Cristian Stellini is going to try and make it a perfect 8-0 record as a head coach tomorrow when Spurs travel to Sheffield United in the FA Cup Fifth Round. In a press conference ahead of the match, the Tottenham Hotspur assistant manager confirmed that while Antonio Conte is set to return to London this week, it won’t be in time to walk out of the tunnel at BrammalL Lane.
“Yeah, I think this week [Conte] will be back. He’s not in charge for this game but our doctor decides the right moment for Antonio to be back. It’s a question for our medical department because they check with the doctor who did the surgery, they check today every day for the right day for Antonio to come back and I think it will be this week.”
This pivotal FA Cup away fixture comes just three days after Spurs’ Premier League home win over Chelsea. Stellini, true to form, didn’t give anything away about his potential team selection, but there were mild hints that we might see some rotation in the squad tomorrow. The good news is that everyone is healthy with no fresh injury concerns.
“No, no fresh injuries. All the players are good. It’s normal after two days that there’s players who have to recover more. The squad is the same.
“We will pick the right team to play a great match and we can win also by making some changes. We completely trust all the players we have so we can make changes and nothing has to change. Last season we knew very well that we were disappointed after the match in Middlesbrough. Now we’re in a momentum where players have to take responsibility to follow this momentum. Me as well, Ryan Mason and all the staff, we are all working hard. So we expect tomorrow it will not be easy. It will be tough for sure but we have the possibility to play a good game and win the game with all the players.”
The question then becomes — what sort of rotation will we see? We don’t know, but we can guess. Considering the importance of wingbacks in Spurs’ system under Conte, it seems quite possible that we’ll see one or both of Pedro Porro and Ivan Perisic in the starting XI. Son Heung-Min has been a super-sub for the past couple of matches, but this seems like a match in which he can slot in as a starter. There’s a chance we might also see Arnaut Danjuma start to give Dejan Kulusevski a bit of a breather.
There aren’t too many rotation options in midfield, but it seems likely that we’ll also see Pape Sarr as one of the two central mids. Harry Kane will probably start because of course he will, and Stellini more or less confirmed it.
“No, I don’t feel this. It’s normal Harry wants to play every game and we want him to play every game.”
The Blades are without question the toughest opponent Spurs have faced yet in this cup run, but they’re still a beatable side. After being relegated from the top flight last season, they’re pushing to rebound and head straight back up and are currently second in the Championship behind Burnley. Sheffield United are the Championship’s top team in both xG and xGD/90, and are led by Oliver McBurnie with 11 goals. They’re a formidable team, especially at home, and Spurs will need to play well to dispatch them (or force a replay).