With no Europe and an early (Second Round-early) League Cup exit, Tottenham Hotspur has played the minimum number of matches possible this season, which has been absolutely necessary. Injuries to half of the regular XI — plus four red-card suspensions — have decimated the lineup, and now the Asian Cup and African Cup of Nations will claim even more players.
Ange Postecoglou’s heavily rotated lineup for the League Cup loss caught a lot of criticism, but for all of the reasons listed above, the starting XI against Burnley on Friday might not be much better. While Spurs do not need to punt the FA Cup, there is simply not a lot of options the manager has available.
A loss would not be the end of the world with Tottenham only a point behind Arsenal for fourth in the league, but it would be nice to fight for at least one cup competition this year. Burnley seems headed for relegation this season, so while it is not ideal to draw a Premier League side in the Third Round, the opposition could be much tougher.
Third Round: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Burnley
Date: Friday, January 5
Time: 3:00 pm ET, 8:00 pm UK
Location: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London
TV: ESPN+ (USA), ITV 1 (UK)
Tottenham traveled to Turf Moor at the start of September and came home with a 5-2 victory. Comically, all five goals came from players who will not be available Friday, with hat trick-scorer Heung-Min Son traveling to join the Korean national team and Cristian Romero and James Maddison both still out injured.
Nevertheless, the visitors are still going to have a hard time advancing to the next round. The Clarets are 19th in points, goals scored, goals allowed, and goal difference and have dropped three of their past four matches. Nine of their 23 total fixtures this year have seen them go scoreless this season, with another eight featuring just one goal.
Lilywhite Spotlight: An opportunity awaits
Even in normal years, cup ties represent a chance for reserve players and younger options to make an impact, and that is definitely the case Friday against a poor Burnley side. As stated above, it should not take a heroic offensive performance to win the match, but still someone on the Spurs side will need to step forward.
Postecoglou is unlikely to rotate completely, so regulars like Richarlison, Brennan Johnson, and Dejan Kulusevski could be the ones to continue the squad’s strong attacking form, but there will certainly be a few lesser-used faces to make an appearance as well (especially in midfield). It just takes one moment of brilliance to attract some attention going forward, and that prospect is probably the most interesting thing about this match.