Tottenham vs. Swansea: 5 Things to Watch for in Spurs' Battle with the Swans
After last week's heartbreaking loss to Everton at Goodison Park, Tottenham should be happy to see that this next fixture is at their home, White Hart Lane.
However, they won't be too thrilled to see that Swansea City are the visitors. After all, the Swans have witnessed an unexpectedly good start to their season.
With every point huge in this clustered race for fourth, both sides will be shooting for all three points. Tottenham are fifth with 26 points, while Swansea are 10th with 23 points.
So what should we expect and be aware of come match time?
Here are the five things to look for Sunday.
Spurs' Injury Situation
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Throughout the season, Tottenham faced some difficult injury concerns.
I mean, by most measures, Spurs have yet to field their first-choice 11 in any match thus far.
Thankfully, these troubles look set to be resolved in the very near future.
Still, three Tottenham players are on the cusp of returning and are match-time calls for Sunday.
Welsh superstar Gareth Bale is a big question mark; his inclusion could be a big boost to Spurs' attack.
Meanwhile, Scott Parker and Benoit Assou-Ekotto look to make their returns. While their return will be big for Spurs' defense, it's difficult to see either one starting after their lengthy layoffs.
Nonetheless, whether or not these three make it on the pitch will be a big storyline for this match.
Swansea's Set-Piece Defense
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In last week's home defeat to Norwich City, Swansea let in four goals, almost all of which came off of Norwich set pieces.
While Spurs are not the most threatening side from set pieces, manager Andre Villas-Boas will probably have noticed the Swans' poor showing and look to exploit the defense in a similar fashion.
Emmanuel Adebayor will be the obvious big target at the top and will look to take advantage of any and all opportunities.
The question is clear: Can Swansea defend dead balls better?
Tottenham's Central Defense vs. Michu
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By now, everyone has noticed just how fearsome the new Swan, Michu, can be.
With 12 goals in 16 Premier League matches, the Spaniard has proven a handful in almost every match he has played.
On the other side, Spurs' defense has not looked the strongest, especially in the center.
Captain William Gallas has been culpable on far too many goals this season and has looked like he needs replacing.
Just last week, the center of defense was caught on both of Everton's late goals, turning a victory into a defeat.
So how will this defense cope with the likes of Michu?
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Many supporters and fans around the world had high hopes for Clint Dempsey after he signed with Tottenham on deadline day.
However, after his first umpteen matches as a Spur, the U.S. international was quite below par.
Dempsey seemed to disappear on the pitch and never really get involved. I remember one instance where, in the 80th minute, a close-up forced me to recheck my squad sheets because I had forgotten he was on the pitch, let alone that he had started.
However, over the past five or so matches, Clint has seemed to come into his own.
He has looked much more comfortable, getting involved in the play and paying dividends in attack.
His goal last week against Everton aside, Dempsey was the last to touch the winner against Panathinaikos in the Europa League and provided a few beautiful assists over the past few matches.
If Dempsey can keep up this form, Spurs will greatly benefit from his attacking threat.
The Last 10 Minutes
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I feel like I'm a broken record on this subject, but Tottenham needs to figure out a way to close out matches.
After last week's debacle, Spurs have now conceded an incredible 10 goals in the final 10 minutes of their 16 Premier League matches. That's a whopping 40 percent of goals conceded coming in a period that makes up just over 11 percent of a match.
Just looking at the numbers, this means that Spurs would be league leaders if matches ended after 80 minutes.
So what is going wrong? And how can they fix it?
I have been of the opinion that manager Andre Villas-Boas has gone too defensive with leads, relying on a defense rife with injuries to close out matches with leads.
Now, that isn't to lump the blame all on AVB or exonerate the players. Clearly, they need to take the blame for their weak play and clear lack of mental toughness.
Still, it would be nice to see Spurs go after it in attack for a full 90 minutes.
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So there are my thoughts on Sunday's matchup.
It should be a fun match to watch with lots of open play. Further, I would be surprised if either team doesn't get onto the scoresheet, so get ready for a bumpy afternoon.
With the home-field advantage, though, I expect Spurs to come away with the three points. That is, if they can finish the match off well.
What do you think? Did I miss anything? Any thoughts on the match?
Let me know in the comments below.
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