The first three weeks of the year show that Tottenham Hotspur could be in contention for a top-four finish this season, but perhaps these early returns also mean that the trophy drought could finally end as well. Ange Postecoglou has quickly healed the culture, and Spurs look both hungry and fearless coming out of the gate.
It will be interesting to see how the club performs on Tuesday, the season’s first (of not many) midweek fixtures. Tottenham — unfamiliarly — enters the competition in the Second Round with the rest of the Premier League clubs not playing in Europe, drawing a Fulham side that has started the year with a 1-1-1 record.
Though Spurs do not get to face a lower-tier opponent, this is still a chance for Postecoglou to rotate the side a bit. Historically, Tottenham has fared well against the Cottagers, taking six points last season including a 0-1 win on the road off a Harry Kane strike, so there is a path to taking this competition seriously while still keeping the side fresh.
League Cup, Second Round: Fulham vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Date: Tuesday, August 29
Time: 2:45 pm ET, 7:45 pm UK
Location: Craven Cottage, Fulham
TV: ESPN+ (USA)
Fulham have been quite poor to start the year, sitting 17th in xG and 20th in xGA. However, a win over Everton and a comical draw against Arsenal on Saturday has the Cottagers with four points and in the middle of the table on the young season. Still, there are likely many more struggles to come and relegation is certainly in the conversation.
With Aleksandar Mitrovic gone, Fulham will have to find a way to cobble together some scoring, perhaps via Raul Jimenez. It really is the defense that looks to be the big problem after finishing 16th in xGA last season, though, and expect the visitors to stay aggressive and attack with the ball as much as possible, getting involvement from all across the formation.
Lilywhite Spotlight: An opportunity for depth
Postecoglou looks much more willing to deploy his substitutes than his predecessors, and perhaps that will carry over to lineup rotation as well. While Spurs do not have Europe to deal with this season, it still would be wise to send out some fresher legs on Tuesday, especially with multiple capable fullbacks and midfielders on the bench each week.
Aside from confirmation of Giovanni Lo Celso being involved, I will not venture to predict exactly how many different faces will see the pitch for this cup tie...though it does seem very reasonable to get players like Ben Davies, Emerson Royal, Oliver Skipp, and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg some minutes in addition to their substitute cameos. If there was one starter who could be worth sending back out there, it would be the slumping Richarlison, who desperately needs a good outing.