Roberto Soldado's up-and-down season hit a low last week. Can he get back to form this weekend and help Tottenham in the process?
The Premier League fixture list throws up such patterns from time to time. Such quirks will be of little interest to Tim Sherwood and the team he names on Sunday, though.
Far more valuable is the prospect of three points and a fifth win from six matches since Sherwood took the managerial reins.
After the slow start that almost proved costly against Palace—Jason Puncheon's missed penalty sparing them an uphill battle—Spurs should be wary of a similar early assault from Swansea.
Their last league win came over Newcastle United in early December. Three points off the relegation zone heading into this weekend, Michael Laudrup's side will surely be eager to begin this one in the best fashion possible.
That possibility has not been lost on Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris:
"It’s always difficult to play against Swansea and we know they’re capable of getting some good results against big teams," the Frenchman told his club's official website.
"They play some really good football and if we are not focused on the game and if we don’t play at 100 per cent, it will be very difficult."
On Spurs' side here right now is a familiarity between the protagonists of a back-five that—though not flawless—have offered a mostly solid foundation upon which the team's recent form has been built upon.
After initially being troubled by the incisive runs from which Crystal Palace instigated several impressively fluid moves, the Spurs defence settled into a well-organised unit that barely allowed the Eagles an inch.
Backed by Lloris in goal, Vlad Chiriches and Michael Dawson will likely be joined by full-backs Danny Rose and Kyle Naughton in attempting to stifle the Swans' own attempts at finding a way through.
At the time of writing, Kyle Walker's availability off the back of a calf injury suffered last week has not been confirmed by the club. Naughton's recent appearances at right-back have been good enough that Sherwood might feel comfortable in letting his first-choice rest (Ryan Fredericks being loaned to Millwall has also been a show of faith in Naughton's ability to cover and compete with Walker satisfactorily).
Nabil Bentaleb and Mousa Dembele will probably be charged with resisting and attempting to outplay Swansea's pass-happy midfield.
Injuries to others have contributed to the continuation of this central midfield partnership. Nonetheless, the control they eventually exerted over their Palace counterparts has given Sherwood reason to persist with its development for now.
Aaron Lennon is likely to continue out in right midfield, with Christian Eriksen operating inside left. The pair have not been confined to those designated flanks—Lennon set up Jermain Defoe's goal last week from a central position—their flexibility of approach backing Sherwood's recent assertions that his team is operating beyond the confines of a strict 4-4-2 formation.
Eriksen's tendency to come inside more often allows space for Rose on the wing and provides a different kind of threat to that offered by Lennon predominantly using wide areas (as shown by his goal against Palace). His role in regards to his team's shape and solidity defending is less assured, however, and will come under further examination versus Swansea.
Despite being outshone by the soon-to-be-departed Defoe last week, Roberto Soldado has been talking up his forward partnership with Emmanuel Adebayor. In an article carried on TottenhamHotspur.com, the Spaniard reflected on the balance of the duo:
I think that it’s a really positive thing that we can move around a bit more because now one of us can have that freedom of movement around the area whereas the other striker perhaps is more focused on the area itself.
In that and his further insight on their working relationship, Soldado is right about how it has benefited the team. Individually, though, Sherwood will be looking for more from him in particular.
So long as Soldado is fit, his manager would rather give him valuable minutes ahead of Defoe. But with the England international so lively in comparison last time out, it will be hard for Sherwood to justify sticking with him if the effort at least is not there.
Perhaps it is appropriate for Soldado that Swansea complete the rerun of the season's beginning. It will be a chance for the striker to start afresh in a campaign that occasionally came to life, but mostly underwhelmed.
Spurs will be grateful for that renewed motivation from their frontman. The season is past the halfway point now, and already valuable wins are becoming increasingly priceless.
Predicted Tottenham line-up vs. Swansea City:
Hugo Lloris; Kyle Naughton, Michael Dawson (c), Vlad Chiriches, Danny Rose; Aaron Lennon, Mousa Dembele, Nabil Bentaleb, Christian Eriksen; Emmanuel Adebayor, Roberto Soldado.