturday, as are rotation pieces all across the backline. A loss would be embarrassing, but a win should not be prioritized over rest.